A chain of “super” convenience stores mounting a challenge to Wawa’s dominance over southern New Jersey will bring its fresh design, affordable fuel prices and signature fried chicken to Brick.
Royal Farms, based in Maryland, received approval from the Brick Board of Adjustment Wednesday night to build its newest location at one of the busiest intersections in town – routes 70 and 88 – at the site of the former Jersey Paddler kayak and outdoor store. The Jersey Paddler building, which currently occupies the site, will be torn down in favor of the convenience store building, which will face Route 70, and eight gas pumps with 16 nozzles to the side.
The store received unanimous approval after a lengthy board meeting. No members of the public objected to the project, though township officials sought information on traffic impacts to the area as well as upkeep of the store itself.
A team of land use professionals representing Royal Farms included a traffic engineer who testified that the store relied primarily on passersby and would increase traffic – at most – by about 2 percent in the area.
“We’re not going to add a lot of traffic to the roads around us but there will be some activity at the entrances,” said Nathan Mosley, the engineer.
Entrances and exits will be located on Route 70, Route 88 and Olden Street – a smaller road between the two highways that also leads to the Brick Diner. That block of Olden Street is particularly prone to traffic tie-ups because of a jug-handle located on the opposite side of Route 70. Motorists wishing to make a left onto the eastbound lane of Route 70 must wait until jug-handle traffic is complete. The Olden Street situation raised some concern among board members.
“A lot of that is due to the signal timing of that intersection – it’s over two minutes per cycle and a lot of volume is going through that area,” said Mosley.
Fortunately, both the Royal Farms representatives and officials from the township said the New Jersey Department of Transportation has already approved a realignment to the intersection that will allow traffic to pass more freely from both sides.
Royal Farms will also make significant improvements to surrounding streets, Mosley said. The company will pay for pedestrian connectivity between Route 88 and Olden Street, handicap-accessible ramps, pedestrian push-button controls for the traffic light and a new traffic light that features a countdown timer. The developer will also add new sidewalks and crosswalks on all four sides of the intersection.
The bulk of the remaining discussion at the meeting was dedicated to two issues: the size of the signs advertising gasoline prices and the site’s landscaping.
The fuel price sign was larger than the township allows, leading the township and developer to pledge to work together to design a sign that fits well. Signs will appear on both routes 70 and 88 with fuel prices, and smaller signs will appear on the front of the building itself and on the canopies covering the fuel pumps.
“It’s six signs with four variances,” said Township Planner Tara Paxton.
Royal Farms also agreed to install a sprinkler system, and said it is standard practice in the company to give landscapers “carte blanche” to keep up the grounds of the property. Any trees that will have to be taken down will be replaced by mature trees.
Chase Gunther, a real estate developer representing Royal Farms, said the store will be open 24 hours, seven days a week, and employ between 40 and 50 people. About 70 percent will be part-time employees while 30 percent will be full-time. Deliveries to the store will be made during off-peak hours, he said, and there will be 17 security cameras running at all times.
“They work really hard to make sure there are no blind spots,” Gunther said.
Amenities of the store include an ice vending freezer and a Redbox movie rental kiosk.
Royal Farms needed zoning board approval because of several minor variances for issues such as signage and the pre-existing odd shape of the lot. The sole major variance was a use variance since gas stations are a conditional use in the zone. In plain terms, gas stations are not included in the allowed uses, but are permitted if certain conditions are met. Historically, officials said, the same plot of land was used as a gas station prior to Jersey Paddler opening there.
“It was a gas station once before, and I think it is a good location for this site,” said Charles Lindstrom, an engineer representing the company. “There’s nothing right nearby, and then there’s that chicken I’ve heard so much about.”
There were no taste tests at the meeting, but Royal Farms has become well-known for its fried chicken, made on site, and a wide selection of sandwiches and freshly-made food items customers can order from a touchscreen, similar to Wawa and Quick Chek.
Royal Farms has dishes that include breakfast all day and night, chicken sandwiches, burgers and hot dogs, fries, party platters and a wide variety of sandwiches.
The chain operates about 200 locations and is growing quickly. Royal Farms is based in Baltimore and has locations in Maryland, Virginia, Delaware and Pennsylvania. It entered the southern New Jersey market over the last few years.