Shop-Rite's One Stop for Groceries, Liquor More 'Convenient'
Route 46 supermarket manager says the decision to sell booze from the market has made life simpler for many customers.
After the Township Council approved Parsippany's Shop-Rite supermarket's plan to transfer its liquor license from its standalone liquor store to the market on June 20—allowing alcohol products to be sold from the Route 46 market itself—it didn't take long for the proposal to become a reality.
"It's all about convenience," said store manager Frank Sblendorio. "People come in, and they want to shop—and it's been very successful. I'd say, without a doubt, this is unequivocally a success."
According to Sblendorio, the stand-alone liquor store had difficulties keeping customers because parking was difficult to find, and those who wanted to buy groceries and alcohol had to make two separate stops at different ends of the Arlington Plaza shopping center.
"Now, everything is here, and people are excited."
The market has specific aisles where like products are sold together, along with numerous displays where sale items are strategically placed—for example, discounted wines are featured near gourmet cheeses.
It makes sense, according to Sue Steinberg, a shopper from Lake Parsippany.
"They do have [alcohol products] in a lot of different places, which I think is smart in terms of business," she told Patch. "It's good marketing. I'm not offended by it. They're doing what they have to do for business, and I respect that."
Steinberg, who said she is knowledgeable about wine, said the change works well for her.
"I love this," she said. "It's accessible and convenient."
The move to sell alcohol from within the supermarket isn't good news for everyone, however.
Council Vice President Vincent Ferrara regristered strong disapproval of the plan at the June 20 and July 10 council meetings, citing concerns about children and safety.
Ferrara, whose day job coincidentally is in the beverage sales industry, has also said he's worried about the impact the move might have on small liquor stores in the township.
But Sblendorio said the market merely transferred stock it would have sold from its stand-alone Shop-Rite liquor store, which closed its doors after the council approved the plan to sell alcohol products from the market.
"I wasn’t in favor of alcohol being sold throughout the entire Shop-Rite," said Mayor James Barberio. "And I expressed that to the council before they voted to permit it. I was willing to compromise with the ownership that if you are able to sell alcohol throughout the store just limit it to beer and wine. That was not good enough [for Shop-Rite].
"[Police] Chief Anthony Dezenzo in his recommendations for the Shop-Rite Place-to-Place Liquor License Transfer to the Council was completely ignored," the mayor continued. "The chief expressed his concern of physical location throughout the store. Locating product for sale in this manner will make control and security very difficult.
"The better approach would be to have the liquor isolated to an area that can be secured when sale is not permitted. [Isolation] of the product to a particular and securable area of the store will create a foolproof approach to not having access during non-liquor sale hours."
Sblendorio said that he has security of the inventory well controlled, despite the fears of the mayor, Chief DeZenzo, Councilman Ferrara and some customers.
"We do have some shoppers who come in and ask, 'How do you know you're going to be able to control it?'," he said. "As you can see, we have two [uniformed] security guards. You can only purchase liquor if you have an I.D. that's scans. If you don't, we can't sell it to you, even if you're 90 years old.
"In fact, that's the biggest complaint we get."
The manager said he recently had to turn down a nonagenarian with a non-scannable I.D. who wanted to purchase alcohol.
"'But I'm 90 years old,' he said," Sblendorio recalled. "I told him, 'I understand that. I cannot sell it to you, not without an I.D. that scans.'
"I can't override it, the cashier can't override it, the front end can't," he continued. "There is no way to override it. We either scan it or you can't get it."
As an additional measure, the market's public address system regularly runs an audio recording stating the times when alcohol is available for sale—Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m.-10 pm. and Sundays from 10 a.m.-6 p.m.—and explaining the identification policy.
"We want people to be informed," the manager said.
Regarding the few customers he said have approached him with complaints over the presence of alcohol in the market, Sblendorio shrugged.
"Everybody's entitled to their opinion. But most of the comments we're getting are really, really positive," he said.
"Hopefully, we're going to do a good job."