Tour: A&P Fresh - West Milford - Hewitt, New Jersey

Photos taken April 2021, A&P Preservation Blog

Located just 1500 feet from Greenwood Lake's southernmost point sits a 40,000 square-foot supermarket that many in Hewitt would regard as simply "the A&P," a staple in many New Jersey homes and even more so in areas like West Milford-Hewitt, which is home to lake-goers, golfers, and many weekend houses on Greenwood and other smaller North Jersey Lakes.

However, "the A&P" closed roughly six years ago now as a result of the 2015 bankruptcy filings. Since then, the building was vacant for several years until hope was renewed in late 2019.

Sale items line the vestibule, which, through historical photos of the area, create the feeling of something truly local for the Highland's Market branding.

In November 2019, property manager The Lane Group and Mayor Dale of Hewitt announced that a supermarket anchor would be making a triumphant return to the shopping center. While many were hoping for a chain, such as Stop & Shop or ACME (who both have high presence in North Jersey), it was announced that Highland's Market by Shopwell would take roughly 75% of A&P's space, with the remaining 25% going towards a Snap Fitness.

An inviting Café- which has grab-and-go selections, a hot bar, a coffee station, and a seating area, is located just as you enter the store.

The store opened in October 2020 after several construction delays as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, welcoming shoppers to a well thought out and clean atmosphere.

The Produce Department seems very fresh, unlike nearby competitors. A good amount of organics and odd fruits and vegetables are available, which is surprising for a store of this size.

As stated previously, the store's footprint was cut down to roughly 75% of its original size, and even less so when a nearly 7,500 square-foot liquor department lines the left side of the store, which brings the main Highland's Market footprint to just over 20,000 square-feet.

The décor that was created for this store is very well-designed, and features many 3D accents, variation of materials, and large imagery. Overall, this creates a beautiful, bright, and open feel to the store despite it having a drop-ceiling and polished concrete floors. 

The new décor complements the hard angles of the walls, especially the geometric designs seen throughout the store.

I believe many of the walls that line the service departments and produce are left-over from A&P, which is a cost-effective solution for putting together a store like this, but also a much simpler one.

After Produce, ready-to-go deli meats line the wall, leading up to a gourmet cheese island and service deli and prepared foods area, which Highland's calls "The Kitchen."

Prior to becoming Highland's Market, the A&P had a very basic version of the Fresh 1.0 décor and layout; I speculate that the majority of the 90's Foodmarket décor (that the store likely opened with) was left-over.

There were plenty of amazing meal options available ready-to-go for the noon lunch rush- and everything in the deli case was presented well and affordably-priced, Highland's obviously knows what they're doing.

The majority of shoppers who review Highland's Market seem to compliment the store on its welcoming and clean atmosphere, unadvertised specials, and amazing sales that beat their closest competitor, ShopRite.

Besides having the normal specimens for a supermarket meat department, Highland's seems to pride themselves on providing fresh, service meat and seafood at the counter. Not a lot of supermarkets, even the chains, can pull this off these days. I'm glad to see Highland's chose to implement this, and hope to see it alive and kicking once more on my next visit. 

Closer view of the 'transition' from the Bakery to the Meat Department, which occurs through another geometric accent.

The store seems to suddenly end right after the service meat counter, which definitely makes this store feel on the smaller side. I'm glad Highland's didn't lease the whole space, as I feel that the product selection and wide array of service departments they have will suffice for the Hewitt community.

Dairy and bread line the left side of the store, with frozen foods being in the aisle one over from it.

With no supercenter-type stores for nearly fifteen miles, I'm glad to see that Highland's continued A&P's age-old tradition of offering a wide selection of non-food items, like baking needs shown here.

The center of the store has a "grand aisle", not something typically seen in supermarkets outside of the five boroughs (or international supermarkets). Tons of pallets containing items that are on sale can be found here. Chips, snacks, and a vast selection of drinks (see left) can be found behind the rows of pallets.

In addition, the store also has a large Health & Beauty department, and (if I remember correctly) another aisle dedicated solely to home goods and seasonal items.

Guest Services and Pharmacy can be seen here, which is also similar to the original A&P layout.

One thing that I always look for in an independent supermarket like this is what makes it truly thrive, because most times, operators cannot rely on a well-known brand or low pricing. The simple answer here is the excellent service.

The liquor department entrance can be seen here, along with the checkouts.

While its pretty rare I comment on service (as the grocery industry has one of the highest turn-over rates out of any industry), I'll go into more detail. The long answer is, the store manager seems to truly be happy to be leading this store. She was working alongside a few other cashiers, and assisting customers with questions and/or comments. I rarely see this nowadays- most managers stand at customer service desks, or in their offices set away from the sales floor.

The vestibule situation is exactly the same from the A&P days, and I'm glad to see Highland's Market still utilizing it. 

A&P used a "one way in, one way out" entrance style to prevent theft and traffic around the entrances and exits of the store. The theory is, that if there is only one entrance with automatic doors that only go into the store, and one out through a separate, long vestibule (located at the checkouts), there will be less traffic congestion around those areas (although there will be similar traffic at the main entrance, but hey, it takes out one of the two areas).
In terms of loss prevention, this way is smarter as well. Potential thieves will have to either stand by the entrance, product-in-hand, waiting for the door to open because of an incoming shopper (which would be laughable during the A&P days as there would usually be floral or pharmacy counters within view), or through the exit, which has a similar situation, with the addition of open checkouts.

And as you exit, a topographic map of the Greenwood Lake area greets you, along with the rest of the local imagery that was previously seen on the way in.

Let's take a look at some aerial views over the years!

Aerial Views

The store in its most recent 90's Centennial form can be seen here in 2002. I speculate that the significant transition of this store (from a 60's Centennial conversion to a 90's Centennial) of this store happened in the mid-to-late 90's. Aerial views in 1995 show the store as unchanged, and the next available view, shown above, shows renovations complete. 

The 60's Centennial roof, surrounded by what was likely an 80's Superstore look, can be seen here. The construction for this transition likely happened in the late 70's or early 80's.

A fresh Centennial comes into view in the year 1970, meaning that the store was likely built in the late 60s. A&P phased out the 60's Centennial model for the arrival of one-off flagship models, and stores that looked like Clinton, NJ during the first decade of the newly-adopted sunrise logo.

A&P of West Milford

1926 Union Valley Road
Hewitt, NJ 07421

A&P > Highland's Market by Shopwell


Post a Comment