Lakewood NJ - The relocation of the ShopRite to nearby Howell last week caused quite a stir in the community and in the media, but the real story is the store that will replace the supermarket. Gourmet Glatt, with stores in Cedarhurst and Boro Park, is reported to be one of three large independent kosher supermarkets that will open in Lakewood in the next 12-18 months. The other two will be Evergreen of Monsey, NY and Seasons which currently has four stores in Queens, Long Island and Manhattan. Kosher food manufacturers and distributors are not surprised by this development because Lakewood NJ along with Monsey NY are two of the fastest growing kosher communities in the nation. It is estimated that of a population of 100,000 in Lakewood, nearly 60,000 are Jewish and almost all kosher consumers. Sources say that as many as 900 new families moved into the community in 2014, a number that is likely to repeat itself in 2015. What began in the 1940’s as a sleepy Yeshiva community, led by Beth Medrash Govoha, founded by the venerable sage Rabbi Aharon Kotler, in a largely wooded area, has emerged as a major community for Orthodox Jews.Some in the kosher industry say that sales to Lakewood have increased by nearly 50% over the last five years, by far replacing other communities with declining Jewish populations. The prospect is for continued growth which is why the industry experts expect that the new stores will do well, perhaps at the expense of several smaller mom-pop stores.Industry sources say that ShopRite with their Kosher Experience stores in many locations including the Marboro store which is 15 miles away, is one of the leading chains when it comes to kosher. Its 90,000 square foot new store in Howell will still carry a broad variety of kosher foods, though not as extensive as their Kosher Experience stores. One industry source said that the ShopRite decision was “purely economics.” He noted: “They recognized that kosher customers tended to use the store for the discounted items but did a good deal of their shopping at one of the other kosher stores.” They may also have calculated that with the arrival of the large kosher independents the competition would become even tougher. There are approximately a dozen kosher stores in Lakewood with the largest being NPGS which has three stores in the community. Other stores include Shloimy’s, Kosher Village, Farm Fresh, Kosher West, and Quality. For Lakewood shoppers who already face traffic congestion on many thoroughfares, the emerging retail landscape in the community will no doubt offer unprecedented choices.