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LANSDALE, PA-The 145,000-sf redeveloped Pavilion Center has landed a new anchor, Vidalia Marketplace, which is a specialty gourmet grocery and the first grocery store in the state to sell beer. It is also a concept and brand with visions beyond Pavilion Center. In addition to selected domestic and imported beers and more than 300 microbrews, the 27,000-sf store will sell fresh produce, seafood, meats and prepared foods for eat-in or take-out.

Vidalia Marketplace is the brainchild of Marty Reeser, who comes from a family of area grocers, and Joe Grasso, chairman and CEO of GM Suburban Development. Grasso acquired the shopping center at S. Broad and Hancock streets two years ago along with some contiguous properties.

“It was a tired, aging, 70,000-sf center,” he tells GlobeSt.com. At a total investment of $30 million, including acquisition costs, GM Suburban demolished some buildings, built new ones and totally renovated others to double the original size and create the upscale, lifestyle Pavilion Center with Vidalia Marketplace at its heart.

“In essence, we’ve reinvented the specialty food market by creating a unique shopping experience that is both convenient and upscale,” Grasso says. “Big corporations have bought out many traditional, family-owned grocery chains. We’re committed to doing things differently to better serve smart, local shoppers.” Of the concept and brand, he says, “we have bigger ambitions.”

It features its own brand of all-natural packaged goods, including soups and pastries made on site, and there are tables and seating for 50. While the emphasis is on fresh, natural and organic foods as well as premium beers, Grasso says, “it’s also a one-stop, where people can pick up basic commodities.”

The ability to sell beer, he tells GlobeSt.com, “was worked out with some great lawyers, and we were very tenacious. I’m not ready to give out our recipe for negotiating with the state liquor control board, but it’s perfectly legal. We worked it out, and we think we have an edge on other Pennsylvania grocers.”

Grasso is also president and CEO of Philadelphia-based Walnut Street Capital, formerly J. Grasso Properties, which recently acquired the Curtis Center and Public Ledger Building across from Independence Hall in Center City, as Globest.com reported. He says he and Reeser are working on “an urban location of about 25,000 sf to 30,000 sf” for the next Vidalia Marketplace, and hints that it may well be in the Independence Hall submarket.

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