Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Snapshot: Compare Foods - Worcester, MA plus...

We saw the America's Food Basket in Worcester last month. AFB is the far smaller of the two urban/ethnic-based stores in downtown Worcester, the other being this Compare Foods.
This Compare Foods is actually enormous inside. It looks like a good size from the outside, but it goes way back. You enter at the far end of the storefront and checkouts run along that side wall. Deli/bakery/hot food are where the windows are, and produce is in the front corner where the black SUV is. Meat runs along the right-side wall and aisles run perpendicular to the street. Inside is a full restaurant with hot food, seating, and sandwiches, a pharmacy (unusual in these smaller ethnic stores), a cell-phone retailer, a money-order counter, a clothing and accessories retailer, and of course, a full grocery selection. It was quite impressive, and clearly well cared-for by management. But the best thing about the store?
The tres leches cake from the bakery department. For only $2.25 you get a generous slice of some of the most delicious cake you're ever going to taste in your life.
Yes. If you're ever in or around Worcester, MA, you have to get the tres leches cake from the bakery.

And by the way, posting on the Facebook page will happen, going forward, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, with some cool exclusive content that isn't on the blog -- including previews of the store tours!

Monday, November 27, 2017

TOUR: ShopRite - Newark, NJ

Often when a developer announces a project that will "transform" an urban neighborhood by building a supermarket, I'm suspicious of their claims. I'm sure the supermarket will be built, and will do fine, but I don't know how much it will actually transform the neighborhood. The Springfield Avenue Marketplace in Newark was one of these projects. However, I think it's ultimately more successful than most of the projects like this that have been built in this area recently. This project, announced in 2012 and completed in 2015, is a multi-use complex including retail and residential space. It has a strong anchor -- a ShopRite. ShopRite long ago had store(s?) in Newark and a warehouse there, but left as the city started to go downhill. The Newark Riots of 1967, caused by resentment of a largely black population against the largely white government and police force, devastated much of the city, and only very recently have some neighborhoods fully recovered.

This ShopRite was a great addition to the neighborhood because it's a store that will actually be used by the neighborhood, not just the few people with more money living in the apartments immediately surrounding it. It's also one of the nicest ShopRites in the area.
Ignoring the many NO PHOTOGRAPHY WITHOUT PRIOR PERMISSION FROM MANAGEMENT signs along the front and at the entrance, I was able to get a great tour of this store. It was very crowded the day I visited but the store didn't feel overly cramped. Before we head in, here's an emergency plan of the store to give you an idea of the layout.
What's interesting about this store is that it's very large (roughly 70,000 square feet), but it's almost a perfect square. The aisles are quite long -- maybe a little too long -- and there are fewer of them than in most big stores. You walk into produce (bottom right) with a huge prepared foods department in the corner, then deli along the side wall. Bakery is in the back right corner (top right on the layout plan), and meat/seafood are along the back wall. Pharmacy is actually in an island in the first aisle.
You enter to a large and very spacious grand aisle. Here we're in the front of the produce department looking towards the back.
Floral and prepared foods are in the front corner. The entrance is behind the floral wall.
This store's prepared foods departments is one of the nicest around. All the wall decor is fantastic as well, because it's all 3-D and some of it even lights up. It's very contemporary without being overly cartoony.
Pizza looked pretty good, too!
Prepared foods looking back towards bakery.
AeroFarms is a Newark-based urban indoor grower, so this is REALLY local! According to their website, AeroFarms uses 95% less water than traditional field farming and produces yields 130 times higher than traditional farming. Their Newark facility is the largest indoor vertical farm in the world. Pretty cool!
Mural on the wall above the produce cases, one of two in this store. The pharmacy and grocery aisles are actually on the other side of this wall.
Bakery department in the back corner. If anyone likes donuts as much as I do, you have to get a Boston Cream donut from this store. The Newark ShopRite (and its sister store in Bloomfield) have easily the best supermarket donuts in northern New Jersey.
Great wall graphics again, designed by Broden Design Group of Denville, NJ.
The first two aisles are HABA. The pharmacy is in the front here. We're looking towards checkouts straight ahead here.
This store features Wakefern's new (and beautiful) backlit HABA shelving, as shown here. And how many supermarkets do you know of with an in-house Beauty Advisor? This store also offers free dietitian services.
Beautiful grocery shelving as well. The ceilings are really high, which makes the store feel enormous.
Seafood, with bakery to the right and meats just to the left here. Notice the Halal meats also.
Nice aisle markers, because they tie into the urban/industrial theme of the rest of the store, but they're also easy to read.
Looking along the back wall towards dairy (the last aisle) with meats to the right.
The wide-open freezer aisle.
The even more wide-open dairy aisle. (More frozen foods are along the left side and dairy is along the right wall.) The windows above the cases let in a lot of light, as do the skylights.
Along the top of the dairy cases are more pictures and graphics, including photos of the dairy farm Wakefern gets its products from, Readington Farms.
Above the checkouts on the second floor is a community room, which local nonprofits can sign up to use for free to meet in. The second mural in the store runs along the wall above the checkouts.
This is interesting: on my first visit here, almost immediately after they opened, the checkout lane signs were brown with white lettering, and they didn't light up. Since then, those have been replaced with white ones that do. It was hard to tell before which lanes were open and which weren't.

The Newark ShopRite is one of the best supermarkets in Essex County if you ask me. It's beautiful, clean, and clearly very well-used (and well-loved) by the community. Definitely one you should check out if you haven't yet!


206 Springfield Ave, Newark, NJ

Open Daily 7AM-10PM
My Rating: 

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Breaking News!

Food Fair Supermarkets is now a part of Key Food! While they seem to have retained their independent ownership, they are now supplied by Key Food and are listed on the KF website. See it for yourself at!

Friday, November 24, 2017

Snapshot: Whole Foods - Montclair, NJ

Today we're going back to see some pictures I took a while ago, of a Whole Foods Market in Montclair that opened as a Food Fair, then was converted to Pantry Pride. Fresh Fields, an independent natural-foods store, took over after that before the chain was bought out by Whole Foods.
The art-deco tower is left over from Food Fair.
Due (I believe) to local ordinances, the store's signs are all backlit, but not the standard light-up signs.
Soon after this store opened, Whole Foods took over the nearby Pathmark in West Orange, which is about double the size of this store. Consequently, people use this store as a convenience store and the West Orange location as a full supermarket. That is, those who can afford to do their full shopping at Whole Foods. Everyone else uses the Essex Green ShopRite in West Orange!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Snapshot: Farmers Market by Food Bazaar

Food Bazaar opened their Bridgeport, CT store in 2010. It was a huge former Shaw's that was completely renovated by Bogopa (Food Bazaar's owner) and it is a major success for the company. So much so that the nearby Food World IGA couldn't make it.
2011 image from Google Maps. Not even with their (very nice) facade renovations could Food World survive. So Food Bazaar took over, opening the 25,000-square-foot store as a Farmers Market by Food Bazaar in October 2015.
The Farmers Market is beautiful and contains deli, meat, seafood, and produce departments at full scale and small grocery, dairy, and frozen selections. Actually there was a very large frozen selection -- the entire store was ICE COLD. I swear the air conditioning must have been down in the 50s in there. I don't get it! Check out the interior here.

And happy Thanksgiving tomorrow!

Monday, November 20, 2017

TOUR: City Supermarket - Newark, NJ

A Tale of Two Supermarkets

Maplewood/Newark, NJ

Part II: City Supermarket, Newark, NJ

Continued from last Monday
Ever been to a supermarket that was independent but felt like a big-chain store? That's the feeling I got here at City Supermarket. It's not a particularly bad or good thing, just unexpected. I guess it makes sense because this store location was built as a Stop & Shop in the 1960s or 70s, then acquired by A&P in 1980. A&P closed in the 1990s, and it became a Foodtown owned by the LaRacca brothers, who also own the Foodtown of Lake Hiawatha. Foodtown closed some time around 2008, being replaced soon after by a Super Fine Fare supermarket, which in turn converted under the same ownership to City Supermarket along with a sister store in nearby Irvington. The location in Newark is bigger, certainly, than Irvington.
I don't know my Newark neighborhoods but this is somewhere around Ivy Hill or Vailsburg.
Stop & Shop/ A&P/ Foodtown - Newark, NJ
This overview of the store gives us a good look at the entire storefront. This was taken from JoshAustin610 on Flickr. The entrance and exit are on the right, where the light post is. You enter closer to the parking lot and walk across the front-end to the grand aisle, which is on the side where "a city of savings" is on the facade. It's kind of a strange layout, but it works OK.
My picture from August 2017 shows that the facade has been repainted. The text on either side of this main part is gone, and while it looks cleaner, it's awfully boring.
You walk in front of the stacks of rice, then enter the grand aisle to the left of the rice. Customer service is behind the rice, with registers to the right. In the front left corner is a small floral department and café, followed by a large hot food counter and salad bar, then the deli. Bakery is in the back left corner, with seafood and meat along the back wall.
A look up towards the entrance. You enter the sales floor where the windows are. The floral department and café are under the picture of flowers.
Looking at deli from produce. This store is much nicer than I had expected. City (at the time Super Fine Fare) gutted the entire building and really did a great job. The high ceilings make the fairly small store feel extremely spacious.
Looking towards prepared foods and deli.
It's a very impressive grand aisle with more services than I had expected.
Bakery is in the back corner, although they don't bake in-store. (Extra doesn't even pretend to have a bakery.) I do like the curved wall in the corner here. This was kind of strange, though: the refrigerator case to the left had cheese in it, and the refrigerator case just off-camera to the left had cakes. So why are the cakes in the deli and the cheese in the bakery?
Service seafood and meat along the back wall. I love how the walls all have vibrant colors on them. It makes the store feel very alive.
Seafood on ice and meat in the case.
Packaged meat along the back wall, dairy and frozen in the last aisle. Frozen continues along the front wall after the end of the registers.
This store's product offerings were very diverse. Of course there's the usual Latin, but there were some Asian as well and a very large selection of eastern European also, as pictured here. There was some Italian as well...
I've seen fresh-pasta bars at gourmet stores and placed like Whole Foods, but a freezer with a few boxes of loose tortellini in a grocery aisle is a new one for me. (They also labeled it ravioli. Oops.) I'd be willing to bet this comes from a producer in Newark or the immediate area, although there wasn't a sign.
The storebrand here, if anyone is interested, is Parade.
Not a huge fan of the floor, and it was not in as good condition as Extra's, but it's OK. It matches the decor well.
I do like the shelving with the beams in front. More and more stores are using that instead of the traditional shelving with everything behind. I've also seen some stores with even nicer shelving with lights along the top.
Dairy int he last aisle. Frozen foods run along the front wall.
Looking towards the floral/café area above. The registers are beyond the freezer cases.
Pretty small front-end for a store that feels as big as this. Also one of the few stores I've been in with TVs for the customers' entertainment. I expected the other side to be security cameras -- nope! I guess if you get bored waiting in line it's handy!

One More Thing...

Courtesy of an outdated blog run by the Super Fine Fare, we can get a look at their circular from 2011! Click on the pictures to enlarge or download.

Pretty cool. Some prices haven't changed much in almost seven years.

City is very nice but lacks the neighborhood charm that Extra has. Extra doesn't have the selection that City does, though, but I think Extra's prices are lower. Both use Parade storebrands.

City Supermarket

City Supermarket 2 LLC
525 Irvington Ave, Newark, NJ
Open Mon-Sat 8AM-9PM, Sun 8AM-8PM
(862) 237-7964
My Rating: