CLARK, NJ – Whole Foods, the anchor store of the new Clark Commons shopping center, celebrated its grand opening on Friday morning with a bread breaking and great fanfare. Store officials welcomed Clark Mayor Sal Bonaccorso, Business Administrator John Laezza, developer Bill Krame, Union County Freeholders and officials, Clark council members, site contractors and a large and eager crowd of would-be shoppers.
“I know this store is the envy of Union County,” Bonaccorso said. “There are a lot of towns that would love to have it. Clark has it, so come and enjoy, shop in our center.”
The 41,000 square foot store is the second Whole Foods in Union County and the fourteenth in New Jersey. Whole Foods is known for its selection of high quality natural and organic foods, unique dining options and community-centered focus.
“This store is really reflective of the wonderful community that we’re in,” Whole Foods Regional President Christina Minardi said in her remarks. “I think many of you are going to be very excited about what you see in this store. I think you’re going to call this home.”
Unique to the Clark store is the “Clark Bar,” a full-service restaurant and pub. Chocolate and caramel lava cakes can only be found in the Clark Whole Foods bakery, Minardi said, as can the in-house smoked beef brisket. Both are in keeping with the store’s “first-to-market” philosophy.
Both Bonaccorso and Minardi pointed to developer Bill Krame for his vision in bringing the store and the Clark Commons to life. “This old abandoned industrial site is now a center that is vibrant, that has brought jobs to Clark and to Union County,” Bonaccorso said.
“I hope one thing today when you walk away from here and look at this beautiful center, you see that a lot of thought was put into it. It’s not just some buildings with some stores and a parking lot,” Bonaccorso said. “There is beautiful landscaping, beautiful flowers, beautiful work on the buildings and that’s what we’re so proud of. This is the envy of central New Jersey.
As part of its community involvement initiative, Whole Foods has selected the Clark Recreation Department to receive 5 percent of its opening day sales.
“We’ve been sort of blown away by how involved people are with the town itself and especially the rec department,” said Michael Sinatra, Public Affairs Manager for Whole Foods. The funds will be used for a new stove and kitchen renovations in the recreation center.
The store will also partner with the recreation department in the development of the “Clark Family Kitchen” program. The program will offer healthy and educational kitchen classes for children, adults and seniors. Much of the programming will take place at the Clark Recreation Center.
“This means an increase in activities and events in Clark have more potential now than ever before,” Clark Recreation Director Ralph Bernardo said.
Shoppers crowded into the store, quickly fanning out among the many departments to explore the new store.
“This place is great,” said Clark shopper Gerry Caprario. “A lot of the produce prices are similar to other stores around. So when we want fresh fruits and vegetables, especially for the kids, this is great. They’re very helpful in explaining different cuts of meats. They’re very knowledgable, so if you have a question, ‘I want to do this or that,’ they can help you out.”
Shoppers enjoyed special sale pricing, giveaways and free samples throughout the store.
Although stores have been opening in Clark Commons since early June, this weekend marks the center’s overall grand opening. Many stores in Clark Commons are participating in a weekend-long tent event and there are other ribbon-cutting and store openings in the next several days.
Blaze Pizza is holding its welcome to the community by offering free pizza all day on Friday, August 7. Its one-size, made-to-order pizza cooks in just three minutes. They also have fresh made salads daily and a s'mores dessert.
The eagerly-anticipated Home Goods will hold its official grand opening on Sunday, August 9. Arts and crafts store Michaels holds its ribbon-cutting ceremony on Sunday at 9:30 a.m.
Red Mango opened on Wednesday. It opens every day at 7 a.m. for healthy juices, smoothies and coffee.
Visionworks is running a buy one/get one special and is offering a coupon for $45.00 off a pair of glasses.
Modell’s is raffling off two Yankee tickets every hour during the weekend.
Party City was one of the first stores in the center to open. Stop by the tent for free candy coupons and discounts on customized banners.
Chipotle is anticipating a September 29 grand opening. Representatives were on hand offering chips and salsa to passers-by. The restaurant is still hiring in anticipation of its opening.
Dress Barn is slated to open on August 21.
PNC Bank, still at an early construction stage, was well-represented at the tent with a prize-wheel and giveaways. They are anticipating a fall opening.
Also represented was the Fanwood-Scotch Plains YMCA. Their service area includes Clark and they are hoping to generate awareness of the many programs they provide to Clark residents.
The Clark Commons shopping center is located at 1255 Raritan Road between Central Avenue and Walnut Avenue. It is easily accessible via Garden State Parkway exits 135 and 136. The nearly 30-acre property was developed by Paramus-based Krame Development Company, on the site of the former US Gypsum plant.