About a year ago a West Windsor mayoral candidate was quoted as saying that he found the then-potential redeveloper’s ideas for the Acme shopping center exciting. “His goals and my personal goals are parallel — to put a high-end supermarket in there so that the valuations of the property are improved, and he can attain high quality tenants.” Now we find the newest kid on the block, Cyzner Properties, hewing to the same line and virtually leaping at the chance to exploit West Windsor’s supposedly “affluent” clientele.
As a long-time resident of West Windsor and regular patron of the Acme for as long as it was there, I am offended by that attitude, and I frankly couldn’t care less if Mr. Cyzner attracts a single tenant of any “quality” or makes one red cent from the deal. And what’s wrong with the tenants that are already there?
What is this infatuation with “high-end” anyway? All it really means is that retailers use newness, fancy fixtures, and other marketing gimmicks to make customers think they’re getting something special. In reality, all this is used to justify charging more for the same items you can get for less at a “non high-end” store. Oh sure, they’ll put some “special” merchandise and brands on the shelves to make it all seem exclusive, but basically it’s just a way to maximize profit at the shopper’s expense.
If I could buy a banana at the Acme for 15 cents, why should I pay 20 cents for the identical object at a high-end store? Just because I’m supposed to be impressed that it’s “high-end”? I’m sure there are many, many citizens of West Windsor — yes, even “high-end” West Windsor — who would appreciate having an economical food store in town. That role was played very well for 39 years by the Acme, and we were regular patrons for all that time. And don’t forget that the location serves many potential customers on foot from the Princeton Junction/Berrien City neighborhood.
Yes, the appearance of the Acme shopping center needs improvement. It doesn’t fit my concept of a West Windsor “downtown” either. And the Acme did not always carry some items we would have preferred. In today’s economy, if that store was underperforming, it’s not surprising that it was closed. But there must be other, non-high-end alternatives. Already in the area we sometimes turn to the Super Fresh in Plainsboro — a good store, although it’s several miles farther away — and the ShopRites in Lawrence and East Windsor — much farther away. When we shop at McCaffreys — an excellent store — it’s clearly more expensive then the Acme.
Our list of alternatives also includes that palace of decadence, Wegmans (just kidding, I really like the place, but I’d go broke if I shopped there all the time). Many from the area are also attracted by Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods, but both are specialty stores that are also on the expensive side for everyday shopping. West Windsor is already “high-ended” up to the hilt, and badly needs an affordable supermarket. How about getting the Acme back, or a ShopRite?
All in all, let’s get away from the reverence for “high-end” and start thinking about a store that will serve the township in a high quality yet affordable way. They do exist-and Balducci’s is not one of them. We should put the town’s priorities ahead of the developer’s. They are not the same.
Richard S. Snedeker