Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Look Inside: Aquí Market - Califon, NJ

Today's (unexpected!) post is somewhere between a Look Inside and a full tour. As we reported on Facebook a while back, Aquí Market has taken over the former A&P in the affluent rural/suburban town of Califon, NJ. Recently, I have been in touch with a local resident, Gerry K., who has a few photos of the new store. (According to him, this blog was one of the few online sources of information about Aquí. Looking back at my previous Aquí posts, I think I was a little harsh on them! This also explains why I have over 1300 views on that post alone.) All the photos here are his. Let's have a look!
 Notice that this is actually a slightly different logo from what's used on the JC and Bridgewater stores. Gerry's Yelp review points out the store's Outpost name, which he thinks might suggest the owners are interested in opening other Outposts. Aquí has maintained the basic structure and appearance of the facade, while adding the rustic wood and stone touches, which I personally like. Heading in, we see that Aquí has totally redone the former A&P with a very modern design.
I don't know the layout at all here, so maybe some readers will fill us in. And just for comparison, here's what the produce department looked like before.
Meat continues along the back wall with great oversized signage on really upscale black subway tiles. Once again, NJ.com provides us with a "before" photo. What a difference!
Another very upscale department, the Fish Market, appears to be in the back corner opposite the produce department. Quite a difference from the open displays of fish on ice at Journal Square! Dairy is probably in the last aisle...
Like we've seen at both other Aquí Markets we've toured, the wall graphics are great. Here, though, they're on a completely different level! There is a café near the front of the store...
...complete with its own fake tree. And look at that fancy HABA! Most Aquí stores don't even sell HABA!
 Deli and coffee are near the entrance, with seating immediately in front of the entrance.
Bakery coming soon next to the deli. Hard to tell whether they'll bake in-store.
 Here we see the deli is just inside the entrance along the front wall. I wonder if this department will get signage once the store is finished.
True to Aquí's Latin roots, they will be offering prepared Cuban food in the store. Currently the Califon Outpost is operating on a limited schedule, from noon to 8PM daily, until the store is fully set up.

There are now more interior photos of the store on Google Maps. Interestingly, this store does not appear to sell Parade products, which the other locations do. I'm not sure if this is true, though. Once again, if anyone can confirm, that would be great!

Gerry reports that the product selection tends to lean towards the upscale, small brands, while mixing in a good selection of standard and Latin grocery items. However, unlike Aquí's other locations, Califon is not a predominantly Hispanic area. About 1.3% of Califon's population is Hispanic, or about 14 people! So in this store, Aquí is focusing on mostly upscale (natural/organic/trendy) foods, something we haven't seen in their other locations.
This newer photo shows that some items are now being put on sale (see below).

It's unclear whether the location offers delivery, as the others do, but the new location is included on their delivery van, pictured here at the Bridgewater location.
In Gerry's words, "'Where Food Meets Passion' sounds like focus group tested marketing speak to me."

Gerry also offered the following description of the store:
"So far the biggest complaint in town are the prices and that’s because 1- seems like half the products they carry are higher end brands you might find in Kings or Fresh Market or maybe nowhere else in the burbs (this is an area with a lot of money) and 2 - nothing is on sale yet, so of the regular brands, everything is top retail price. Cracker Barrel cheese $5.29, Ocean Spray cran juice $4.99 [corrected], gallon milk 4.99, Alden’s Organic Ice Cream $9.99.  However, most people are not complaining. They’re thrilled.
"Manager/owner says they will be doing a weekly flyer with discounts. No shoppers card though.  But the next closest grocery store is ShopRite in Clinton 15-20 minutes away so not much competition.
"Produce and meat are already competitive in price with other stores and very high quality. Fresh Portuguese rolls 3 for $1. Deli carries Dietz and Watson, Boars Head, and Thumanns. Lots of organic everything."
Sounds like Aquí Califon Outpost is off to a very strong start, and definitely welcomed by its customers. They certainly have a beautiful facility and a strong product selection, it looks like. Does anyone have any input?

Special thanks to Gerry K. for his photos and information, and to all of the residents of Califon who read this blog for Aquí info!

9 comments:

  1. A very nice store indeed! They did a good job fixing up this old A&P, and the interior looks very nice. The fake tree in the cafe was a nice touch!

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    1. Sure is! I'll definitely have to stop by if I'm ever in the area. So different from the other Aquí stores.

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  2. Nice job on Aqui's part. Never thought they'd come over here! :). I live around an hour away from this store, it's the third closest A&P location (The first being Washington Twp, and second being Clinton), and surprised that they bought this place! Hopefully they won't take over the Clinton A&P-- I want to get a few abandoned pictures, and maybe get the last store directory off of the one cart that is still there :)

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    1. I heard that the family that owns it lives in a neighboring town, so it makes sense that they'd take over this location.

      Given the fact that Aquí is a relatively small operation, they probably are not in the market for another location right now, especially with the extensive renovations they did here. So you'll probably still get the chance to stop by Clinton!

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    2. Yeah, it really does make sense... I'm happy to support independent grocers! :)

      I agree that they probably aren't ready for another location, and I have to admit, they did do a LOT of renovating on this store. Hopefully the Clinton location won't be back in business just yet! They're only offering $5mil for that place-- surprising considering it's in pristine condition, and has existing cases and such inside I'm pretty sure (They were never sold at the Liquidation Sale I was at).

      Also, if you do have the chance, the Washington A&P is one of the few stores to receive the "Fresh 3.0" renovation, so if you have the chance, I'd reccomend stopping there for fun! It's really interesting seeing the wood beams above produce. I found the company that made them, and lets say... they're very pricey. (at least 10 grand...)

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    3. Thanks for the recommendation! If I'm ever out there, I will stop by. The beams sound kind of like the (expensive, I'm sure) renovations Food Bazaar is doing...http://farm6.static.flickr.com/5717/30617438943_3c21bd8ba7.jpg

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    4. The beams are like what Food Bazaar is currently doing, which is interesting. I wonder if the locations that Acme took over with the beams and odd shelving they were able to sell... if they sold all of them, they might be able to supply the rest of the remaining unremodeled stores with new decor.

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  3. "About 1.3% of Califon's population is Hispanic, or about 14 people!"

    This store serves an extremely rural area, from Long Valley to High Bridge. Califon to Warren County. It's very much welcomed here.
    To suggest it serves 14 people is ridiculous. And BTW, what makes you think only Hispanic people buy Hispanic food?

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    1. While I don't mean to suggest that the store isn't welcomed, I fully understand how my wording could have made it seem that way. My intent was to highlight the differences between this Aquí location and the others, and to emphasize that the proportion of the population this chain traditionally serves is not prominent in this location. I have changed the wording of that section to clarify. I'm sorry if I wrote anything potentially offensive or misleading.

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