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It seems like I have been patronizing ShopRite forever. I recall moving to Englewood 30 years ago, and visiting what passed for a supermarket downtown. I can't remember its name, but nearly every shopper felt they deserved better.
We eventually got better -- urban renewal and a shopping center anchored by a ShopRite. Late 1980s, early 1990s? Can't be sure, but it became my main source of food locally. From the outset, produce was a weak point and it never really improved, despite the addition of organic products.
But the store began carrying Readington Farms chicken, a cheaper alternative to organic that is raised on vegetarian feed and without antibiotics; free-range, grass-fed Australian lamb and beef, the latter often for under $5 a pound; and packaged cold cuts without preservatives. Unfortunately, you couldn't count on every ShopRite having these products.
For example, the Rochelle Park store, which I began to patronize after our move to Hackensack in 2007, isn't strong on Goya and other Hispanic products, and doesn't even sell plantains. It also doesn't carry preservative-free cold cuts; the deli guy told me when he stocked them, they rotted on the shelf. And the fish guy there once confided he sprays a preservative on seafood. Gross.
Now, I shop at the Hackensack and Rochelle Park ShopRites, but my wife insists on returning to the Englewood store, which has been expanded at least twice. I get most of my produce and fish at H Mart, the big Korean supermarket in Little Ferry, or at Costco in Hackensack.
I occasionally visit the Stop & Shop in Teaneck for the chain's naturally raised food, sold under the Nature's Promise label, which can be found throughout the store -- meat, dairy, lemonade and so forth.
But Stop & Shop doesn't carry the items ShopRite imports from Spain and Italy: artisan, bronze-cut pasta; lemony lady fingers, and carbonated, 100% fruit juice, to name just three.
Over the years, my visits to ShopRite became less frequent as I relied more and more on Fairway Market in Harlem (and now in Paramus), Trader Joe's, Costco, H Mart, Whole Foods and Fattal's Bakery. Yet, I don't think I'll ever stop going there for something.