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Retail Roundup: Aldi, Planet Fitness to open at former Pathmark site

Discount grocer Aldi, seen in this artist's rendering,

Discount grocer Aldi, seen in this artist's rendering, will be among the tenants at a former Pathmark site in North Babylon that is being redeveloped. Photo Credit: Rendering: Rosenbaum Design Group/Basser-Kaufman

It’s official.

Discount grocer Aldi, Planet Fitness and a self-storage facility will be among the new occupants in a North Babylon redevelopment of a former Pathmark supermarket that closed in 2015.   

In March, I wrote that the owner of the 8-acre property had included plans for the grocery store, gym and self-storage facility in applications submitted to Babylon Town to demolish the old Pathmark building at 1251 Deer Park Ave. and construct two new buildings.  At the time, none of the proposed tenants would talk.

Now, the developer is confirming that those businesses will be moving in after the redevelopment, since the town of Babylon has approved the plans.  

Demolition of the vacant, 102,000-square-foot building that held the Pathmark and a few other businesses will start in August, said Steven Kaufman, principal at Woodmere-based real estate developer Basser-Kaufman, which owns the property through an affiliate, North Babylon Associates.

“We’re going to build a new building, about 50,000 square feet approximately, that is going to house a roughly … 19,000-square-foot Aldi, [and] 22,000-square-foot Planet Fitness,” Kaufman said.  In the same building, between the grocery store and gym, will be another 9,100 square feet of retail space available for lease, he said.

Also, Johnson Development Associates Inc., a Spartanburg, South Carolina, company, will build a two-story, 100,000-square-foot self-storage facility, Extra Space Storage, on about 2 acres of the Deer Park Avenue site that it is buying from North Babylon Associates, said Bailey Gaffney, director of entitlements for Johnson Development. 

A McDonald’s on the Deer Park Avenue property will remain, Kaufman said.

Construction will start in the fall, and the new businesses should be open by spring, he said.

Hampton, New Hampshire-based Planet Fitness Inc. has signed a lease for the North Babylon location, spokeswoman McCall Gosselin confirmed Wednesday.

German-owned Aldi, whose U.S. headquarters are in Batavia, Illinois, declined to provide details on its planned store. 

“At this time, we do not have any information to share about a potential Aldi store opening in North Babylon,” said Bruce Persohn, vice president of Aldi South Windsor Division. 

On Feb. 13, the Babylon Town board approved North Babylon Associates’ request to rezone the lot where the self-storage facility would be from business to industrial, which allows a self-storage facility to be built there.

In May, the planning board approved the site plan, as well as a request to subdivide the 8-acre property into two lots.

The Pathmark in North Babylon was one of 51 Long Island grocery stores, some of which were Waldbaum’s, that closed after their parent company, Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co. in New Jersey, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2015.

Gym coming, Goodwill going

Having Aldi and Planet Fitness as tenants in the same building is possibly a complementary proposition, since both are fast-growing, discount operations.

At Planet Fitness, gym memberships start at $10 monthly and there are no exercise classes. The chain opened 241 gyms in the 12-month period that ended in March, bringing its total to 1,806 locations in North America.

Planet Fitness has 15 gyms on Long Island — and at least four more are planned.

In addition to the North Babylon gym, the chain will open two more local facilities this year — in Stony Brook and Lawrence, which I’ve already reported.  

Also, another local Planet Fitness will open at 585 Portion Rd. in Lake Ronkonkoma, likely in late 2019 or early 2020, Gosselin said Wednesday.

But that space is currently occupied.

A Goodwill thrift store has been at that address, in a 15,197-square-foot unit of a shopping center, for five years, said Jose Medellin, spokesman for Goodwill Industries of Greater New York & Northern New Jersey Inc., which is based in Queens.

“We are currently in negotiations to exit the Lake Ronkonkoma location. However, nothing is finalized and we cannot discuss,” he said.

The Lake Ronkonkoma shopping center’s owner, Lake Shore Plaza Owner LLC, could not be reached for comment.  The shopping center’s manager, RD Management LLC in Manhattan, did not return calls for comment.

More appeal

Aldi, which opened its first Long Island store in 2011 in Bay Shore, now has six locations on the Island — all in Suffolk County.

But the retailer is working to expand its reach inside and outside the county. Last week, I wrote about Aldi's plans to open its first Nassau County store, at Green Acres Commons in Valley Stream, by spring 2020. 

Aldi is a discounter that reduces costs partly by having open-carton displays from which customers choose products, instead of paying workers to remove products from cartons and stock shelves.

Aldi operates limited-assortment stores, which typically have fewer than 2,000 packaged goods and perishables per location, said Jon Hauptman, senior director of Inmar, a retail industry analytics company in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.  Limited-assortment stores generally are smaller than traditional supermarkets and sell mostly their own private-label products.

More than 90 percent of the products in Aldi are the chain's private-label brands, Persohn said.

Aldi has been widening its appeal. 

“They’ve transitioned from being solely a utilitarian and spartan atmosphere to offering a very appealing experience. … It’s more colorful. They have more fresh items, they have a wider assortment of different types of products, such as healthful products and unique specialty products,” Hauptman said.

The chain has added about 150 U.S. stores since March 2018, for a total of more than 1,900 locations in 36 states, and expects to have nearly 2,500 U.S. stores by 2022.

Retail Roundup is a column about major retail news on Long Island — store openings, closings, expansions, acquisitions, etc. — that is published online and in the Monday paper. To read more of these columns, click here. If you have news to share, please send an email to Newsday reporter Tory N. Parrish at tory.parrish@newsday.com.

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