Even in a pandemic, people have to mangia.
And so they came on Friday to Morris Plains, for the grand opening of Uncle Giuseppe’s Marketplace.
Social distancing? Good luck. The place was packed.
“We’re not just a supermarket. We’re an experience,” said Carl Delprete, co-founder and CEO of Uncle Giuseppe’s, which really is named after his… well, you know.
Mayor Jason Karr was proud of borough officials for shepherding the business through the approvals process despite the COVID crisis, and happy for Briarcliff Commons, the Kohl’s-anchored Route 10 shopping center that Uncle Giuseppe’s now calls home.
“This is a vibrant mall,” Karr said. “When small malls are closing, this one is full. Morris Plains will complement Uncle Giuseppe’s, and Uncle Giuseppe’s will complement Morris Plains.”
It’s the Long Island chain’s 10th supermarket, and second in New Jersey. (Ramsey is the other Garden State location.)
The chain prides itself on producing many of its offerings in-house, and serving them with a smile, Delprete said. Employees must recite the company’s mantra:
“We won’t serve anything that we wouldn’t serve to our own mothers,” Delprete said.
Finding employees, that’s the hard part. Companies everywhere are struggling to hire help, and Uncle Giuseppe’s is no exception.
“It’s been an interesting challenge. Any great mountain worth climbing isn’t easy,” Delprete said.
Staff from other Uncle G’s are pitching in at the new store, a 46,000-square-foot building once occupied by ShopRite. The Morris Plains location will employ 260 people when fully staffed, Delprete said.
“We’re so excited to have them here. It’s a wonderful grand opening. Welcome to Morris County,” said Meghan Hunscher, CEO of the Morris County Chamber of Commerce.
The early reviews were favorable.
“Everything’s fresh, it’s made with all good ingredients. You can’t go wrong over here,” said Morris Plains Councilman Sal Cortese.
In the next aisle, singer Tony Della crooned That’s Amore, backed by a recorded band.
“Very good,” said Joann Cutalo of Denville after sampling the ravioli in marinara sauce. “I’ll be back.”
Sharon Prag and Arlene Giannone of Rockaway Township were pleased with their finds.
“Steak, $6.99 a pound. That’s good,” said Prag. Her friend was savoring chocolates.
Dina Lofroese traveled from Sparta for Friday’s opening.
“It’s Italian!” she explained. “I’m 100 percent Italian. I’m glad they came up with a store like this. Much needed.”
Lofroese plans to return to Uncle Giuseppe’s — in about two months, when she hopes the lines are shorter.
“I’m too overwhelmed,” she said.