Bushwick Foodtown

The produce department, at the store entrance, is the lynchpin of the Foodtown, Brooklyn, NY, operation. The new store uses a European model of design, using space to its maximum.

The state-of-the-art supermarket is a standout among food retailing operations in Brooklyn, NY.

Originally printed in the April 2024 issue of Produce Business.

The Foodtown supermarket in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn, NY, is testimony to the resilience of a neighborhood that once was among the most blighted in New York. The neighborhood has endured hard times and a lack of retail operations and access to produce and other fresh food.

The store became the fourth operated by Allegiance Retail Services co-op member Shady Widdi, all operating in Brooklyn. However, the state-of-the-art supermarket is a standout among the borough’s food retailing operations in part because of its design, which Widdi says is patterned more on overseas supermarkets than American, and, in part, by its clever use of space.

Indeed, the Noll Street Foodtown has been called a concept store, and Widdi has his own idea of what that means.

“I built this store on concepts from Europe,” he says. “The architectural work here is not stuff you’re used to seeing in New York.”

The supermarket, at 15,000 square feet, may not be large by suburban and rural standards, but it is a major operation for the New York borough. Foodtown uses vertical space effectively, with signage, graphics and decorative touches. It also offers fresh foodservice areas, proportional to the store. On top of that, the Noll Street Foodtown joined the neighborhood in January as a key player in the community’s ongoing renaissance.

Widdi says the design scheme is an investment in enhancing the customer experience and setting the Bushwick store apart. There are decorative wall tiles, an impressively executed ceiling, and a produce section that has trees wrapped in decorative lights emerging from the round table fixtures, displaying bananas on the one and tropical fruit on the other.

“Just the ceiling alone was a million dollars, with the architectural work, with arches and floating ceilings and the lighting, things you won’t see going to shop in a regular supermarket,” he says.


The produce department is a critical part of that strategy, and not just because of the fixtures.

Widdi says all main supermarkets in New York carry a similar mix of conventional and organic items. He chose to put more emphasis on exotic fruits and vegetables than his competitors to make the produce operation stand out.

“That’s what I try to do,” says Widdi. “Even if I first lose money, I still want to differentiate myself from everybody else. It works for me.”

The importance of seasonal produce is also something Widdi emphasizes.

“In all my stores, I have one dedicated seasonal table, which is the one in the front of the store. I try to take advantage of the seasonal products as much as I can, and try to buy massive deals on seasonal products,” Widdi explains. “I make less margin on my seasonal products than the rest of the produce. That’s how you grasp your client base. When something’s in season, let’s just say berries, I always try to blow out sales so customers coming for the first time say, ‘This guy has berries. Look how cheap.’ These things work. They add up.”

Foodtown in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn, NY, offers fresh cuts in a variety of forms, including fruit in tubs and cello-wrapped vegetables.

Widdi participates in the promotions developed by Allegiance Retail Services, but he also will work with local vendors and growers who have quality produce as product comes into season so that his assortment offers more attractive choices than the competition.

“I don’t strictly buy from one vendor,” he says. “I try to buy from local farmers. It helps a lot. A lot of our customers love helping the local community. And sometimes, I feel like it’s a little fresher.”

Widdi says he wants to have a solid core of the main items that everyone looks for, plus the presentation of exotics, plus some extras including trending produce items.

“I want to have a little bit of everything to win everyone over,” he says. “If you see a little bit more, it’s because, like mushrooms, it’s one of the biggest growing sellers in all my stores. It’s something exotic and super-sellable. They also differentiate you from the competitors.”

Another point of emphasis is a strong presentation of greens and herbs, which the Noll Street store merchandises, conceptually, as a garden of plants, says Widdi.


Service is important as well. The company offers fresh cuts in a variety of forms, including fruit in tubs and cello-wrapped vegetables. The juice bar will also cut produce for customers.

“You can get any cut that you want by request,” he says. “If you want onions and potatoes cut up together, we’ll do it for you.”

Another aspect of the produce presentation that is evident at the Bushwick store is the mix of bulk and packaged products, although Widdi says customers buy more bulk than packaged goods. Having the range of produce in both forms is part of his desire to satisfy as many local consumers as possible.

The assortment variety, varying display sizes and the need to make the most out of available space means the produce department at the Noll Street Foodtown requires a fair amount of labor to keep things looking good, but Widdi says he’s been fortunate there, as the store has attracted even more job seekers than it needed.

As he prepared to open the Bushwick store, he was able to lean on his other Foodtown operations for training.

Widdi wants the Noll Street store to become a trendsetter in New York retail.

Although the store lays out an extensive selection of premium meats, natural and organic foods, fresh-daily seafood and baked goods, as well as a robust presentation of beer and novelty beverages, produce is a lynchpin of the operation. For example, located at the store entrance is a display of fresh flowers with adjacent fresh produce islands. A fresh juice bar, sushi station and deli counter complement the produce section.

The store also has a large charcuterie counter featuring cheeses from around the world, grab-and-go meals, a salad and soup bar, a barista coffee counter, and, as noted, a juice bar.


The Noll Street Foodtown became an instant neighborhood institution. Indeed, Joseph Fantozzi, chief operating officer and president of Allegiance Retail Services and Foodtown, points out that developers approached Allegiance to participate in the ongoing neighborhood revitalization effort underway, one that still came up short in terms of supermarket participation.

Fantozzi knew of Widdi’s commitment to crafting exceptional supermarket experiences, and so enlisted him to build, own and operate this visionary store.

When he first became involved in the Bushwick location, Widdi took into consideration the reputation the neighborhood had, but he discovered consumers range broadly in background and incomes, with a core of solid working-class shoppers who keep the store busy, especially during the week, after 5 p.m.
Widdi wants to cater to everyone in the community, so as he worked to get operations underway, he marketed to the local housing projects as well as the pockets of gentrification in his outreach.

The importance of the Noll Street Foodtown was such that the grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony included New York Attorney General Letitia James, Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, Assemblywoman Maritza Davila, and New York City Council Member Crystal Hudson.

If anything, Widdi says, he invested deeply in the store to ensure that everyone who encountered it was impressed. Some retailers like to save money going into a new store and have soft openings while still hiring and training. Widdi says his approach was to over-invest and over-staff as a way of making a statement about the quality of customer experience from the start.

“The first impression is everything,” says Widdi.


54 A Noll St., Brooklyn, NY 11206
Hours: Daily, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.