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TOUR: Food Bazaar Supermarket - Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY

Today's store tour is one I'm very excited for! This 55,000 square foot store is located right on the border of Bushwick and Williamsburg (these neighborhoods aren't very well defined anyway). A former Big R Supermarket, this store became a Food Bazaar in 2001 or so I believe, coinciding with a major renovation at the time. Much later, in 2016, the store was totally gut-renovated and significantly expanded to its current size. On the far left side of the storefront, a former laundromat was expanded into around 2010, but was later remodeled into a deli-bakery-cafe department. Oh, and it's actually also on Manhattan Avenue, just much farther south.
Before we head into the store, let's take a minute to wander around the exterior and check out some of the amazing murals that line the store's walls. Through a partnership with local nonprofit Groundswell, eight Food Bazaars across three boroughs have received at least one large scale mural per store (this one happens to have four). The murals deal with political issues in a way that most murals do not, as we will see on this location.
Located to the left of the store's main entrance on the front wall, The Fall of Oppression was painted by a team of local young male artists of color. You can read more about the background behind the mural here.
Designed to show a progression from left to right, the mural ends with this saying, in both English and Spanish, on the right side of the wall near the front entrance of the store. Proceeding around to the side of the store, we see a separate entrance for the cafe and then the corollary mural to this, entitled The Rise of Consciousness.
The cafe faces this side of the store. And we see more beautiful images on the back side of the store...
I struggled to get the whole mural in one shot, so I think this is the best we can do. The murals all credit their creators, in this case the Making His'tory team of Groundswell.
As we continue, the back wall near the loading docks has a third mural, which was in progress at the time of my July 2018 visit and finished by April 2019. I didn't catch the name, but one glance at it will pretty much tell you the subject it's addressing.
The finished product was somewhat obscured by a delivery truck at the time of my return visit, but you get the idea.
But the most striking one by far is I Just Want to Come Home, on the side wall of the store to the right of the entrance. It runs along the store's entire length and, among these murals, maybe says the most with the simplest imagery.
It was also one of the highest-profile projects Groundswell has done. You can read more about it on their website here.
You can get an idea of the enormous scale with this size comparison to the people walking by.
The sun wasn't exactly cooperating with me here, but you can still read the text.
I would also recommend watching these short videos (here and here) that our local PBS affiliate did on this piece.
I think what makes this particular mural so striking is the color scheme that seems to be overlayed on the images of the faces, although of course they are one and the same.
The whole idea of putting these very politically charged murals on a supermarket is very interesting. Food Bazaar CEO Spencer An put it this was as quoted in Bushwick Daily: "They deal with some heavy topics, and some people want to shy away from that, but to me, it's so important. I love to watch these talented, articulate young people as they create these powerful images, and I love to come outside and see families talking with their kids about what the paintings mean."
Man, it feels like we should be wrapping up the tour right about now but we haven't even started! First, let me give you an idea of the layout because it can look kind of confusing from the pictures alone. You enter and make a 90-degree turn to the right for produce in the front corner of the store. Straight ahead when you enter is packaged meat, which actually runs along the first few grocery aisles. Seafood is in the back right corner of the store, with butcher to the left and dairy running along the back wall. Frozen is on the far end of the store with beer in the last aisle. The deli/bakery/prepared foods department runs along the front wall of the store with the cafe in the front left corner. There is a Post Office on the front wall next to the deli area.
Slightly scaled-down version of what we saw in North Bergen. This Brooklyn location was actually the first with this decor package. This decor package or a variant is now in this store, North Bergen, Elizabeth, Fairview, 163rd St (Bronx), Flatlands Ave (Brooklyn), Farmers Market (Bridgeport), Bruckner Blvd (Bronx), and 58-01 Junction (Queens).
The usual expansive produce department, which is laid out a little differently from the other stores. It's a little more narrow and deep than most of the other stores.
The decor did evolve over time, as we've seen a few different fonts used for the departmental signage. See Bruckner and Fairview.
Huge selection of all things grown in this department.
Very nice seafood and meat departments in the back corner.
As I said, the meats actually run along the first grocery aisle. Produce is on the other side of this case.
Beautiful wood accents around the meat department. Also an interesting choice to have the meat signage hanging from the ceiling! Cold cuts and then dairy run along the back wall.
The other half of the first grocery aisle, which is more meat. The second grocery aisle is the famous wall of values... but we're seeing double this time!
That's right, there are TWO walls of value here at the Manhattan Ave Food Bazaar! After the second aisle, the regular grocery aisles begin. Cold cuts and dairy run along the back wall, although some awkwardly placed support columns make navigation slightly difficult.
I do love the pallets and the brand logos along the back wall here! Looking up along the back wall is really beautiful and well-thought-out.
Bad glare here, but I love the Bogopa logo up on the wall here!
You can get a better sense of the entire back aisle here. You can also see the international aisles -- 8 is Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Thai on the left (A) side, and Italian, Polish, Greek, and Kosher on the right (B) side; 9 is West Indian / Mexican and Ecuadorian; and 10 is Colombian, Dominican, and Peruvian.
Pretty standard grocery aisles, but I love the flooring. Very nice urban-industrial touch to match the decor well.
Frozen at the far end of the store.
And some awesome graphics and decor over in the corner of the dairy department where milk is...
This is clearly a high-cost version of the decor. It would be scaled down slightly, in some ways, for later stores. But in other ways, it would be significantly scaled up.
Beer and liquor are in the last aisle.
Build your own six-pack with craft beer. Nice! And the cafe, with more great repurposed pallets, is in the front corner.
It's a very nice cafe, and the food is excellent. I have eaten here.
When I did eat here, the place was packed because everyone was on their lunch breaks. It looks like quite a few MTA employees and cops frequent this place for lunch.
Beautiful ceiling details! The cafe offers hot food, salad, and made-to-order sandwiches.
The bakery selection, although nicely presented, is not enormous. I don't believe they bake in-store here.
Lots of prepared foods though, it looks like this is definitely a spot where people come to grab lunch or dinner during the day. Very conveniently located too, right off the subway line.
An overview of the front corner of the store. Continuing along the front end to the left is a Post Office location, customer service, and the registers.
Quite an impressive front-end. When I returned at lunchtime, nearly every register was open with a long line. I must have just visited at an off time!
Awesome wood details suspended over the checkouts.
And then just for a look at the first aisles again to give you the full circle of the layout, here's one last picture before we call it a day.
That about wraps up our tour! I know today's tour is really long, but it's a really interesting store, so thanks for reading. We're hanging out around Bushwick for the next week or so, so stay tuned!

Food Bazaar Supermarket

21 Manhattan Ave, Brooklyn, NY
Open Daily 7am-11:30pm
(718) 532-0530
Photographed July 2018 & April 2019


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