A first look at Fresh Market

Fresh Market Sign.jpg

Daniel B. Braved the opening day crowds at the new Fresh Market

By Daniel B.

You would have thought they were giving away shopping bags full of diamonds. Yesterday's grand opening of the region's first Fresh Market was a seething mass of humanity.

Traffic was snarled up for blocks at the intersection of routes 9 and 155, and their jumbo-sized parking lot was filled beyond capacity. There wasn't even a shopping cart to be found.

On one hand that was probably a good thing, since all of the people inside made it difficult to move around, and the checkout queues stretched all the way across the store. But on the other hand, The Fresh Market shopping carts seem to be a key part of the experience.

You see, each cart has a built in vase at the far corner for you to put your fresh cut flowers, which are the first thing you see upon entering the store.

The thing that makes this market different from its competitors, both locally and elsewhere, is expressed beautifully with the simple notion that flowers need not be a special occasion purchase, but a part of everyday life. In a phrase, it's joie de vivre.

Fresh market lolipops.jpg

The Fresh Market is not the foodie heaven that is Whole Foods. It's not the bargain-priced everyday-gourmet market that is Trader Joe's. It's not the crunchy natural foods store that is the Honest Weight Co-op. And it's not the number one supermarket as rated by Consumer Reports that is Wegmans.

But it is a great place for the people of the Capital Region who love food.

Fresh market Fruit.jpg

Its shelves are filled with hard-to-find culinary treasures that the food obsessed will enjoy. Mexican Coke, Vernors in bottles, Grade B maple syrup, organic whole milk that hasn't been ultra-pasteurized, raw varietal honey, rooibos tea, fresh wild king salmon, wild American shrimp, Vita Coco coconut water, and rough-hewn dried Italian pasta to name a few.

There is no ideology at play that banishes meat into a far corner of the store, or that prohibits a spot on the shelf for the occasional guilty pleasure of Fruit Loops.

fresh market local produce sign.jpg

And all of these food treats, both high and low, are beautifully displayed in a warm setting. There are no florescent lights in wire cages. The Fresh Market has done a very good job at constructing what feels like a market rather than a grocery store. The use of green and white striped awnings, wood produce crates, and handsome chalk board signs help to create the illusion, as does the use of open space.

fresh market corn.jpg

One might think that all of this ambiance and selection does not come cheap. Yes, there are many ultra high-quality products that are especially expensive. Some may also experience sticker shock on common grocery items like two liter bottles of soda. But the savvy shopper will see some deals, like their gallons of pasteurized organic whole milk, which are $5.39 versus $5.49 at Price Chopper and north of $7 at the Honest Weight Food Cooperative.

Organic apples are $2.99 per pound. Kashi Go Lean cereal is on sale at 2 for $5. Fresh all-natural chickens, untreated with antibiotics and fed on a 100% vegetarian diet, are $1.99 per pound. Giant cupcakes are $1.49 a piece. Parmigiano-Reggiano is $14.99 per pound.

Having never been to The Fresh Market before, I had high hopes for its cheese counter, which was sorely lacking. The cheeses are all pre-cut and pre-wrapped. Mostly they were industrially-produced specimens that lack true character. There was even a speck of mold on one piece of Parm Reg.

Fresh market mold cheese.jpg

Still, it is a cut above what is available at Price Chopper and Hannaford. But in no way does it threaten Gustav and his widely beloved cheese selection.

Now, perhaps it was the glow of opening day in a new store, but I would be remiss if I didn't mention how friendly and helpful all of the employees were. Being cheerful and maintaining a smile when surrounded by throngs of people, many of whom are grumpy because of the less-than-ample parking and long lines, is no small task.

I am looking forward to getting back to The Fresh Market once the crowds have died down, and filling a cart with fun things to eat. The built-in vase may even inspire me to pick up some flowers.

Daniel B is the proprietor of Fussy Little Blog.

Update: Be sure to read mirdreams' comment -- she has a few more first impressions of the new store.

Find It

Fresh Market
664 New Loudon Road
Latham, NY 12110

Comments

thanks for doing a feature on this. i was planning to check it out someday this week, and now i know a bit what to expect. what is the fresh market's story, exactly? i see apples there from altamont orchards...is it all local produce/milk/meats, etc., or a mixture - some local, some not.

Trader Joes has the whole "flowers as a truly affordable luxury, not a special occasion, up at the front of the store" thing, too - and their carts have those flower holders - I love that :) there is a Trader Joes right near my work in DC so I am spoiled

@Kim, it looked like a mix to me, some local, some not, but they seemed to do a good job of telling you where the produce was from (I noticed asparagus tips from Peru for example).

One thing that Daniel didn't really remark on but I found really wonderful was the variety of fresh pre-prepared but not pre-cooked items available. Hannaford and Price Chopper obviously have these as well, but they don't have anything like the "Vienna Chicken Pastry" (chicken in a puff pastry with swiss cheese and mushrooms) I had for dinner last night after walking over to the market. It came with clear cooking on the butcher label, which according the friendly counter man is something they do for all they pre-prepared items. I've bought salmon pinwheels at Hannaford and Price Chopper (the Chopper's are better FYI) and neither of them came with instructions, you had to ask and hope the counter guy who was working at that moment knew, and that you remembered it when you got home.

It's not TJ's but Fresh Market does have some very interesting, "I didn't know I wanted it but now I must try it" kind of items, including "green bean chips" which appeared to be lightly salted whole dehdrated green beans, $6.99 a pound ($1 off the regular price). Seemed like a healthy and likely tasty snack. I look forward to exploring more.

How did Fresh Market break the Hannaford/Price Chopper blockade while Wegmans/Whole Foods/Trader Joes have not?

Anything is better than Ghetto Chopper or Scantifords. Wegman's is not coming because of the Ghetto Chopper "agreement". Trader Joe's hopefully next because Whole Food's brokers for capital district are not in this area (http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/pdfs/brokerlist.pdf)

I. Am. So. Thrilled.

I am blown away by the $1.99 price on the chicken and am equally glad to hear that it will not be competing with Gustav's cheese. As if anything could.

Here's to a policy of laissez-faire in our Capital Region food markets. It is long overdue.

any idea if their flowers are grown in ways that aren't horifically oppressive to third world citizens?

I was in Fresh Market on Sunday and could barely move. I hope this is the impetus to demonstrate to Whole Foods and Trader Joes that the Capital Region *can* support an alternative supermarket.

I come from the land of the all famous Wegmans. I'm not ashamed to admit that my boyfriend and I used to go wander when we were bored. In our minds, and our experiences, NOTHING will compare to Wegmans. Since recently relocating here (my car is doing much better, thanks to everyone's suggestions again!) we've been on a quest to find "our" grocery store. We decided to take the little drive up to Latham last night and check out the Fresh Market. We came to the consensus that it's our new grocery store.

While the lines were a little long and it was a little crowded (it was also after work/dinner hour) we didn't mind the amount of shoppers. The produce selection is great. The dairy selection was not too bad. (We took notice that their store brand milk is hormone free.)

The flowers were a welcoming sight as you walk in as well. They have a pretty decent selection of bulk stuff (tons of whole bean coffee with a pot made for your to try nearby). Their prepared foods section is pretty impressive along with their breads.

While their "normal" shelf food can be a little pricey, they do offer selections that you can only find elsewhere at the co-op but Fresh Market has it cheaper for the most part.

One of the neat things we found was their "build a 6-pack" in their beer cooler section. They have a wide variety of micro-brews that you can mix and match for only $8.49/6pk.

Of course for cheese and most bulk items we'll still visit the co-op and for some shelf food stuff we'll hit up Hannafords. (We're anti-Price Chopper as they are the reason there isn't a Wegmans here!) But for the majority of our shopping, especially produce, the Fresh Market is our now go-to place.

I think everyone should check it out! (But beware the bulk candy section near the registers... it can be pretty tempting while waiting in line for check out!)

I have to get over there to check that place out! The hubs will be very excited to hear about that beer feature!

www.capitalregionfoodies.wordpress.com

I searched this entire store far and wide for Vernors long before reading this review, hoping and praying on everything that could possibly and potentially be seen holy that they had it (I am the child of Michiganians who treats Vernors like her lifeblood) and didn't find any at all. Where did you see it? Because it definitely wasn't there when I was and my jaw hit the floor when I read the word 'Vernors' on this post.

Two months late, but, you know.

@Rue The Vernors is in the fancy cold soda section, at the very back of the store. It's the far wall, in between the bakery and the dairy case.

It's an open refrigerated display with many shelves of individual sodas and other interesting soft drinks. I can't remember what shelf it was on, but it is in bottles, not cans. If you see the Mexican Coke you are in the right place.

Hope that helps. I'm in there pretty much every week, and I'm pretty sure I still saw them there recently. Happy hunting.

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