The transformation of the former ACME grocery store into a Lidl grocery store at the Lawrence Shopping Center is under way.
Demolition work on the vacant space began Aug. 26. The entrance to the former ACME grocery store has been taped off, and workmen were observed carrying out debris and loading it onto trucks to be hauled away.
The former ACME space has been empty since August 2018, when the store’s lease expired. ACME Markets decided not to renew the lease at the shopping center at 2495 Brunswick Pike because the store had not met the company’s goals.
Lidl signed a lease for the nearly 40,000-square-foot space in 2019.
Lidl, which is based in Germany, takes a “no-frills” approach to shopping, according to its website at www.lidl.com. The stores are efficiently laid out and 80% of the products are branded under the chain’s own label.
Products are displayed in boxes on open shelves and not stocked individually on the shelves. Employees replace the boxes when they are empty.
The store does not provide shopping bags, which helps to keep the overhead costs to a minimum and eliminates unnecessary costs. The cost of shopping bags is not built into the store’s prices, its website said.
Since its beginnings in 1973, the company has expanded and now operates more than 11,000 stores in 32 countries. Lidl established its U.S. headquarters in Virginia in 2015.
The former ACME grocery store site, which will be occupied by Lidl, is one of 49 retail spaces at the Lawrence Shopping Center. It is anchored by Staples and Burlington Coat Factory, according to shopping center owner JJ Operating Inc.’s website at www.jjop.com.
When the renovation work is completed, Lidl will join the growing number of businesses that have begun to fill the shopping center. Several stores have leased space and opened for business in the last two years.
Among those stores is the Dollar Tree discount store, which opened its doors Aug. 7, across Brunswick Pike/U.S. Route 1 from its former location. It occupies 11,000 square feet.
New Jersey Camera, the Cafe du Pain bakery, and Plato’s Closet, which sells trendy, second-hand clothing for teenagers and young adults, also have opened for business.
City Electric Supply, which is a wholesale electric supply company, opened its doors in the former R&S Strauss auto supply store location. It is geared toward residential, commercial and industrial customers.
Across the entrance into the shopping center, the former Huffman Koos furniture store was demolished in January to make way for the construction of the LA Fitness gym. The parking lot has been paved, but construction has not yet begun on the 34,000-square-foot building for the personal fitness gym.
The 393,430-square-foot Lawrence Shopping Center was purchased by JJ Operating Inc. for $16.2 million in December 2016, according to the Lawrence Township Tax Assessor’s Office.
The prior owner, wbcmt 2007-c33 Brunswick Pike LLC, acquired the Lawrence Shopping Center at a Mercer County sheriff’s sale in 2013. Lawrence Center LLC, which owned the shopping center, defaulted on a $39.5 million loan, which led to the sheriff’s sale to satisfy the debt.
JJ Operating Inc., the current owner, is a family-owned real estate investment and management company based in New York City, according to its website.
In addition to the Lawrence Shopping Center, JJ Operating Inc. owns the Independence Plaza shopping center on S. Broad Street in Hamilton Township. It also owns shopping centers in Avenel and Toms River, plus retail and office buildings in Newark, Manhattan, Brooklyn and The Bronx.
The Lawrence Shopping Center, which opened in 1960, was the first major shopping center in Lawrence Township. It consisted of 150,000 square feet and 13 stores. The shopping center underwent expansions and renovations several times between 1966 and 1997.
Among the original stores at the Lawrence Shopping Center were W.T. Grant, which was a 5- and 10-cent store; the Rexall drug store; Dunham’s department store; the Pantry Pride grocery store; and Lawrence Liquors, according to records on file at the Lawrence Township Tax Assessor’s Office.