Pa. bid to woo grocer cites $31M market

By Beth Brelje
Michael Sullivan has 31 million reasons to plant a grocery store on Route 739 in Pike County. The executive director of the Pike County Economic Development Authority is drawing on all of them to woo grocery store developers to Delaware Township, where residents now have to drive 8 to 10 miles to buy food.

Having combed through Pike County statistics, Sullivan has found that a grocery store in Delaware Township could tap into a market of about 6,500 homes in developments along the Route 739 corridor. The federal government releases estimates of monthly retail and food sales broken down by type of business. From those numbers, Sullivan found that in 2011, the average household in the United States spent $4,824 on grocery store sales. Having multiplied $4,824 in grocery sales by 6,500 homes, Sullivan calculates an enticing $31 million market for grocery sales in Delaware Township. “I am talking to grocery developers right now. These are the factors I give them,” Sullivan said. Township Supervisor Tom Ryan met with Sullivan a few months ago and asked him to try to bring a grocery store to the township. “We are in an isolated pocket,” Ryan said. “You have to go to Lords Valley or Milford to get groceries.” It would be better if residents could get groceries locally, plus a grocery store would create jobs and be an anchor to other businesses, Ryan said. When talking with developers, Sullivan uses another, equally stunning set of numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau. Per capita retail sales in 2007 were $13,000 in the United States and in Pennsylvania, but in Pike County, per capita retail sales were $6,800. It shows that Pike residents are leaving the county to shop. “There is not enough investment in retail sales in Pike County. One of the strongest cases I can make to developers is these unbalanced numbers,” Sullivan said.

There are at least five suitable locations on Route 739 in Delaware Township for a grocery store. A lot of supermarkets will ask what competition is in 5-mile radius, Sullivan said. While the market is lucrative, infrastructure challenges must be addressed by any business settling in Pike. It is tough to find a site in Pike with water, sewer and gas already in place, Sullivan said. Ryan notes that there is a market to serve that goes beyond local homeowners. Hundreds of visitors drive over the Dingmans Ferry Bridge and go straight up Route 739, perhaps on their way to Wayne County. These are people who would stop on a Friday night for dinner or goods. He would also like to see more family-style restaurants and other businesses along the corridor. “A state liquor store would be a home run,” Ryan said.