In most neighborhoods, crowds of shoppers braving the cold to browse offerings of produce, deli meats and other goodies might not be that big of a deal.

But for many of the customers who visited the Fresh Grocer that opened in Progress Plaza, on Broad Street near Jefferson, yesterday, it was the first time in 11 years they didn't have to trek across the city to find fresh, affordable food.

"This is well-needed," said Gloria Harris, 63, who lives around the corner from the Plaza. Before, she said, she had to travel from her house on 12th Street near Master to the Superfresh on South Street.

"And there are jobs for neighborhood people," she said. "I see faces of people I know."

Every register was jammed with customers waiting to take home groceries from the supermarket, which filled a gap left when Superfresh closed in 1998.

Seventy-three percent of the store's employees come from within a 2-mile radius of Progress Plaza - the nation's oldest African-American owned and developed shopping center - said Carly Spross, Fresh Grocer's director of marketing.

"It's great," new Fresh Grocer employee Andre Johnson said of the chance to work at the store.

"This is [going to be] the epicenter of North Philly," he said before bustling off to help a customer with a cart.

The supermarket is the second Fresh Grocer has opened in Philadelphia this year - in August, the company opened a store in East Germantown.

Small groups of shoppers walked to their cars beneath lines of pennants that whipped and crackled in the frigid breeze. Others grabbed a ride in the store's delivery service, which provides free rides to customers who buy $50 of groceries and live within three miles of the store.

Talia Cannon, 31, who was leaving the store with her 6-year-old daughter, Jade, was thrilled with the location.

"This is much more convenient," Cannon said. "There were no markets in the area like this one."

Temple University sophomore Justin Kiene, 19, said he used to bike into Center City to pick up his groceries.

"This is a lot better than 7-Eleven, which is where I would go if I didn't want to bike to Center City," he said. "I was thinking about working here after winter break . . . it would be great to work across the street from where I live."

Fellow student Kalina Smith said she had to buy her supplies at 7-Eleven, Rite Aid or Reading Terminal Market.

"It's so exciting," she said. "We were counting down the days."