The grand opening for a new ShopRite store in Timonium was celebrated Sunday, July 31, but the store opened for business a few days earlier — on July 28 — and the proverbial cat was out of the bag.
A few hours after the store opened, at 37 W. Aylesbury Road, the newly resurfaced parking lot was full of cars, and customers were zooming into and out of the store as if it were a beehive.
Hunt Valley resident Buck Frisch used to do executive hiring and other work at Hunt Valley-based McCormick & Company, Inc. The retiree visited ShopRite on opening day to pick up a few things.
"I've been in the grocery industry for 40-plus years," Frisch said. While working his way through the back of the store, he gave his professional evaluation of the new ShopRite.
"It looks very good, the prices are competitive, the variety is good," Frisch said.
The ShopRite is in a storefront previously occupied by a Superfresh grocery. But now that all Superfresh stores have closed, and the Timonium store has been reopened as a ShopRite, Frisch seems ready to make the new store his grocery home.
"The help, if it's anything like any other ShopRites, they understand why they're in business."
ShopRite is a cooperative — the owners of the individual stores own the company — and has stores in Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, New York and New Jersey, where ShopRite is the largest employer.
New Jersey's Sumas family is the majority shareholder of Village Super Market Inc., a member of the cooperative. Village Super Market owns 26 ShopRites in New Jersey in Pennsylvania — and the new one in Timonium.
William Sumas, vice-chairman of Village Super Market, was in town for the store's opening day. In fact, he played the part of greeter in the store mid-morning.
Sumas said he was "enthralled" over the turnout and customer reactions at the store. "They're saying 'It's great that you have the store back, it looks really nice' and I say 'Thank you,' " Sumas said.
Village Super Market has been eyeballing the neighborhood for a couple years, he said.
"The demographics were very positive," Sumas said. "The incomes of the residents were positive, and we thought our pricing and our value would prove very successful."
Other members of the Sumas family were at the store to help out with the opening.
Among them was Laura Sumas, 27.
"I'm the third generation of Village Super Market and ShopRite," she said.
She's also niece of William Sumas.
Perry Blatt, 35, and Laura Sumas' cousin, was also at the store to help.
"We thought long and hard before we came down here, but it was just a great place to expand," he said. "We're just happy to be here — it's just a great town."
Lutherville resident Dahle Leverton is a mother of three adult children, and a grandmother to one. She was shopping at the ShopRite on opening day and said that when the store was a Superfresh it was the grocer she visited most often.
Leverton was happy to again have a grocery in her favorite location and pleased with what she was seeing in the new store.
"This is really a nice store," she said. "It's beautiful."
Long Island natives Marshall and Leslie Gollance drove from their home in Pikesville to visit the store on opening day because they grew up shopping at ShopRite stores.
"It brought back memories," Marshall Gollance said.
The store will soon offer ShopRite's Culinary Workshops, billed as a cooking program taught by professional chefs, according to the company.
The Timonium store will also offer ShopRite from Home, a program that allows customers to order groceries online and set up a time to pick up the goods from the store.
Owings Mills resident Erin Peisach, 24, is a registered dietitian, and has been hired to work at the ShopRite full time to give customers tours of the store, hold classes and advise customers on nutrition. Peisach thinks grocery stores with staff dietitians are the way of the future.
"I think it's a new trend that's going to be catching on," she said.
If a customer comes in and has just been told by a doctor to go on a low-sodium diet, or to be careful of sugar intake, Peisach's job is "to take them to the products that they can buy," she said.
During the opening, Peisach manned a table where she was giving away samples of fruit smoothies and chatting up the customers.
"So far, I think diabetes will be the big one with nutrition counseling," she said. "I've heard a lot here standing at the table, people saying 'I've got Type II.' "
ShopRite also includes a coffee bar, a customer lounge for those who want to dine in, a floral department and a pharmacy. There is an international foods aisle, and natural and organic products. Near the entrance is a bar of ready-to-eat hot foods, an olive bar, pizza by the slice and a grain and salad bar.
ShopRite of Timonium is open daily from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., and the pharmacy is open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
New Jersey native Steve Starzynski, 30, is the new store manager.
"I started out bagging groceries close to 12 years ago," he said.
Starzynski went to college for a while, returned to ShopRite and worked his way up. This is the first time he's been store manager.
Starzynski said he's currently staying at a nearby hotel and shopping for a place to live. But he said he, and ShopRite, hope to plant roots in the community.
"We're here to stay," Starzynski said. "We really want to be part of the community."