Saturday, July 29, 2017

TOUR: Food Fair Fresh Market - Newark, NJ

Out of nowhere, the long-gone grocery chain Food Fair has risen from the dead! OK, maybe that's a little dramatic. But this independent, four-store chain has grown quickly, starting with an actual Food Fair in Paterson, NJ, operated under the name Food Fair La Gran Marqueta. In 2015, a second location opened in Spring Valley, NY as a Food Fair Wholesale Fresh Market. Soon after, in 2016, a location in the Bronx, NY opened as a Food Fair Fresh Market in a former Fine Fare. Now most recently, in 2017, this Fine Fare in Newark has become the latest Food Fair Fresh Market. All of their stores are operating under Retail Grocers Group, which also runs Fine Fare stores. This store was previously the Fine Fare International Supermarket, which opened ca. 2008 in a closed C-Town, which does not seem to have been closed very long.

Obviously the store is still in progress. The sign facing the parking lot (above) is a banner where the Fine Fare sign was. The sign facing the street is the same:
On the far side of the building from the parking lot, which faces an intersection, there's another sign that hasn't been replaced yet.
There are windows along the street side, but the entrance faces the parking lot.
I did notice that, although the store is still new, there were not one but TWO Food Fair vans, one loading up for home delivery in the front here and one on deck in the back. They both had full Food Fair Fresh Market branding, but they may have been the same vans Fine Fare used. Let's head inside...
The inside is still 100% Fine Fare. I don't know if there are any plans for renovation here or if they'll just replace a few signs. You enter into a short hallway area with a closed storefront to the left; that's probably where the check cashing place used to be. Food Fair has produce stocked along the hallway on the front (street) side, then you turn 90-degrees to your left to enter the first aisle, which has produce, meat, and deli.
You enter through the doors in the far right here. The closed storefront is behind the mayonnaise!
This display is straight ahead as you enter. There is a (former?) security counter behind these shelves, which seems to no longer be in use as you'd think they'd want to have a straight-shot view to the entrance and exit, and these cases are quite high. Also the security camera screen to the far left above actually faces entering customers, not the desk.
 After you turn left, the produce department continues along both sides of the first aisle, with service meat/deli in the back corner. This store's produce was pretty good - I bought the best avocados I've had in a long time here!
Produce looking back up towards the entrance/front wall of the store.
Meat and deli in the back.
The majority of the service department is for the butcher shop, but one case at the end has deli meats and cheeses. Notice how this store has almost fully switched to Food Fair sale signs, instead of using the old orange-striped Fine Fare sale signs.
This was something I don't think I've ever seen before - rotisserie chicken in a bag! Notice that this store even has custom-printed Food Fair Fresh Market stickers with the address of this location. Surprisingly professional for a small operation.
OK, I truly have no idea where this picture was taken or what it shows. Maybe looking from the back of the first aisle to the front of the first aisle? Or along the back wall? However, notice the single orange-striped Fine Fare sign on the Goya beans.
Nothing much to see in the grocery aisles. Very nicely stocked, but a little cramped. One strange thing was that there are only aisle markers at the front of the store, leaving me to guess some of the time since I left my glasses at home!
Meat along the back wall, looking back towards the first aisle.
Frozen aisle towards the end of the store. It's kind of hard to tell here, but these cases look to have been updated pretty recently. They're older cases, but they have what looks to be brand-new LED lighting inside.
Dairy in the last aisle with a few more Fine Fare sale signs, looking towards the back wall.
One more look at dairy, this time looking towards the front of the store. The dairy department continues in a few cases along the front wall.
Looking along the front-end towards produce in the first aisle.
The exit is actually along the front wall (to the left), rather than on the side wall towards the parking lot.
You exit towards the sidewalk.
Check out my Flickr photostream for more exterior pictures and the circular!

Food Fair Fresh Market is a nice neighborhood store with a pretty good selection, although some of the prices are a little steep. There's not much competition in the neighborhood, which probably allows them to price things a little high. However, the store was very clean and well-stocked.

Food Fair Fresh Market

323 Mt. Prospect Ave, Newark, NJ 07104
(don't ask me why it's called "Fine Foods" on Google Maps)
Open Daily 7AM-9:30PM

My Rating: ★★

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

TOUR: Fresh Emporium - Jefferson, NJ

The Rise & Fall of the Imperium

Fresh Emporium / Fresh Imperium, Jefferson, NJ

While the urban and suburban A&P locations often were the subjects of intense competition and bidding from outfits looking to purchase them, those farther out from the immediate NYC or Philadelphia areas more likely quietly closed without purchase. Surprisingly, independent investor Neftali Medina of the Bronx bid on two former Pathmarks, this new-build location in Jefferson, NJ, built in the 1990s (for $1.45 million), and a former Grand Union in Landing, NJ. (at only $400,000!). Medina claimed he would open the supermarkets "three to four weeks" after the purchase but in reality opened about two months later. He also claimed both locations' pharmacies would reopen shortly after the stores themselves did...which also didn't happen.

Fresh Emporium promoted itself online (on their Facebook account) prior to the opening as an upscale, natural and gourmet food market. This outfit suffered from what is known in marketing and psychology as the expectancy violations theory, which basically says that when people are expecting one thing and get another, they will be disappointed. So when the store opened as a cleaner (at the beginning) version of Pathmark, virtually everyone was disappointed. I originally thought that the group at least had some promise for the future, but after a short yet painful decline, both stores went out of business, Landing in February 2017 and Jefferson in May 2017.

Ruby S. on Yelp summed up the feelings about the Landing location pretty well towards the end:

"Reviewing for the Landing location:

"HOLY SHIT.

"Why? Just why? Why even bother? Because you got a good deal on a closed supermarket?

"I don't even know where to start.

"1) It's just a god damn mess. They put barely any effort into getting this place ready. It's dingy, it's grimey, it's disgusting. The shelves are bare. And they still are using Pathmark's old red white and blue fixtures! You can see faint outlines of "Pathmark" everywhere. Just embarrassing.

"2) Horribly expensive to the point where it's just rude. Not to mention most of the price tags are hand written on scrap paper. I can't make this up.

"3) Used to be called Fresh Emporium until Food Emporium threatened to sue so they just took that word down and put up some cheap sign that says "Imperium". Imperium? Imperium? Obviously the owner is not a master of the English language.

"This place is pure trash and I think it's offensive to people of Landing who lost a decent supermarket. Not to mention jobs. And to replace it with this garbage dump that gauges prices. it's screwed up.

But let's turn back the clock...when I visited the Jefferson (the better of the two) location last May, it was just a huge, spacious store with some limited stock and decent prices. It had hope to become something better than what it was then.

The entrance was on the left side of the storefront. Notice the indented area to the left; that's where pharmacy and HABA are. Not sure if that was an expansion at some point. I don't think it was, but it looks like it. Also it looks like someone forgot to paint that stripe red as it was on the other side.

The exterior looks promising enough. I'm impressed that they actually bothered to re-stucco the facade where the Pathmark logo was. You can still see where the outline was, as is the case with most of these facade redos. (Although it's not quite fair to compare this store to the LIC Food Bazaar, which looks like this inside.)

At this point I still was not aware this place was 100% Pathmark inside. I thought the facade was a good sign because it wasn't entirely different, but still fresh and new enough. This was the first bad sign...

 Yes, that's a Pathmark sign with the Fresh Emporium logo stuck on a stripe over the Pathmark logo.

Entering, you head straight into the produce aisle with grocery aisles to your right and the pharmacy/HABA section to your left. Meat, seafood, deli/hot food and milk are in that order along the back wall, with dairy in the last aisle and a tiny bakery in the front opposite the entrance.

If you didn't know this was a former Pathmark, it's a perfectly nice shot of the produce department. The black track lighting might be new, as some of the cases are. But the rest of the store is quite Pathmark-y.

HABA section to the left of the entrance. Note the badly-patched floor in the foreground and the huge, space-filling display of boxed water!

Looking over towards the sparsely-stocked HABA department, most of which was probably just left over from Pathmark. The manager's office and then the pharmacy are along the wall to the left, which is the front wall.

The entrance is visible here, as well as the small floral department and the checkouts along the front. The bins here are new.

Strangely enough, this has been my most-viewed photo on Flickr for a long time. I don't get it! Here we have a random display area and then the old manager's office to the right. Fresh Emporium didn't seem to be using it.

No pharmacy here! I truly wonder if they ever actually planned to open these pharmacies; the fact that the signs got Fresh Emporium stickers makes me think they did. The entire pharmacy area was filled with carts overflowing with random merchandise, maybe extra stock they're not selling. This seems like too much for returns for their first weekend in business! One Yelp review actually complained about the lack of shopping carts here, so this seems like a strange choice of use for the carts.

The transition was much better in Jefferson than Landing, as many references to Pathmark remained in Landing. I only found one here.

Looking towards the back wall of the store from the front pharmacy area.

This sign had its yellow SAVE banner removed - the only one in this store. All of the yellow signs had been removed at Landing.
 The rest of the signs here in Jefferson had these with Fresh Emporium stickers.

Looking from HABA over to produce and beyond that, the grocery aisles.

Well, they had plenty of shampoo, anyway.

...and plenty of Pathmark price tags left over. Actually that's a great price; I just paid $1.50 for a hass avocado earlier today!

In the grocery aisles, it was a very Pathmark-like experience. The storebrand was now White Rose instead of America's Choice...but that's a minor difference! I think this store did actually have a better organic/natural/specialty selection than Pathmark would have, but still not as good as the average ShopRite or even Food Bazaar.

One of the few things Fresh Emporium did add (and advertise heavily) is this new cheese case. They claimed they added a "gourmet cheese case" that Pathmark didn't have. While it's probably true Pathmark didn't have cheese like this, this cheese case was certainly nothing to write home about.

The deli, about halfway across the back wall, also included an olive bar and a small hot food counter. Medina was actually behind the deli counter, but he didn't seem to be doing anything in particular. His Freehold Fresh Market also closed recently, so I'm not sure how his supermarket business is doing. Most articles that discuss his supermarkets identify him as an investor, not a supermarket owner or operator, so he's probably not a very hands-on owner. That allows things like credit card fraud to happen in his stores (which was frequently reported at this location). That is assuming he wasn't in on it.

The seafood department looks pretty decent, and is directly next to deli.

The store had a large general merchandise selection, acting as a partial supercenter for this area. No clothing, but lots of home goods.

Hmm, do you think I can still join the Pathmark Advantage Club?

The last aisle looking back from bakery.

Based on my internet research, I have the following stores listed as Neftali Medina-owned locations:
  • This store, Fresh Emporium/Fresh Imperium, 757 NJ-15, Jefferson, NJ; opened 2016, closed 2017
  • Fresh Emporium/Fresh Imperium, 175 Lakeside Blvd, Landing, NJ; opened 2016, closed 2017
  • Freehold Fresh Market/Met Fresh, 597 Park Ave, Freehold, NJ; opened 2015, closed 2017
  • Pioneer Supermarket, 250 Willis Ave, Bronx, NY; Medina may not own this store anymore, but a very poorly-written LinkedIn profile of Medina identifies him as the president of 250 Meat & Produce Corp., which is probably either this location or the Easton Food Market at 250 Line St in Easton, PA, but that didn't feel like a Neftali Medina store.
  • Met Foods, 1869 Archer St, Bronx, NY; this is now a Bravo and may be under a different owner now.
  • Pioneer Supermarket, 1345 Castle Hill Ave, Bronx, NY
  • Compare Foods, 250 Cypress Ave, Bronx, NY
  • Met Foods, 228 Brook Ave, Bronx, NY
  • Fine Fare, 1018 Morris Park Ave, Bronx, NY; now is Big Deal Foodtown under a new owner
  • There may have also been another location at 1010 Morris Ave, Bronx, NY, as the location at 1018 Morris Park Ave was owned by 1010 Morris Food Corp.
Medina's supermarket business seems to be pretty rough; he and his affiliates have had conflicts with suppliers and about twenty years ago, a lawsuit with the US Immigration and Naturalization Service.

I wonder what will be moving into either of these Fresh Emporium locations, since they're far out of the busy urban areas, whose supermarkets were mostly filled quickly. I could see Weis taking one or both of these stores, but they'd have to invest a lot of money to bring them up to standards.

Fresh Emporium (NOW CLOSED)

757 NJ-15 S, Jefferson, NJ 07849
PERMANENTLY CLOSED
My Rating:

Friday, July 07, 2017

TOUR: Met Fresh - Nyack, NY

Taking the place of an outdated Stop & Shop here in Nyack, NY is the all-new, independently-owned Met Fresh Market. It's 28,000 square feet, a former Grand Union. Stop & Shop closed this store in favor of the newly-opened Orangeburg, NY store, much nicer, and it sat vacant for a few years before being leased by independent supermarket operator Rudy Nuñez, who also owns stores in New York City. Like so many of the stores we've been seeing recently, it was completely gutted before being reopened.

Not sure if this store still has its Grand Opening signage; at the time of my visit in February it did. (The Elizabeth Food Bazaar still has a Grand Opening banner a year after they opened!) Interesting that this store chooses to have nonfood merchandise outdoors like firewood and rock salt - most stores like this put nonperishable foods outside. Notice the garage door-type cover here. At night, they can simply pull it down and lock up the merchandise.

Heading in, you enter and immediately turn to the right to enter a spacious produce department. The front wall of the store is to the right here; the right-side wall is straight ahead.

Looking from produce towards checkout and beyond, deli/bakery. All the fixtures, as well as the flooring, are new.

Very large organic selection and lots more organic vegetables are on a separate shelf. However, pricing was a little steep for me.

Looking toward the back of the store along the first aisle. Notice how the produce department continues in the first aisle.

Looking towards the front wall of the store from the first aisle. Bulk nuts, grains, and beans are in produce cases here. My one suggestion for them in the grand aisle would be to use lower produce cases so that you can see more of the department at any given time; these cases are quite tall.

Another picture looking towards the back of the store from produce.

Produce continues about 1/2 of the way along the far-right wall of the store before switching to cold beer cases. Meat is along the back wall.

 Strange placement of cheeses and cold cuts ... this is on the complete opposite side of the store from the deli! This is at the back of the first aisle.

Nice bulk coffee bar in the back corner of the first aisle - but why oh why did they use that font for GROUND COFFEE, or at least make it Ground Coffee! That font just doesn't work in all-caps.

Looking along the back of the store. The seafood counter is in the farthest point from the entrance; in the far back corner on the left-side wall. Stop & Shop did not have a fresh seafood counter or a hot food counter and had the same decor as the location in Westfield.

The yellow price labels might be a little overkill, and it might not have been a bad idea to bring those cardboard boxes back into the backroom...but otherwise a nice aisle shot (looking towards the front wall).

Nice selection of Bob's Red Mill products, but once again, pretty high prices.

The same aisle, looking towards the back wall.

There we go, that's a cleaner aisle!

Seafood in the back corner.

Unfortunately that's where the tour ends...I noticed at this point a manager eyeing me suspiciously and since I'd rather not get kicked out of another store, I gave up. But you get the idea!

Met Fresh Nyack (aka Nuñez Fresh)

Open Mon-Sat 7AM-10PM  Sun 7AM-9PM

PERMANENTLY CLOSED


My Rating: