In Collingswood, plan for grocery applauded

Borough to vote on a deal to buy, then sell old market, which would be revamped.

Posted: August 06, 2014

The National Food Market on Haddon Avenue in Collingswood was once a store that residents would go to for more than lottery tickets and cigarettes, but that time passed long ago.

On Monday, the Borough Commission publicly read a plan to purchase the property. The purchase will be voted on Sept. 2; if approved, the property would be sold to the owners of McFarlan's Market in Merchantville.

They would fix things up and start serving a downtown area that has virtually no grocery options.

"We get asked about it regularly," said Cass Duffey, Collingswood's director of community development. "The people are very supportive of not only a grocery but McFarlan's.

"People had said specifically, 'What about a market like McFarlan's? McFarlan's in Merchantville is fabulous, it would be perfect here.' "

It's hard to determine when the National's doors closed for good. Over the years, the quality of its products wasn't the only negative: According to residents and local business owners, the shop had irregular hours that made it seem closed even before it stopped opening for good.

"I've lived here 25 years, and we used to use National all the time. They had good everything: salads, produce," said Sherri Giancola, an office manager for Collingswood Arms, an apartment complex for senior residents behind the National Market location.

"Then you would start getting milk that was sour, you'd start getting food that had bugs in it. I wouldn't even buy a candy bar there at the end," she said.

Giancola said that residents of her building had gone to the store frequently, and since the closure have had to walk further to a Wawa store down the street - a difficulty for older citizens without cars and limited budgets.

Now, the residents ask during every monthly meeting about the possibility of a new corner market.

Under the deal, the borough would buy the property for $415,000, then sell it to the owners of McFarlan's for $400,000. The difference would be repaid through increased taxes on the property after the new owners renovate the space.

McFarlan's in Merchantville features shiny metal shelving, a range of grocery options, and a clean deli counter. Its antithesis can be found looking through the dirty windows of the National Market: a mess of shelves and coolers with leftover Herr's potato chips and Snapple bottles.

At McFarlan's, said Pennsauken resident David McGrath while shopping on Monday, patrons are served well. "It's excellent meat, and I like the convenience," he said. "Good selection, good staff."

Collingswood has a thriving weekly farmers market, and another market opening down the street in an old Woolworth's store. But a new local store would provide a needed service to residents who have to drive elsewhere to get groceries.

"I go to Wegmans and now Whole Foods, now that they've opened," said Dorothy Palazzo. She has lived in Collingswood since 1991, and said she witnessed the decline of National.

"You would visit it as a convenience store, not as a market," she said.

For businesses along Haddon Avenue, a new store would be more than welcome.

"In this adorable little old-time town, it just doesn't fit in," said Laurie Cohen, owner of the Candy Jar across the street. "I for one would love to see it open and made cuter to fit in better. It needs more curb appeal." 856-779-3237 @clarkmindock

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