By Donald Wittkowski
Ross DelRomano raised his voice to avoid being drowned out by the ear-piercing sounds of drills, saws and hammers inside his new grocery store taking shape at the corner of 86th Street and Landis Avenue in Sea Isle City.
For now, DelRomano has to use his imagination to point out the locations of the coffee bar, the meat case, the deli counter, the kitchen and other amenities that will occupy the now-empty building when it opens in May.
“Right now, we’re standing in the fresh produce section,” he said Friday during a tour of the building, gesturing toward parts of the concrete floor as though they really were brimming with lettuce, tomatoes and fruits.
The grocery store is the latest attraction in what has been a sweeping transformation of the city’s sleepy Townsends Inlet section within the past two years into an upscale condo, dining and retail enclave. Although the store will be new, it will carry the name of one of Sea Isle’s most iconic businesses for decades – Blitz’s Market.
“We’re excited,” DelRomano said of he and his business partner, Shawn Rinnier. “We feel we can be a whole new pillar in the revitalization of Townsends Inlet.”
The new grocery store is at the same location where the old Blitz’s Market once stood. Demolition was completed in 2016 on the old Blitz’s to make room for a three-story project containing the new market at street level and nine high-end condos on the top two floors.
DelRomano is shooting for a May 16 grand opening, although he noted that finishing touches to the store could push that date back a little. He is committed to having the market fully opened by Memorial Day weekend, the traditional start to the peak summer vacation season in Sea Isle and the rest of the Jersey Shore.
At 4,500 square feet, the new market will be the same size as the old Blitz’s. DelRomano, however, said the new store represents a dramatic upgrade compared to its predecessor. He explained that the old Blitz’s had been in need of a “refresh.”
“I think it’s going to meet everyone’s expectations – and more,” DelRomano said of the new market.
DelRomano said customers will find that the new Blitz’s store offers all of the same products and services of a supermarket, just in a smaller package.
“We’re a full-service mini-supermarket,” he said. “We have pretty much everything that you’ll find in a supermarket, to a smaller extent.”
Hoping to create an upscale vibe, the market will feature a La Colombe Coffee cafe for lattes, espresso and other trendy brews. La Colombe, popular in its hometown of Philadelphia, has other cafes in cities across the country.
In between loading up on their favorite foods and drinks, Blitz’s customers will also be able to buy beach chairs, umbrellas and other seashore essentials in the market’s seasonal section, DelRomano said.
Blitz’s Market will have two experienced owners in the grocery industry. DelRomano spent more than 25 years working for the Fresh Grocer supermarkets in Philadelphia. Rinnier owns five Save-A-Lot grocery stores in Philadelphia, DelRomano said.
DelRomano and Rinnier bought Blitz’s Market in 2016. They are planning to preserve the market’s well-known name and traditions, but in an updated package and with more variety.
For its first year in business, the market will likely operate on a seasonal basis from May to October. The hope is to expand to year-round operations, DelRomano said.
The market’s location puts it close to the Townsends Inlet Bridge linking Sea Isle and Avalon. An estimated 30 percent of the market’s business will come from Avalon, DelRomano pointed out.
Blitz’s will be one of the centerpieces of the commercial evolution of Sea Isle’s quiet southern tip. The three-story building containing Blitz’s and the condos on the top floors is the latest development undertaken in the past two years to revitalize Townsends Inlet with new retail, residential and restaurant attractions appealing to Sea Isle’s higher-end tourism market.
“I think it’s another big piece in the growth of this part of town,” DelRomano said.
Development partners Christopher Glancey and Bob Morris are the ones principally responsible for Townsends Inlet’s multimillion-dollar makeover. The building that houses Blitz’s and the condos is the third major mixed-use project built by Glancey and Morris along the Landis Avenue corridor in Townsends Inlet.
In 2016, Glancey and Morris celebrated the grand opening of their Dunes condo, restaurant and banquet complex on Landis Avenue between 86th and 87th streets. The Dunes was built on the site where the old Busch’s Seafood Restaurant stood for more than a century. The complex features a Doc Magrogan’s Oyster House restaurant on the first floor and 13 deluxe rental condos on the second and third stories.
Directly across the street from the Dunes, at the corner of 87th Street and Landis Avenue, is yet another new mixed-use project developed by Glancey and Morris. It features 11 luxury rental condos, a boutique and restaurant space.
A parking area between 87th and 88th streets will continue to serve Doc Magrogan’s Oyster House at The Dunes, as well as the new commercial developments being built on Landis Avenue. In addition, the condos have their own parking spaces underneath the units.