When I walked this week into the that I’ve known for the last 20 years, I had that eerie, awkward feeling similar to when you pay your respects at a wake for a close family friend.
The regular faces of the long time cashiers, managers and customer service people were at their posts but I got the sense that although their bodies were there, their spirits had departed this workplace.
Most employees were open to discuss the this East Windsor store. However, I had the feeling that they would rather not be quoted directly or offer their names in fear of jeopardizing their retaining a job with the A&P conglomerate in the future.
“Seems that those who have about 20 years of seniority have been offered a spot at the Plainsboro Super Fresh,” voiced one 23-year veteran. Those who were below that cutoff had other plans.
One cashier almost with a resigned look explained, “Hey, I’ll just go on unemployment and let them pay me to stay home.”
Another referred to the corporate decision to purchase Pathmark as a move that seemed to draw much needed energy and attention away from the Super Fresh brand.
A third hard-working employee was moving merchandise for the third time.
“The managers tell us to put it here, then shelve it there,” she mumbled under her breath.
The general feeling running through the rank-and-file employees was that they enjoyed their work here and had a good support base of loyal East Windsor patrons.
The entire back of the store was devoid of any merchandise along with the dairy and frozen foods that were long gone.
By now, the final sales had most items at 60 to 70 percent off. That was fine if you needed a hundred double AA batteries or some Christmas decorations, but there were not many staples such as bread, milk and produce.
Another cashier asserted, “People come in here now and complain because we charge them 32 cents and they thought it was 28 cents. These are not our regular customers who were always pleasant.”
She went on with her praise of the East Windsor community. “I’ve been here a long time and I have been lucky to meet many good people,” she proudly added.
“I’ve been here 8 years so I'm now unemployed. But, hey, I’ve got a real sick dad at home and I guess this is a blessing. I’ll be able to take care of him a bit more now,” one customer service worker said.
Out in the parking lot, there were fewer A&P shopping carts and no weekly fliers strewn around. Some of these last-minute shoppers may have come simply to circle like scavengers looking for a bargain in these tight economic times but many others were longtime customers who voiced a sincere sadness with their store locking its doors.
Kathy, a teacher from East Windsor, voiced an uneasiness with the closing.
“I have come here for the past six years and I knew where everything was located. I could be in and out in a few minutes,” she explained.
Another 20-something man was looking at the chocolate Easter candies all marked down, but when I asked if he had any feelings about the A&P closing, he held back, hesitant to offer any thoughts. “Hey, I usually don’t shop here. I only work in the area and was looking for some bargains.”
As one shopper came out with her cart brimming over with mops and other household cleaners, I asked her if this was her supermarket. She preferred not to offer her name but did share her thoughts.
“Sure,” she said. “I come from South Jersey but work nearby and
I like this A&P. The employees are helpful and more importantly, I do not like that other big store on 130. Too big, too noisy and always so crowded.”
The weather had turned a bit more spring like by the end of this closing week, but for the loyal ladies whom I saw sitting on benches outside taking a well deserved break, there were probably more storm clouds over their heads as well as the families they have supported all these years.
We wish them well. But I think I’ll still hold on to my Super Fresh Value Card.
Hey, as Yogi Berra said, “It ain’t over til it’s over.”