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New Plans for National Food Market Taking Shape

The Merchantville-based McFarlan's grocery is exploring the possibility of opening a second location at the property, but cautions that its plans are exploratory at this point.

Although the plans are very preliminary and lots of hurdles have yet to be cleared, Collingswood could soon be trading in the often-dark National Food Market for the second location of an up-and-coming neighborhood grocer.

Janet Stevens, who together with her husband Pete Burgess owns the Merchantville-based McFarlan's Market, said that any formal announcements about purchasing the property would be premature.

But the couple is bullish on Collingswood as a second location, and would be very excited about the prospects of bringing their grocery business there.

"We’ve been working on this for a year," Stevens told Patch. "It’s going to still involve some time."

If the plans hold up, McFarlan's would be the second-latest Merchantville-based business to come to Collingswood (children's play place Duck Duck Goose will open in April).

Although she has "a lot of business interests in Pennsauken," Stevens said she's not surprised that businesses that are successful elsewhere bring their models to Collingswood.

"As a business owner, I’m very interested in having these towns and the downtowns come back and be supported by the people that live there," Stevens said. "Collingswood is certainly the idea that everyone looks up to.

"I’d like every downtown to be like Collingswood, and if we can get people to start supporting it, it could happen," she said. 

McFarlan's Market offers butchered meats, a deli counter and homemade salads, as well as some prepared meals and "some of the really basic grocery items," Stevens said.

"We’re looking for the concept of a community store," she said. "The location’s perfect, it’s a good size.

"Certainly Merchantville required a much larger renovation than what Collingswood would do, but we would be really interested in investing in the place to make it have the same feel that the Merchantville store [has]," Stevens said.

Doing their due diligence

"I’ve been talking to them for a long time, and when I first heard that they were opening in Merchantville, I rode them pretty good about coming to Collingswood," said Collingswood Mayor James Maley.

"They’ve been through the building, they’re working through their financing; they’re doing their due diligence," he said.

If everything pans out, the move would ouster the property owner, Shinder Pal of Philadelphia, whose storefront has been the subject of scrutiny from borough officials for its failure to maintain regular hours and a handful of assorted violations.

At borough commissioners meetings last year, Collingswood officials introduced resolutions to acquire the property from the Pals, although Maley asserted that the borough is more interested in brokering the sale of the property than in invoking eminent domain.

Maley told Patch that attorneys for the Pals provided an appraisal "with plans of a number they were willing to sell at” just last week. Previously, he had said that conversations with the family were slow in coming.

Ginger, the wife of property owner Shinder Pal, told Patch that "We're very close to renting" the store to the Cherry Hill-based Y.A.L.E. School for children with developmental and behavioral issues. The plan apparently was for the market to be used as a vocational setting for its students.

But although Y.A.L.E. School Director Chris Sarandoulias confirmed that his organization had explored the possibility of renting from the Pals, he said they had abandoned the idea some time ago.

"We met with them last year, but right now we have no plans for it," Sarandoulias told Patch. 

Ginger Pal also claimed that the storefront is often dark because "I live in Philadelphia [and] sometimes my husband needs help" managing his other businesses.

Maley said that any use of the market for such an application "would need a use variance because the Haddon Ave. frontage stores need to be retail."

Readers of Collingswood Patch noted earlier this year that a local grocery store would be on their 2013 wish list for the town, and that the property occupied by the National Food Market would be an ideal setting to serve the senior population of the nearby Collingswood Arms apartment building.

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Serena March 20, 2013 at 11:39 PM
Oh yay! I have been saying this ever since I first stepped into McFarlan's over a year ago... that it would be perfect in the National Food Mart spot! We need them on Haddon... Oh I really hope this works out.
David Maynard March 21, 2013 at 12:28 AM
Here's a vote of support and future patronage
Anne Carroll March 21, 2013 at 01:03 AM
Please, please, please. Collingswod Boro: Do not screw up on this on. We desperately need a grocery store convenient to all the little old biddies who live in Collingswood Arms. It's a real hardship for them to struggle afar to some other grocery store. [While I live at Colls Arms, and do not yet consider myself to be a little old biddie, truth be told, I'm steadily progressing toward that status.] So, let's do this right. Not only for all the little old biddies, but for our neighbors who would love to have a good grocery store convenient to them. If I may be so bold: something we did not do right in the past was to make the Treehouse Cafe leave town. I'm not sure, but think it was because their rent was increased too much. Treehouse was one very comfortable place where one could get a nice inexpensive breakfast and excellent coffee. Their lunch and dinner offerings were reasonable. Everyone loved it. Now they're gone and people are clamoring for a good and cheap breakfast place. So, let's not screw it up with the sale or rental of the National Market. It could be a real money-maker for its owners and it would be a real boon for our town if we get the right business in there. With all due respect . . . Myself.
Cara Boiler March 21, 2013 at 01:39 AM
Treehouse left for a bigger space, I do miss how close they were though!
Margaret Anderson March 21, 2013 at 01:50 AM
I've been praying that McFarlan's Market would come to Collingswood. I remember just how great National Produce was many, many years ago & envision that McFarlan's will bring our must needed market back to life...even better!
Loretka March 21, 2013 at 01:54 AM
Wow! How super is this?!!!! So this corner can once again be like National Food Market used to be forty and more years ago when it was family owned and operated by people, and employees, who cared about a clean, attractive establishment with quality foods ..... fresh produce, fresh meats and poultry, large selection of cold cuts, as well as dairy and packaged goods. I hope it happens soon. I encourage McFarlan's to come to Collingswood. This used to be a prosperous corner back then, and it can be again with the right market. Good luck!
Angelo March 21, 2013 at 02:26 AM
Fantastic news! I've never been to McFarlan's, but we desperately need a good, quality grocer here in town. I would definitely be a regular patron!
Jasomm March 21, 2013 at 01:34 PM
sounds great!...Although I've had this theory that the old bank building would be a good grocery spot since it 1) has parking in the back, and 2) could have drive-thru pick up for online grocery orders. A two-story set up might be tricky but I saw something similar in Virginia a while back (pictures here http://www.homefarmstore.com/HomeFarmStore/HFHome.html) converted from a bank that I thought would be nice.... Also, any news about the "Sports Museum" prospects?
Jim beam March 21, 2013 at 02:44 PM
I went in National Market once when I first moved here & I walked right out. It was disgustingly dirty. I would never eat anything from there. I'm surprised they are still in business or how they have not been shut down for uncleanliness ! Also I am so disappointed that there is not a coffee place like the Treehouse in town. Who cares about a sports musuem. Need a decent coffee place like the Treehouse.
Liz March 21, 2013 at 02:48 PM
Love it! I would definitely shop there.
Dennis Dougherty March 21, 2013 at 03:11 PM
YES PLEASE!
Matt Skoufalos (Editor) March 21, 2013 at 03:33 PM
We will have something on that coming soon,
Jessica Blanchard March 21, 2013 at 03:54 PM
I've never been to Treehouse but what about Grooveground? Lovely coffee spot.
Maggie March 21, 2013 at 05:32 PM
As a C-wood resident, I cannot wait for this place to change hands! I don't even like walking my dog by it becuase there's always broken glass on the sidewalk on Washington ... not to mention the dumpster smell. Come on over McFarlan's, we promise we'll be nice :-)
Jenny March 21, 2013 at 07:39 PM
This would be an excellent addition to the downtown businesses! Even though I frequent Collingswood Healthworks & the farmers market (when in season), it would be so nice to be able to take a nice walk or bike ride to get some fresh groceries year-round.
Loretka March 21, 2013 at 10:26 PM
Does anybody besides me remember how National Food Market used to be back in the fifties, sixties, and seventies? When the original owner, and later their sons, owned and operated it? Clean. Attractive. Good and friendly service. Wonderfully stocked with QUALITY fresh produce, meats, dairy, cold cuts, baked goods, etc. ?
Shirley March 22, 2013 at 05:04 PM
Yes I do. As well as the Friday night traffic jams on Haddon Ave as families went to the A&P (now Wawa), Acme (now Pop Shop), and National to do their weekly grocery shopping.
Steve Rainsford March 23, 2013 at 09:55 PM
Mcfarlans market would welcome any Collingswood residents coming down to Merchantville and see what we have to offer.
Doug Robbins April 26, 2013 at 05:41 PM
This would so great! I really hope this works out - sooner rather than later. I just went online to McFarlan's Market and it looks frickin' perfect for Colls.
Mel Sharples April 26, 2013 at 08:14 PM
Soooooooooo...someone tipped me off on this. Look in the window of the Natinal, the window on Haddon to the left of the doors. You will see - and this has been here for at least 3-4 weeks - an ice cream case with numerous gallons of ice cream in it. Unplugged. The case is open. Now, as the weather gets warmer, the packaging will begin to break down. Ants and probably roaches follow. Was this done out of laziness or carelessness, as we've come to expect out of the Natinal and those that own it? Or was it done out of spite? Either way, that kind of has to get dealt with. Any idea who should be contacted?
Mel Sharples April 26, 2013 at 08:15 PM
meaning they "will follow", saw no signs of insects when I looked in last weekend.
Loretka April 27, 2013 at 12:34 AM
I think the Board of Health or Health Department ---- by whatever name it is now known ----- should be contacted to look into this. Maybe the Commissioners know who to contact.

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