NORTH BRUNSWICK, NJ - When I went through the check-out on Aisle 8, they told me that my "Bonus Savings Club" card was no longer valid at the North Brunswick A&P on Milltown Road. The well-worn card had been in my wallet for at least the past dozen years, used for quick runs to the closest grocery store, generally on a Sunday night before the work week began. For many of us who live in the North Brunswick, East Brunswick, Milltown borderlands, the A&P has been a long-time shopping staple.
When it closes soon, the North Brunswick A&P will be one of several local grocery stores that have succumbed to current economics and that will leave another big, empty space in a "built out" (lots of parking and paving) mall. This location is next to the closed-and-not-repurposed Blockbuster Video store and the the former location of the A.J. Wright discount store, also standing empty.
"I have worked for this company for 34 years. It's a good company that has treated me well, " says one cashier at the A&P, who is concerned about what her next step will be. "These stores employ a lot of people. There are some jobs at other locations but many are part-time or far away or both."
"People are amazing," said one store employee. "One woman became angry with me because she did not know where she would shop now. I told her, 'Lady, these people won't have jobs.' She just didn't get it."
85 people will lose their jobs when the North Brunswick store closes, many of whom have worked for the A&P for a long time. Across New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania, 28,000 mostly union workers will be let go. The store closing comes as a result of the A&P Corporation's having declared bankruptcy this past July. Currently, there is a good deal of controversy about the bankruptcy decision, which is being played out in the courts. Many workers are concerned about their union-negotiated severance agreements and long-term financial planning. There is also some suspicion regarding the payouts given to higher-level executives whom some believe to have led to the chain's demise by overpricing.
According to www.inthesetimes.com, a labor-support publication, "about 12,500 jobs could be saved by the pre-arranged sale of about 120 stores to other grocery chain operators." The other chains include Acme and Stop and Shop, with stores located in Milltown and East Brunswick. At a recent East Brunswick town council meeting, Mayor David Stahl commended the management of the East Brunswick Stop and Shop for hiring some employees of the recently-closed Pathmark on Route 18. (Pathmark stores are owned by the A&P corporation.)