LIVINGSTON, NJ — The Township of Livingston has been abuzz over the last week as news of the potential closing of Kings Food Market at 255 S. Livingston Avenue spread throughout the community, but the outpouring of support from residents and township officials has led the new owners to confirm their intention to keep the community staple’s doors open for as long as possible.
The Livingston location has faced an uncertain future since August, when KB US Holdings, Inc., the parent company of Kings Food Market and Balducci's Food Lover's Market filed for bankruptcy.
Although the new owners, ACME Markets/Albertsons Companies, Inc., attempted to negotiate a lower rent with the Livingston site’s landlord in order to keep it open, Livingston Mayor Shawn Klein explained that “the landlord would not come down sufficiently.” He also noted that the removal of the site’s liquor store had “affected the bottom line” of a Kings Food Market that was already less profitable than other Kings locations in the area, which led ACME/Albertsons to announce the closure of the Livingston site earlier this week.
The announcement prompted what Klein described as a “social media explosion,” where Livingston “really demonstrated that they care about the store.” Thanks many residents as well as several local officials who Klein said “played a crucial role” in ensuring that the Livingston Kings Food Market remain open at its current location, the new owners have since rescinded their decision to close.
“Livingston is a big place,” said Klein. “Out of 22 towns in Essex County, Livingston is the second-biggest town according to square miles, and you don't want to have to drive all the way across to be able to go shopping. So having Kings further down on that side of town is a real resource for people to have. There’s also less traffic coming in across town and everyone doesn't have to squeeze into somewhere else, so it makes a difference in the quality of our lives.
“Beth Lippman from the Business Improvement District (BID) has reached out to Kings to see what can be done to ensure their future success; Barry Lewis, our town manager, is also reaching out to see what else the town can do; and we’re taking steps as a council to try to make sure that Kings is successful. It's an important store for our community, and people really care about it.”
Klein, whose family has continued his mother’s decades-old tradition of shopping at the Livingston Kings on a weekly basis, credited Lewis as well as Health Officer Lou Anello and Assistant Health Officer Michael Raimo for coming to the new owners’ rescue “at the last minute” to complete an inspection by the mandated deadline in order to keep the store open.
“There was a health inspection that needed to be done for the transfer of the store that had not been done because they thought the store was going to close,” said Klein. “So what ended up happening was that they literally had to go and do a full inspection of the store within a couple of hours at the exact moment that they asked for it, and the town was able to accommodate them. If the health inspection wasn’t ticked off as one of the boxes for the sale, the store might not have been able to open, so I congratulate Barry and Lou Anello and his staff for getting that done in very short order so that the store can stay open.”
The mayor reiterated his belief that the many comments from Livingston residents as well as the dedication of township officials significantly contributed to the new owner’s realization of “how important it is to keep [the Livingston Kings location] alive.”
“I think people are excited in town that Kings is still going to be around,” he said. “Maybe the new owners will innovate a little bit more, maybe add some delivery, and we’re going to hopefully support them as a town so that it will be all good things going forward.”
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