A primarily empty lot sat adjacent to the five points section of South Bethlehem for months, but will soon house a new supermarket. Ideal Food Basket will offer a new grocery option in what has been declared a food desert.
About six months later than expected, construction of South Bethlehem’s newest grocery store is underway. Though no official opening has been announced, it is projected to be completed in spring 2023.
Sean Miller, a construction worker making renovations, said the process of opening a location in South Bethlehem has taken longer than anticipated.
“We could not get the right materials to start,” Miller said.
The store will provide residents with fresh produce, meat, baked goods and other items. It will be open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 8 a.m to 8 p.m. on Sundays.
The lot is located at 410 Montclair Ave., previously the location of Ahart’s Supermarket, which closed in April 2021 after 20 years of business.
Students of Lehigh University are eager for the store to open. Jenna Van Valkenburg, ‘25, said she is disappointed over the delay.
“I was looking forward to utilizing the new option sooner rather than later, so it’s a bit upsetting to hear that I now won’t be able to try it out until next semester,” Van Valkenburg said.
Juan Diaz, the owner of C-Town Supermarket in South Bethlehem, acquired the Ahart’s for $2.3 million. Franklin Rodriguez, general manager of C-Town, has been helping Diaz with the construction process.
Diaz and Rodriguez denied a request for direct comment relating to the delay, but Diaz said his contractors spent more than a year redesigning the structure.
According to Lehigh Valley Regional News, the redesign includes facade and roofing repairs, total demolition of the interior space, new refrigeration units, new heating and cooling system, changes to the layout of the store, new store colors and a new logo.
C-Town has been the only grocery store in South Bethlehem for the past two years, and Bethlehem is recognized as a “food desert” by the USDA.
Ideal Food Market is presumed to offer a wider range of options than C-Town, with more produce items, a larger deli department and a beer section.
Local Bethlehem resident Mark Iampietro said he believes the new market will greatly benefit the community.
“Lehigh students can walk to the market,” Iampietro said. “There is a history of that location being a food market that goes back 70 years. It’s good to see a replacement. They are not really adding anything, they are replacing the market that was traditionally there.”
Ideal Food Basket will fill a two-year void of fresh produce and safe food options for varying consumer needs.
Anna Lewis, ‘25, said it is hard to navigate places that are safe for her to eat as someone with severe dietary restrictions, so she has been waiting for Ideal Food basket to open.
“I am definitely upset about the delay in opening because it’s a continuation of hardships I experience of not being able to find food that is gluten free,” Lewis said.
Sean Werfel, ‘24, said it would be a life saver now that the University Center is under construction, which makes it difficult for students to conveniently get food.
“I think I speak for everyone in the Lehigh community when I say a new grocery store would be nothing but beneficial for students, as well as Bethlehem residents,” Werfel said.