RARITAN, NJ – The Stop & Shop Supermarket in the Raritan Mall off Route 206 will close by the end of November.
"After a thorough review of the operating performance of our stores, we made a business decision not to renew our lease at our Raritan store location," said Cindy Carrasquilla, manager of public relations and community relations for Stop & Shop.
The announcement was made to employees Sept. 14, Carrasquilla said. All employees are being offered positions in nearby stores.
It is the second Stop & Shop store to close on Route 206 since last year; the Stop & Shop in Hillsborough closed Aug. 11, 2016.
Raritan Mayor Charles McMullin said the property has a history of problems that the borough has been working to address.
The previous owner, McMullin said, defaulted on the mortgage. RAIT Financial Trust, a real estate investment firm in Philadelphia, took over the property at the end of last year.
"With regard to property maintenance, we have been working with the financial company," he said. "We had an extensive list of things that were in disrepair because of the prior owners."
Earlier this month n municipal court, the judge and owners decided on a plan of action for the property, to be completed within 30 days.
"I've been over there, and I haven't see any of the work start," the mayor said.
"What we have is a problem at the property, because I believe 11 stores are vacant already, and Stop & Shop is the anchor," he added. "It is going to render that property, in my opinion, economically dysfunctional."
The next step, McMullin said, is seeing what can be done to bring an anchor store back to the property, preferably a food store. A Trader Joe's might be a great option, he said.
"Trader Joe's would be able to compete with Shop Rite in Somerville and Wegmans in Bridgewater," he said. "It's a different slice of the food market business. It appears that this would be of some interest if we look at transportation, as well as economic vitality."
McMullin said the borough is scheduled to return to court with RAIT in October, and there will be conversations as to the next steps in the process. There are two factors, he said, and that is working on the upkeep of the property, and helping to bring in another anchor store to improve the outlook for the rest of the businesses in the Raritan Mall.
"One thing Raritan has is a great location," he said. "It seems to make sense that we should have the opportunity to bring someone in, but we have to walk a fine line for working with RAIT to get the anchor store, and working with them to bring the property up to what is acceptable."
"We are on to the next chapter in that property," he added.
The store had been a “go to” destination for Somerville residents after the Somerville Pathmark on Veterans Memorial Drive closed in 2007. That ended four years later when a 70,000 square-foot ShopRite opened on the site of the former Pathmark on March 22, 2011.