Monday, February 11, 2019

TOUR: Central Farmers Market - New Providence, NJ

Our first installment in Farmers Market Week is this store in New Providence, NJ. It's owned by the New Jersey Farmers Marketing Alliance, which also runs similar grocers such as the Elmora Farmers Market. The building was constructed in the 1960s and later renovated and expanded in the 1970s as an A&P, before finally closing in 2010 and moving to the location where ACME is now. For more detailed history, read through Acme Style's various excellent posts on New Providence here.

The strip was totally remodeled in 2015, which included the replacement of the old A&P with two smaller businesses, Central Farmers Market and the Fitness Factory Health Club.
Note that A&P would have taken this entire space, and the entrance/exit vestibule is still intact, just divided between the two businesses.
The panel where "The Shoppes at New Providence" is, is where A&P would have ended.
It looks like the space was almost exactly divided in half, making the Central Farmers Market somewhere around 15,000 square feet.
It's a very tasteful facade design, and certainly far superior to the previous design that A&P used.
Let's head in. We enter on the front wall, not into this vestibule. Most of the store is produce, although there is a large deli along the back wall. Funny, it's only now that it's hitting me that this store has no seafood counter, which is a staple in most large suburban greengrocers, including those owned by NJFMA.
Produce cases line both side walls, with deli along the back and some grocery selection towards the back of the store.
Quick look across the front end of the store. You can see that it's not a large store, but all the fixtures are also very low, so there's nothing obscuring our view across the whole room.
Generally, it seems that fruit is on the entrance side and vegetables are on the far side, although that's clearly not entirely true.
Like the Elmora Farmers Market, the store is packed with rows of really cheap produce piled high. Interesting that this store format has succeeded in lower-income areas like Elizabeth as resoundingly as it has in more affluent areas like New Providence.
OK, having just said that, it's a little awkward for this picture to most prominently show some really expensive tomatoes. On the other hand, zoom in and check out some of those other prices -- cauliflower $1.99, pomegranates $0.99, cucumbers 3/$1!
At the back of the first aisle is the bulk foods area, with nuts, dried fruit, and packaged snacks.
Also tucked away in the back corner of the store is the olive bar, a nice touch that's at least $1/lb cheaper than most supermarkets'. Also, look at all that fresh cheese! Nothing beats good, fresh feta or mozzarella.
A look back up towards the front of the store from the second aisle. Notice that the floor has been scraped down to concrete, which is what I commented they should have done in Elmora. Overall, the store in Elizabeth is much dirtier and worse-organized than this one is.
Towards the back of the store, a few of the cases display dry grocery goods, although they tend to be specialty or imported items more than standard staples.
Large Boar's Head deli in the back of the store, with the small dairy department just next to it.
Just next to the main deli counter is this smaller counter, which looks to sell salads and other premade dishes.
There's a separate register at the deli, although it doesn't appear to be in use anymore. Probably that means the deli is or was a separate business, which is also common in the NJFMA stores. (In Elmora, you pay for the deli at the main registers; I'm not sure about the meat or seafood counters.)
The selection at stores such as this one is highly variable. They don't order from a single warehouse or wholesale group, like Krasdale or ASG, so they're liable to have a huge quantity of one brand of pasta, for instance (I might add, a brand imported from Italy sold for just $0.99!), but no Barilla.
More specialty items. This farmers market doesn't use typical grocery shelving and tags each item individually, because the selection varies based on what they order each week as opposed to having a single "set" of items and prices that's sold regularly.
Lots of locally-baked specialty breads available near the deli here, although you're also able to choose from a standard selection of America's Bakery and Teixeira's Bakery rolls delivered fresh every morning. Most are 3/$1.
Closer look at dairy in the back corner, as well as a small cheese/packaged deli selection. Looks like there's some more nice fresh mozzarella here too. We're looking towards the back wall here.
Moving back towards the front of the store, we can see where the grocery items meet the produce section, which extends across the front of the store.
As I mentioned, the far side (closer to the exit) seems to be heavier on the vegetables. However, there's also cut and prepared produce in that aisle.
Celery root.
Here we can begin to see the floral department in the former entrance/exit vestibule as well.
Somewhat randomly-placed prepared produce. Most if not all of the cases in this store are probably left over from A&P, although the produce bins in the center of the store are new.
From the last aisle, we can also get a pretty good overview of the whole store.
Navel oranges 2/$1!
The floral department is definitely a separate business...
Well, I think that's about all I can squeeze out of this 15,000-square-foot room. So let's take a look at the front-end and head out...
The store, as you can tell, was packed, as it frequently is and as Elmora always is.
A look across the whole store from one corner to the other.
Inside and outside, the store is virtually indistinguishable as a former A&P. But it is nice to see a business so obviously succeeding in a former A&P space when so many are just not!

Central Farmers Market

598 Central Ave, New Providence, NJ
Open Mon-Sat 8AM-7:45PM, Sun 8AM-5:45PM
(908) 898-1800
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