Grocery store planned for Upper Holmesburg

Northeast-based Penn-Jersey Paper will soon open a food service supply store in one of three vacant anchor stores along Frankford Avenue in Upper Holmesburg.

This fall, the company will open its fourth PJP Marketplace at 8914 Frankford Ave. in Shelly’s Plaza, a vacant space most recently occupied by a Food Basics supermarket. Food Basics is one of three major retailers — along with Pathmark and Kmart — that has closed its doors in recent months along the same three-block stretch of Frankford Avenue.

PJP has not made a formal announcement regarding the opening, but Upper Holmesburg Civic Association President Stan Cywinski reported during his group’s meeting last Thursday that the company has applied for city permits related to the operation there. On Monday, a spokeswoman for the city’s Department of Licenses and Inspections confirmed that PJP has been issued an interior demolition permit for the site. Cywinski said that the civic group had not been formally contacted about hosting a zoning meeting regarding the site.

A woman who answered the phone at PJP’s Blue Grass Road headquarters on Monday said that the company expects to open the new store by late November. The employee referred additional questions to Mark Basher, PJP’s director of retail operations, who was not immediately available for comment.

Residents of the neighborhood have been clamoring in public meetings and in the opinion pages of the Northeast Times for a new supermarket on the avenue since the recent store closings. PJP Marketplace is not a traditional supermarket.

But according to its website, the store offers many of the same products as a supermarket and is open to the public.

PJP’s 50-year-old warehouse and distribution operation supplies a wide range of sectors including retail supermarkets, food service, healthcare, hospitality, building services, contract cleaning, schools, manufacturing and government.

PJP Marketplace stores focus on the food service industry. According to the company website, there are three PJP stores at 537 Adams Ave. in Crescentville, 3899 Aramingo Ave. in Port Richmond and in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. Their product lines include kitchen supplies and equipment, groceries and janitorial supplies. Products are available in bulk. There is no membership card or fee to shop there.

In an unrelated topic, the Upper Holmesburg civic group will host a zoning meeting next month about auto body repair and painting activities at 8575 Torresdale Ave. The property is on the southeast corner of Torresdale and Strahle Street. The meeting will be on Oct. 20 at 7 p.m. at St. Dominic’s Marian Hall, 8532 Frankford Ave.

Zoning attorney Shawn Ward represents the owner, who is seeking a zoning variance to allow for the operation of four auto body painting booths and four residential apartments within a two-story industrial building on the property.

Several months ago, Ward said, the owner obtained a variance to allow for the apartments, but only on the condition that no auto body painting will be done on site. Now, Ward claims that auto body painting is a legal use of the property under the zoning code.

However, the zoning code does not allow for multiple uses on a single property without a variance. ••