Former Bedminster Mayor Bob Holtaway recalls flying out of Somerset Hills Airport in 1972 and, if memory serves him correctly, the A&P Supermarket in Bedminster already was there.
Holtaway said he believes the moved into the Somerset Hills Shopping Center in the late 1960s.
"It's an old store," Holtaway said. Compared with other A&P supermarkets, such as those in Basking Ridge and Warren, it's also a small store, he said.
Still, Holtaway said many local residents liked having a supermarket where they could pick up a loaf of bread or milk at prices somewhat lower than newer, gourmet supermarkets.
While many say they welcome a new market and plans for Holtaway said there is a bit of nostalgia for the outdated supermarket that once was the only game in town when the heart of the Somerset Hills was a quieter, more rural place.
"You've got to be an old-timer if you remember Buxton's," he said of a former ice cream shop and restaurant once located near the A&P in the Pluckemin section of Bedminster. More recently, longtime tenant Tuscany Bistro vacated the shopping center in January.
One person who will miss A&P is Mary Jo Pickrell, who was shopping at the progressively emptier store on Friday afternoon.
The longtime Somerset Hills resident said she traveled to shop at the A&P when she lived in Peapack-Gladstone for about eight or nine years before moving to The Hills development in Bedminster 25 years ago.
"I am sorry it's going," Pickrell said of the supermarket. "I feel badly for the elderly and [others] who cannot afford Kings," she said, referring to the recently refurbished supermarket off Hills Drive a little north on Route 202/206.
Pickrell said some of the elderly residents who live in the Pluckemin Park senior housing even closer on Route 202/206 now walk to the A&P, located at the intersection of the state highway and Washington Valley Road.
Pickrell said she is expecting that she won't be able to afford to shop at the new Fresh Market anticipated to move in along with the planned renovation of the shopping center. She said she and others will be driving further to find bargains.
David Kelco of Bridgewater, also shopping at A&P on Friday, said, "I am going to miss having a little supermarket close by."
For him, he said, the store is "around the corner," and has been a good place to pick up a bag of chips, milk or some other item that he said would cost more at a convenience store down the road.
Kelco said he expects he now will be driving to Shop-Rite stores in Bound Brook or Branchburg.
Ever-steeper markdowns on what inventory is left — including a 40 percent reduction for bakery items and even more on some other merchandise — has attracted bargain hunters even as the A&P prepares to close.
Renee Blaufuss of Califon was browsing the nearly empty shelves on Friday. She said she is familiar with the A&P — one is located in the small borough of Califon in Hunterdon County — and her husband used to pick up some things at the Bedminster A&P when he was working in the area.
Still, many people in the area agree with Bedminster resident Charles Eader who said the supermarket, and the shopping center, have been in need of a facelift.
Although he said he lives within walking distance, Eader said he didn't frequent the A&P.
Whether or not the A&P stayed, or another food store moves in, the store needs to be updated, he said. "It's a great location for folks in The Hills," he added.
Last month, a manager at the A&P off King George Road in Basking Ridge said that store will remain open. He referred further questions to a public spokesperson for A&P, who was unavailable for comment on Friday afternoon.