An old quip is that New York would be a wonderful place if they ever finished it. But that’s half the fun, as the ever-changing nature of the place — including the food scene — makes it dynamic.
A couple of generations ago, New York was dominated by such local and regional banners as Bohack, A&P, Waldbaums and Pathmark, with a significant contribution from local cooperatives under banners such as Key Food, C Town, Foodtown and ShopRite. A&P, Waldbaums and Pathmark disappeared, even if the co-ops have hung tough. The latest conspicuous victim is Fairway, a Manhattan institution that expanded and failed, although a few stores under the banner remain open under new management.
Many gourmet and otherwise specialized operations sprung up and thrive, with banners such as Flushing, NY-based Seasons, and Morton Williams, Bronx, NY, continuing to add stores.
As others departed, Stop & Shop and Acme became more prominent and ShopRite and other banners associated with the well-regarded Wakefern co-op became more dominant. Then, value grocers such as Aldi and Lidl began opening stores, as did supermarket banners, such as Food Bazaar, that attract a mix of mainstream and ethnic consumers.
All this and more exist in a market that includes food concepts from corner bodegas to warehouse clubs including Costco and BJ’s.
The biggest splash in the New York food retailing scene was by Wegmans. The company hovered just within the New York suburbs in Woodbridge, NJ, for years, then added its first store in the Big Apple when it opened a Brooklyn location in May 2019. The store has become a New York stalwart, serving not only local Brooklyn residents but, with a delivery operation that generates half of store sales, in its home borough and lower Manhattan.
On Oct. 19, Wegmans opened its long-awaited first Manhattan location on Astor Place in the East Village. The location once housed the John Wanamaker Department Store, then one of the two Kmarts operating in Manhattan. The two-level store is set to serve the neighborhood, one that mixes residents, including those associated with two colleges, office workers, various restaurants and other entertainment venues with foodservice and, so, tourists.
A Wegmans spokesperson said the produce section at Astor Place takes about 6,000 square feet of store space and is slightly smaller than the department in the Brooklyn location, a 74,000-square-foot store. The department has the same mix of produce as the Brooklyn store, the spokesperson said.
In promoting the opening, store manager Matt Dailor called Wegmans “a celebration of food and people,” which it was on its grand opening day.
LET’S EAT OUT
On the other side of the meal occasion, the ebb and flow of the New York restaurant scene makes it a little difficult to pick out trends, but it’s easy to see the effects of changing eating habits, with the proliferation of vegetarian, vegans and even gluten-free eateries.
Many vegetarian and vegan restaurants were once small, low-key and even austere, but that’s changed, and a vegetarian restaurant can take on the appearance of a fashionable residential parlor or a European cafe.
The food has changed, too, and now many such restaurants are mixing cuisines from Cajun/Creole to Thai to Italian. Indeed, many restaurants now mix standard restaurant fare, such as steak, with vegan, vegetarian, or gluten-free dishes — the idea being that anyone or any group can go to the restaurant and find choices that suit their eating needs.
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BIG DEAL FOODTOWN
Produce a Big Draw for This Bronx Market
Big Deal Foodtown on Morris Park Avenue in the Bronx, NY, is a small store with a big commitment to fresh produce.
Owner Miguel Garcia owned a grocery store in Queens before taking possession of the 8,500-square-foot store in the Bronx a quarter century ago. He has established a produce section that, while small by some standards, stands out in its creative approach to fruits and vegetables.
At the store’s entrance is one of the differentiating elements of the Big Deal Foodtown produce section, which takes about 15% of space and generates 18% of sales. As every inch of fixture case counts, given the section is deliberately low profile, the produce section sales floor is heavily stocked on shelves underneath the fixture table tops and small secondary stands rising from the main display, which gives the presentation a layered look. The approach to merchandising is a means to an end, as it allows the store to stock a diversity of product in an attractive presentation.
“We want to give them an experience of open space,” he says. “And Mrs. Jones is not 6 feet tall. It’s better when she’s shopping this way, rather than trying to get an avocado from something 5 1/2 to 6 feet tall.”
Some arrangements run a little contrary to common practice. The first row of floor displays inside the store windows mixes citrus and tropical fruit — and that’s not simply due to space considerations. Rather, Garcia chooses to mix them up because his shoppers favor that kind of presentation.
The area has traditionally been heavily Italian, with a substantial Latino presence, and has a growing Middle Eastern population. Still, the relative stability of the neighborhood and overlapping ethnic populations mean shoppers don’t purchase on a specifically ethnic basis. So, oranges; mangos; avocados, both Florida and Hass; lemons; pomegranates; limes; dragon fruit; kiwi; and even stone fruit, in the form of nectarines and plums, can exist in a carefully color-striped and contrasted mix to create an eye-catching effect.
The main seasonal product presentation also takes up-front space, and greens, with their own case and presentation, are another area that gets considerable space and generates strong sales.
Convenience is another important factor for Garcia, and the fresh-cut category “is growing a lot,” he says.
Processed in-store in a work area in the produce department’s rear corner, the fresh-cut operation requires careful adherence to multiple regulations, including cleaning knives that chop onions before they cut peppers, even if both are going into the same container. The trouble is worth it, Garcia says, because many of his customers, often busy and time-pressed, will pay for fresh cuts rather than processing fruits and vegetables themselves.
Consumers really like the grab-and-go convenience the store offers, particularly in the summer. At that time, the small fresh-cut processing space becomes an even busier place, as does the adjacent 8-foot cold case where the store merchandises the finished product.
“I have a girl there, all she does is cut fruit,” Garcia says. “And that 8 feet takes 40 hours a week. She concentrates on that.”
Packaged salads, including organics, also are a hit at Big Deal Foodtown.
“It’s the same thing,” he says. “It’s already done. It’s already pre-washed. It’s nice and clean. They go right away.”
Big Deal Foodtown also sells a lot of packaged product in categories such as corn, as the store’s customers don’t like husking fresh ears, Garcia says.
Among its processed items, the store-made guacamole has a special following, he says. Even people who have moved elsewhere, when they visit the area, they stop by to purchase tubs of guacamole.
In the end, Garcia says, understanding the neighborhood is key to his produce sales. A lot of growth, however, in the period starting with the COVID-19 pandemic, has been because people have focused on nutrition and wellness, which leads them to produce. They will pay for convenience and try new things because they want a varied diet they feel will help them remain healthy.
“Produce picked up a lot after COVID,” he said. “It’s the only way people can get healthier.”
1018 Morris Park Ave., Bronx, NY 10462
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BLOOM BOTANICAL BISTRO
‘Everything For Everybody’ on this Queens Menu
Bloom Botanical Bistro is that rare restaurant that combines produce and floral. Floral displays give the airy restaurant a colorful look and festive feel, and produce stars in many of the restaurant’s menu items.
Bloom Botanical Bistro operates in a relatively upscale residential neighborhood in Queens. The strip has become a little laboratory for new restaurant concepts, such as the renowned Dee’s brick oven pizza restaurant, and home to traditional ones, including an old-time ice cream shop with a marble counter and decades-old decor.
The menu is diverse but deliberate. Tom Avallone, a partner in the restaurant, says the idea has to do with how people eat today, and the menu identifies items as vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free, for example. Avallone says so many diners have particular needs and preferences that Bloom designed its menu with something for everybody and to give all patrons a better dining experience.
“You can’t cater to a specific demographic unless you are in Manhattan with millions and millions of people,” says Avallone. “We want to create the opportunity for every person to come to us. We have everything for everybody, so that four people can sit at a table and be comfortable and nobody has to say, ‘I guess I can just have a salad.’”
And flavor profiles establish an array of choices, as well.
Appetizers, or Small Buds to Blooms, include Ahi Watermelon Sashimi, both vegan and gluten-free, with garlic shishito pepper burnt ginger soy and edamame guacamole with tri-color chips. Bloom’s version of French onion soup. Bloom’s 5 Onion Soup, is made with shallots, white onions, red onions, scallions, leeks, provolone and a garlic toast point. Among sandwiches is the vegan avocado, tomato jam, heirloom tomatoes, shaved cucumbers, carrots, and micro-sprouts option on toasted multi-seeded focaccia with vegan garlic aioli.
Bloom has a variety of main dish options, including Bloom Bowls. Under that designation, The Power Bowl, vegetarian and gluten-free, combines baby kale, baby spinach, arugula, candied pistachios, candied cashews, slow-roasted beets and quinoa, all dressed with strawberry vinaigrette. Pasta dishes include Pesto Garganelli with urban basil, parsley, garlic, vegan parmesan, pine nut and English peas. Dishes falling under the Main heading include ratatouille, another vegan and gluten-free entry, made with Chinese eggplant, baby zucchini, heirloom tomatoes and tomato broth.
Bloom also provides dishes such as Filet Mignon Au Poivre with roasted herb marble potatoes and grilled baby carrots, which doesn’t pass the gluten-free, vegetarian or vegan muster, but can satisfy the carnivorous.
Side dishes include sauteed wild mushrooms, crispy Brussels and sweet potato fries.
Bloom Botanical Bistro, at 103-19 Metropolitan Ave. in the Queens neighborhood of Forest Hills, also is trend conscious in its drink menu, which includes a range of mocktails, such as a watermelon mint slushie, in addition to cocktails.
Bloom Botanical Bistro
103-19 Metropolitan Ave., Forest Hills, NY 11375
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Vegetarian Fare That Changes With the Seasons
The Butcher’s Daughter has the ambiance of a European cafe, inside and outside, drawing diners interested in a plant-forward, cafe, juice bar and “vegetable slaughterhouse.”
The last designation, as the restaurant would have it, is because the restaurant treats fruits and vegetables the way a butcher would meat — chopping, fileting and carving the fresh produce. The effect is to create healthy vegetarian dishes, as well as cold-pressed juices among other beverages.
The full bar and airy dining room include tilework along the open kitchen.
The restaurant is vegetarian, with vegan and gluten-free options. The menu in mid-October had a lot of variations on dishes that would be available at just about any restaurant, such as a cheese plate, except this time, it’s a vegan cheese plate.
Other appetizers include Pea Hummus with tahini, radish, rainbow carrots, cucumber, pickled shallots and focaccia crostini. Then the Burrata Succotash features zucchini, tomatoes, charred corn, pickled mustard seed, chermoula and focaccia. Another choice is Cauliflower Cacio E Pepe with cauliflower florets, pecorino, butter, veggie stock, black pepper and parsley.
The salads include the Little Gem with Granny Smith apples, fennel, red onion, dukkah, Green Goddess dressing and herbs; and the spicy Kale Caesar, with chipotle marinated kale, crispy, red onions, avocado, toasted almonds, almond Parmesan and breadcrumbs. Eggs and tofu scramble can be added.
Entrées include Green Coconut Curry, with roasted seasonal vegetable, cilantro, lime, togarashi crunch, sesame and house-made flatbread; Potato Gnocchi with Impossible Italian Sausage, summer green veggies, white wine and Fresno chiles. The Mushroom and Squash Carbonara was a combination of roasted mushrooms, squash, zucchini noodles, adzuki bacon bits, baby spinach, cashew ricotta and seasoned breadcrumbs, and The Cauliflower Pizza works up from a cauliflower crust and incorporates marinara sauce, mozzarella and market vegetables. Sides include asparagus dressed with lemon beurre blanc, oven-roasted potato wedges and rosemary potatoes.
Manager Eli Rose says the menu at Brooklyn’s The Butcher’s Daughter, which has been open for about five years, is designed to be seasonal, and changes four times a year.
The full bar has happy hour from 4 to 6 p.m. The Butcher’s Daughter also has a prefix entrée and dessert. The juice bar includes cold-press juices, coffee, elixir shots and “wellness” lattes and teas. In an extension to the restaurant, the Butcher’s Daughter has a small, attached cafe open during the day serving coffee and other juices including bakery items.
Brooklyn’s The Butcher’s Daughter, is one of five, with the others in Manhattan’s Nolita and West Village neighborhood, and Venice and West Hollywood, CA.
The Brooklyn location is at 271 Metropolitan Ave. in the Williamsburg section, not far from the Williamsburg Bridge.
The Butcher’s Daughter
271 Metropolitan Ave., Brooklyn, NY 11211
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Neighborhood Market Balances Freshness and Value
Holiday Farms is a quintessential suburban neighborhood market with a gourmet twist. It competes on the basis of market knowledge, effective store management and a presentation of perishable products that keeps shoppers coming back.
Location is critical, too, as Holiday Farms stores occupy a convenient position within each community. However, they have to do more to compete with major regional supermarkets nearby, and produce is an important differentiating factor.
The stores are conveniently sized for relatively fast shopping trips and designed for easy shopping. Today, five Holiday Farms supermarkets operate in Nassau County on Long Island, just east of New York City. The latest opened in 2022, replacing a King Kullen store.
The present ownership bought its first Holiday Farms store in 1999. The operation’s strategy is based on catering to the surrounding neighborhood, so it can suit just about any community. The philosophy is balancing freshness and value with quality, the point of emphasis.
In its consumer outreach, Holiday Farms makes the point that it is locally owned and operated, and specializes in home delivery and customer service. Unlike the sometimes-complex ordering systems retailers use, Holiday Farms has a simple form in which customers simply write down what they want and staffers fulfill the order.
Holiday Farms stocks a carefully curated range of items, but responds to customer requests when it can, while keeping stores neat, well-organized and stocked, with clerks on hand to provide fast check-out. Each store has a kitchen and chef to provide fresh, ready-to-eat food and do catering. The company also provides a selection of diet, gourmet and emerging products in its assortment.
A visit to the newest store in Franklin Square confirmed the company’s promises.
The produce department is linear and easy to navigate, with cardboard bins in the middle containing big volumes of products that are seasonal or on special, with appropriate signage.
Along the wall, starting at the entrance, bananas gave way to a cold case run that started with an extensive array of fresh-cuts conveniently placed for shoppers grabbing a quick bite to eat. Berries, apples and citrus followed, with pomegranates in line as well. The store had a fair selection of organic produce, signed on shelves and above on the fixture to call it out. A proportion of unrefrigerated vegetables occupied a dry shelving system that mixed potatoes, onions, garlic, and tropicals, root vegetables and items such as plantains.
The organization and differentiation in shelving provided a bit of visual novelty in the section, all arranged to create color differentiation.
The store’s new custom refrigerated fixture on the store side of the aisle offers a neatly kept range of bagged and clamshell salads; salad dressings; vegetables, including wrapped items such as ears of corn and green beans; and loose peppers and eggplant, followed by an extensive array of greens.
1-1 Park Plaza,, Glen Head, NY 11545
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Plant-Based Vegan Tapas and Wine Bar
Ladybird, a vegan tapas and wine bar, has an eclectic, old-fashioned decor in a small setting. Tables with a nice marble look are enlivened by the pink neon sign in the upper part of the main window reading “Eat. Drink. Start a Revolution.” The lights are low otherwise to provide diners with a romantic atmosphere. The tables surround a full-service bar and lead to an alcove with its own table.
The tapas menu comes as a list and diners pick their dishes by checking next to their items of choice. On a fall evening, the waitress recommended picking two to three dishes as a meal.
The menu includes a variety of dishes that cross cuisine lines, so the offering includes the Po’ Boy Bun, which consists of crispy cauliflower, Sriracha aïoli and sesame seed, is on the menu with the Caprese, with sunflower pesto, mozzarella, wilted tomato, sundried tomato and olive tapenade. Other dishes include the Kale Caesar, with Parmesan, mushroom bacon and herb croutons; Brussels sprouts with endive, apple quinoa and soy vinaigrette; and Mushroom Onion Toast with black garlic, aioli, pickled Beech mushroom and crispy shallots.
Ladybird has been in operation for about seven years and is part of Overthrow Hospitality restaurant group that operates vegan restaurants with a strong presence in downtown Manhattan.
“We’re a vegetable-heavy concept,” says Julia Chugarman, Ladybird general manager. “Our menu is pretty consistent.”
However, the chef, who has been with the company for two years, is preparing for the menu change and will be introducing some new ideas. Over the seven years of Ladybird’s existence, the company has gone through several chefs, Chugarman says, and so the menu has been updated a bit. However, this will be a substantive change.
Before adopting the Overthrow Hospitality name, the business was DeRossi Global, a premier restaurant group focused on establishing high-end cocktail bars. In 2020, when it became Overthrow Hospitality, the company positioned itself as a mission-driven business dedicated to sustainability, inclusivity and compassion in hospitality. Today, the company characterizes itself as the premiere plant-based hospitality group in the United States, featuring awarded venues such as Cadence, Soda Club & Beer. Other restaurants in the group, in addition to Ladybird, include Avant Garden, Eterea and Proletariet, a beer destination with a plant-based kitchen.
Word of warning to anyone looking for the restaurant, it’s midblock at 111 Seventh St., just east of First Avenue toward Avenue A, so it’s easy to miss, but it’s right near St. Stanislaus Church, which is conspicuous.
111 E. Seventh St., New York, NY 10009
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Upscale Urban Supermarket Emphasizes Produce
It isn’t easy, but Morton Williams, Bronx, NY, puts a lot of effort into addressing the needs of demanding shoppers, with produce critical to keeping everyone happy.
The company operates 17 supermarkets from midsized to compact, 15 of which are in Manhattan, with one each in the Bronx and Jersey City, NJ. In the fall, the company was awaiting the opening of a new Manhattan location.
Morton Williams Produce Director Marc Goldman says the company’s shoppers range from wealthy professionals to more middle-class residents, office workers and tourists, depending upon the location, but all have high expectations.
The job of keeping customers happy is tricky, particularly within the confines of available store space in Manhattan. Morton Williams adapts, no matter the space. So, at a store on Third Avenue at 63rd Street, the produce section is an escalator ride down from a first-floor space largely devoted to convenience food. On the day of a store visit, a seasonal decorative presentation at the upper landing of paired escalators signals the direction of the produce department, and floral immediately greeted consumers headed down the escalator. A turn to the right puts customers into a compact produce section meticulously merchandised and maintained to ensure anyone shopping sees color and abundance as an indication of quality and variety.
High-volume items, such as avocados, apples and mandarins, greet customers in rising displays. Fresh cuts dominate the cold case across from the avocado, apple, mandarin end cap.
Goldman says the days of home cooking are long gone in Morton Williams’ market areas, so fresh cuts are important to produce department sales.
“Everyone wants what’s quick,” he says.
In this case, fresh-cut fruit intermingles with baby carrots and cherry tomatoes, which give way to clamshell salads, ending up with iceberg lettuce heads and a large presentation of loose and wrap-packed mushrooms.
The floor displays continue, with produce stacked high enough to be assertive, but still allowing a clear sightline to the rest of the store’s lower level. Today, even if they include a lot of affluent consumers, Goldman says customers are more conscious of spending in the current economic environment and have turned to purchasing bulk items. Not all Morton Williams customers have money to burn.
“People are more price-conscious,” says Goldman, “particularly people on fixed incomes.”
Endcaps adjacent to the cold case featured various tomato varieties, a Gotham Greens basil display, then pineapples and melons, with bananas beyond them in the aisle. The configuration certainly promoted consideration of additional produce purchases. The fact that other perishables and grocery departments are to the far side or rear of the produce section gave it a particular opportunity to remind shoppers to purchase their fruits and vegetables.
Overall presentations mixed the kind of riser tables as seen at the front of the section with baskets positioned both on tables and the floor. A riser cold case filled with greens took up one-half aisle under signage declaring the assortment great for juicing, cooking and even tossing in a salad. Signage also called out the substantial assortment of organic produce. An aisle display of Latin specialties featured more avocado, papaya, coconut and mango, with kiwi thrown in, and a berry display was large for autumn.
On the far wall, near the self-service meat cooler, basket displays of squash and peppers provided an even greater splash of color. If not as colorful, a half aisle of potatoes, including sweet potatoes and onions, provided a fair variety of choices.
Staffers constantly set and reset the department during the evening visit, ensuring its crisp appearance.
15 E. Kingsbridge Road, Bronx, NY 1046
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A Twist on Homemade Italian Fare in Brooklyn
Piccoli Trattoria is a casual Italian restaurant in Brooklyn, but with its roots in Argentina — a country where a significant population has roots in Italy, and Bolognese is almost as relevant as carne asada, or so the restaurant proclaims.
But it’s the restaurant’s use of fruits and vegetables that distinguishes the cuisine. Executive Chef Andres Rodas and partner Andres Whang had an interest in Italian cuisine. Rodas worked for more than 20 years at Cipriani and Bice, where he learned top service and that good food starts with the freshest ingredients.
Manager Gabrielle Jiminez, says, from the start, the founders had a focus. “They wanted to do things natural.”
The restaurant serves homemade organic pasta and organic mixed greens, as well as free-range, hormone and antibiotic-free chicken. Authenticity is an important part of the cuisine as well, with Prosciutto di Parma and buffalo mozzarella delivered weekly from Naples.
The produce integrated into the menu is done in a way that stands out. Jiminez says the flavor profiles of the dishes are carefully selected for their ability to enhance the flavor in the same manner as herbs. Whether blended or served as components, the flavors are complementary, creating unique taste profiles.
Outside a core of clearly Italian dishes, Rodas isn’t afraid to try unique dishes influenced by recent food trends. So, salads include a combination of grilled corn, fire-roasted peppers, avocado, arugula and shaved Parmigiano cheese, as well as a mix of baby arugula, apples toasted hazelnuts and mountain-aged gorgonzola.
The antipasto lineup includes buffalo mozzarella accompanied by roasted butternut squash and mushrooms, drizzled in brown butter vinaigrette, and Prosciutto di Parma, Bosc pear, Pecorino Toscano complemented by a fig balsamic reduction.
The main part of the menu includes rigatoni with eggplant, tomato sauce, fresh basil and fior di latte mozzarella. Also on the bill of fare is risotto with wild rice, butternut squash and wild mushrooms, and grilled natural hanger steak with chimichurri served over arugula and rosemary roasted potatoes. Side dishes include caramelized Brussels sprouts with crispy pancetta, sweet and sour cauliflower with raisins and pine nuts, and spicy sautéed broccoli rabe with Calabrian chili.
As such, Piccoli combines real Italian flavors with new ideas, particularly in the use of produce to enhance and provide a natural and healthy menu for consumers, who, today, want rich flavor combinations, natural ingredients and a healthier meal than they might have traditionally found in a Brooklyn Italian restaurant.
In Brooklyn’s Park Slope section, the restaurant operates at 522 Sixth Ave.
522 Sixth Ave., Brooklyn, NY 11215
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NY-Based Grocery Chain Doubling Down on Quality
At a time when some retailers are lowering prices and, in some cases, standards, Zeke Kreitner, chief produce officer for Seasons, Flushing, NY, a local New York regional chain of upscale neighborhood grocery and convenience stores, is doubling down on quality, even at a higher price level.
Working from the Seasons store in Lawrence, NY, he also manages, Kreitner oversees a produce operation that emphasizes quality and customer service, where constant replenishment and maintenance of colorful displays signal the produce assortment’s freshness.
Kreitner says everything Seasons puts in its displays is top quality, the foundation of the produce operation. Then, he adjusts as the market demands.
“We have some more price-conscious stores opening in the neighborhood soon, and, especially with the economy the way it is, that’s understandable,” he comments. “So, I decided to go the exact opposite direction. I feel that people who have the money would rather buy time than just product. With all the items they’re used to seeing, say spaghetti squash, I decided I’m going to make fresh cuts.”
He says Seasons shoppers want both quality and convenience, so they can quickly prepare a meal without a lot of prep. As such, Seasons offers not only a variety of produce, but a variety of cuts as well. Shoppers looking to add sweet potatoes to a meal without a lot of work and long cooking time can select round slices, chunks or a fries cut. And sweet potato fries sit on a shelf next to oriental sweet potato fries, offering shoppers another possibility. Similarly, Kreitner offers a lot of wrapped and packaged produce, with green beans and Brussels sprouts being two examples, that can go directly into a pot or oven without additional preparation. Kreitner says customers have responded with strong sales in the fresh-cut assortment.
In the floor display of bulk produce, color is the way Seasons signals its quality. “Green, purple, yellow, black, red,” he says, “I’ve got eight or nine colors on a table.”
Color becomes what attracts consumers into the produce section but also what prompts them to purchase more than what might have been on the shopping list. So, cucumbers are set close to tomatoes, with avocados on the end cap nearby, to prompt shoppers to think about salads and guacamole.
Because Seasons stores fit into relatively dense communities, they tend to be on the small side. The produce department in the Lawrence store is in the 800 to 900 square foot range, and constitutes around 10% of the store. Despite the size, Season merchandises a full lineup of produce, including a core array of tropical fruit such as pineapples, mangos and dragon fruit, and some additional variety within segments, such as its offering white as well as green asparagus in a case with a variety of fresh greens.
Still, it all comes back to quality. Kreitner says he wants to have produce departments where consumers can shop without doing more than take the product and place it in the basket, foregoing further scrutiny. No matter what they pick at Seasons, as Kreitner would have it, shoppers will be satisfied with any fruit or vegetable selected.
68-18 Main St., Flushing, NY 11367
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3 GUYS FROM BROOKLYN
Corner Store Elevates Produce With Outdoor Displays
After 25 years in operation, Philip Penta, managing partner at 3 Guys from Brooklyn, can readily sum up his fruit- and vegetable-dominated grocery operation he operates in Brooklyn: “We’re keeping the tradition alive. Big displays. Outdoors. Very colorful.”
Operating on the corner of Fort Hamilton Parkway and 65 Street, major thoroughfares in the community, 3 Guys from Brooklyn could be described as a giant fruit and vegetable stand wrapped around a building housing cold cases and more table displays of fruits and vegetables, with a few groceries thrown in.
But the main action is outside. Big, slanted stands are chock full of fruits and vegetables. The merchandising strategy is to wow shoppers and everyday passersby with color, texture and abundance. One side of the building’s outdoor displays constitutes the fruit assortment, with vegetables on the other.
“We’re really here feeding the masses,” says Penta. In this case, masses is an appropriate term, because 3 Guys from Brooklyn operates in an incredibly diverse economic and ethnic environment. Shoppers range from low- to middle-income residents of Sunset Park to affluent denizens of Bay Ridge, and includes substantial Asian, Latin American, Middle Eastern, Italian, Greek, Jewish and other populations, including immigrants and first-generation Americans who have retained a lot of the old-country eating habits.
So, abundance isn’t just to catch the eye, and includes what would otherwise be thought of as ethnic specialties. Everything from fresh daikon to Calabaza melons is everyday fare at the store.
Although the outside displays give 3 Guys from Brooklyn its character, the inside slant display tables are an important part of the operation and where most of the root vegetables are found, as well as most melons. Some of the melons, on the day of a store visit, were sliced as fresh cuts. Also, as part of the inside offering, the store mounts a variety of squash and packaged nuts, along with bulk presentation of bananas and plantains, and lots of garlic. Also, inside is a display of Asian and Latin American fruit, such as dragon fruit and guava. The cold cases hold the main fresh-cut presentation as well as berries and olives. The store also presents a variety of mushrooms inside.
The city of New York, Brooklyn and the other boroughs included, can be a tough place to run a business, and theft has become a more significant problem for the store. On top of that, Penta says, this summer saw a surge in “post-pandemic revenge travel” emptying out the city and cutting into store sales. However, there are some benefits to operating a produce business in the Big Apple. With a large contingent of lower-income shoppers, 3 Guys from Brooklyn accepts SNAP and has even gone further with the Get the Good Stuff program based on a grant from the nonprofit Fund for Public Health in NYC. Today, about 33% of 3 Guys sales are in food stamps versus 20% before the pandemic. Get the Good Stuff lets consumers who need it further stretch their food dollars and add to their produce purchases.
“It’s a dollar-for-dollar match every day for fresh produce,” says Penta. “This is a deeper qualifier than food stamps. You have no salt, no sugar added, all-natural items. For every dollar you spend, you earn up to $10 a day. So, it’s a wildly popular program.”
The programs are part of a larger consideration, Penta says. “How can we get more food into people who need it?”
“We use Instacart, and we use Mercado. We accept EBT on both of those, which is not an easy thing to do. This allows us to expand the price point of this quality of produce to a much wider reach. Now people who are in food deserts can actually get the stuff delivered to them. The delivery isn’t covered. But compared to what they have there, it works out that you can get so much more bang for your food stamp dollar here.”
3 Guys from Brooklyn
6502 Fort Hamilton Parkway, Brooklyn, NY 11219
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Eclectic, Traditional American Food With Lots of Choices
Westville Hudson is one of seven restaurants operating in Manhattan and Brooklyn under the banner, offering creative dishes served up in a laid-back atmosphere.
Officially, according to the company, Westvilles are neighborhood restaurants serving eclectic and traditional American eats in a casual environment.
The menu accommodates various food preferences restaurant-goers have today, with lots of cuisine choices on the same menu. Westville Hudson, located at 333 Hudson St., uses produce as an important part of the strategic execution. It’s all about choices, including vegetarian, vegan and dairy-free.
Salads — such as the Westville kale salad, which includes the greens, marinated onions, blue cheese, dried cranberries, pumpkin seeds, candied walnuts and lemon olive oil dressing — have options attached as well as the additions of farro, quinoa or avocado. A variation on the kale salad, with crispy breaded shrimp, as a special on the night of a visit, was full of flavor.
It doesn’t end there. In fact, Westerville customers can add to salads, plates, bowls and sides anything from avocado and breaded chicken cutlet to a quinoa artichoke patty, seared tofu w/ teriyaki drizzle, as well as grilled chicken, salmon, shrimp or sirloin steak.
The promotion of choice on the menu comes especially with the main dishes. So main plates such as grilled salmon and grilled marinated chicken breast come with the option of two market vegetables, Westville’s term for side dishes. On the night of a visit, diners could choose from 20 market vegetables, including a variety of potatoes and sweet potatoes whether mashed or as French fries. Other market vegetables include artichoke hearts with Parmesan, beets with goat cheese and/or walnuts, Brussels sprouts with honey Dijon, cauliflower with tahini, crispy yuca fries, kale with spinach shallots and pumpkin seeds, roasted mushroom with rainbow carrots and the list goes on.
Then, what makes the menu exceptional, is that customers can combine any four market vegetables to make a main plate.
Other menu items, such as sandwiches, burgers and hot dogs, come with their own particular add-ons, many incorporating veggies.
With all the choices offered, Westerville can satisfy a wide range of tastes and diet needs, positioning it as a nice destination for individual diners and groups.
333 Hudson St., New York, NY 10013