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Though it's expensive, retailers calling N.J. home have distinct advantage

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It's an expensive place for a retailer to manage its headquarters operation, but some of the biggest names in the industry say New Jersey provides a distinct advantage that other locations around the country do not.

"I believe the New Jersey metro market is the most dynamic market in the United States," said Dean Durling, president and CEO of Quick Chek Corp. (11), which has its corporate headquarters in the Whitehouse Station section of Readington.

Top executives often cite the Garden State's prime location — nestled between Philadelphia and New York, and home to one of the nation's busiest ports — as being a primary force driving retail companies to call New Jersey home.

"Companies will locate here, because this is where they will be the most successful," said Dennis Bone, director of the Feliciano Center for Entrepreneurship at the Montclair State University School of Business and former president and CEO of Verizon New Jersey. "You can't replicate this in other parts of the country."

At Quick Chek, which employs 3,400 locally and owns 136 convenience stores here and in southern New York state, "You have to do 100 things right to build the right culture" for workers, Durling says. Among the many worker incentives are liberal benefits, wages, intense training, profit sharing and positive workplace environments.

"We like to build careers … people on our team like being where they are," Durling said, adding that the private, family-owned company was founded as a corporation in 1967, but has New Jersey roots dating back to the 1800s.

That sentiment is also felt at Food Circus Super Markets Inc. (49), of Middletown.

"We're proud to be part of the fabric of New Jersey," said Louis Scaduto Jr., president and chief operating officer of the grocery chain. "We'll never leave the state … we're New Jersey through and through."

Food Circus, founded in 1956, owns and operates eight supermarkets in central Jersey.

Retail companies based here also can draw on what Bone called an "awesome" workforce. And the benefit of having that available pool of employees outweighs "the biggest challenge" — the high wages here, said Bone, also a board member of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce and president emeritus of Choose New Jersey, the state's leading economic development arm for business attraction and retention.

"I'm happy to pay high union wages to take care of the people who work with me," said Scaduto, whose company employs 700. "New Jersey is not a cheap place to live."

The retail industry employs 759,760 at 103,269 New Jersey retail establishments, including food services and drinking places, according to the latest figures from the National Retail Federation.
As an independent family-owned business, Scaduto takes pride in developing "humanistic" and professional relationships with his staff. "We get to see our people develop with us and help make a difference in someone's life."

That personal development is key to survival in one of the most competitive, affluent and densely populated marketplaces in the country.

"We compete against international and national powerhouses," Scaduto says. "If you don't have the passion, you can't be in it. … It's a day at a time; it's rewarding to make progress and succeed."
Durling said he sees the same at Quick Chek.

"We serve busy people on the go. They move fast, they talk fast and they expect us to be fast," he said. "This market is unique."

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