A first look at the new Troy Food Co-op

troy food coop composite

Tuesday was a soft opening.

By Daniel B

After much anticipation the Pioneer Food Market, also known as the Troy Community Food Co-op (or just the Troy Co-op), opened its doors Tuesday in downtown Troy. The area has been without a full grocery store for a long time. And having a place to buy wholesome and healthful foods downtown once again will surely improve the community.

You could feel the excitement of the people in the new store. Shoppers were going around saying things like, "This is a great thing for Troy." Upon seeing a little girl being pushed in a shopping cart, one patron wistfully said (with seemingly a sense of great hope for the future), "She won't remember a time before there was a co-op in Troy."

I have never felt this sense of civic pride emanating from within a grocery store. Ever.

troy food coop now open sign

Tuesday was a soft opening. Product was on the shelves. Bulk items were in their bins. The refrigerators and freezers were filled. Staffers were on hand to mind the store. But the official grand opening is October 26. There were several signs around the store asking shoppers to "Please excuse our appearance." And it is clear they still have some kinks to work out.

One of those kinks that they were actively working on rectifying all morning was getting prices on all of the items. Regrettably this made it difficult to get a true sense of just how much buying a basket of goods would cost here versus elsewhere. Suffice it to say the market isn't Walmart cheap or Whole Foods expensive, but falls somewhere in between. For reference, a half-gallon of milk from a local creamery that pledges not to use milk from cows treated with artificial growth hormones is $2.19.

The Pioneer Food Market isn't a large store. It's smaller than The Fresh Market, which recently opened across the river in Latham. And while the stated focus of the co-op is on fresh, healthy and local food, this is truly a store for everyone -- with a striking mix of products.

Organic maple syrup is adjacent to Mrs. Butterworth's Original syrup. Apple Jacks are on the same cereal shelf with Kashi. Organic mustard sits next to a bottle of the conventional private label stuff. The Rock Hill Bakehouse loaves are just one rack over from the Freihofer's sandwich bread.

It was surprising to see the amount of conventionally mass-produced national brands available at the co-op. But if this market aims to be the grocer for the larger downtown community, this makes sense.

troy food coop my linh

A more pleasant surprise was just how many local products were on the shelves. Especially the ones that aren't readily found elsewhere. A few products that stood out were locally roasted coffee from The Daily Grind, Sycaway Creamery milk, Battenkill Valley milk and ice cream, Testo's marinara and pasta sauces, Thomas' Poultry Farm eggs, The Old Daley Inn steak sauce and marinade, Dinosaur Bar-B-Que sauces, Hot Dog Charlie's chili sauce, and a full line of Blinski's sausages. Plus there is an entire shelf of the refrigerated prepared foods section that is dedicated to Al-Baraki. My Linh also has a significant presence there with several varieties of their summer rolls and other tasty treats.

The Pioneer Food Market is not just about specialty products, though. It does a good job at trying to cram an entire supermarket into a small space.

troy food coop produce

They have beautiful looking fresh produce that is a blend of conventional and organic offerings from both near and far. While the displays are lovely, it isn't always clear where the produce comes from. For those who care about such matters, this could get frustrating. But perhaps it was just an oversight on day one.

Familiar bulk bins line the walls. Hopefully it doesn't take too long to replace scoops with tongs for the items that aren't easily scoopable, like dried apricots for example. There are even large, but empty, nut grinders. Surely, freshly ground nut-butters are just around the corner.

troy food coop meat

The meat section was interesting. Everything was prepackaged, including individually cut and cryovac-ed steaks. The beef looked unappealing, swimming in pouches of raw meat juice, and was fairly pricey. But they did have Murray's Family Farmed chickens, which carry the Certified Humane seal and are raised without antibiotics. The co-op also sells Grote & Weigel Pork & Beef Franks, which are pretty special, too.

While the deli seemed to be a floor model from the Boar's Head catalog, fully stocked with a broad selection of Boar's Head products, the smaller cheese counter adjacent to it was more interesting (though significantly smaller than Gustav's spread). On Tuesday it was staffed by a true cheese lover who grew up in Europe and seems to enjoy talking about cheese. If you want a taste of something, don't be afraid to ask.

There is also a nice size selection of gluten-free products, a salad bar, hot rotisserie chickens and prepared foods, natural remedies, pet products, home products, frozen goods and more. It's pretty much everything you might need if you lived in downtown Troy. And even if you don't, it is still worth a look -- especially for those hidden gems and local products that are hard to find anywhere else.

Daniel B. is the proprietor of the Fussy Little Blog.

Find It

The Troy Community Food Co-op
81 Congress Street
Troy, NY 12180

Comments

yes! this looks great. i've been peering in the windows every time i drive by and it looked like they were about ready to open this past weekend. seeing how i drive out to brunswick to do my regular grocery shopping already, this will be easy to stop at every once in a while. hooray for a market in troy! also it looks bright and clean, which is more than i can say for a certain other co-op.

Off topic. But I thought you might be interested that down here in Texas, Dallas' alt newspaper, The Observer, is reporting that Dinosaur Bar-B-Que will be adding sausage to its menu when it opens in Troy.

This is good news for you. Real Texas BBQ joints serve sausage. Order beef and sausage combo, lots of sauce, cole slaw and pototo salad - onion and pickle slices as condiments - and a big glass of iced tea.

http://blogs.dallasobserver.com/cityofate/2010/10/opening_a_new_ny_barbecue_join.php

Overall, I was impressed. They still need to grow into the space a bit and sort some logistics out, but it beats the heck out of the Watervliet Price Chopper as far as walk-ability for downtown Troy.

My usual skepticism was tossed out of the window the minute I found that they had actual restaurant size burrito tortillas. You know, the ones that are actually big enough to replicate a Bombers/Bros/Moes style burrito, not the dinky 12" ones that say 'burrito size' that you find at most grocery stores. My life just got a heck of a lot better. Thank you Troy Co-op!

Great job of covering the bases on this review. Except one: you forgot to mention the Honest Weight Food Coop in Albany as a comparative (apart from an oblique reference to "Gustav's spread"). HWFC would be the obvious competitor on products (especially local products) and prices.

Sounds like a great start for the Troy coop!

Different store, same name? 'Cause the Pioneer market was already there, has been for a long time.

Congratulations to the Troy Food Co-op and all the folks that worked so hard (and for so long) to make it a reality. It's a great addition to downtown Troy!

Here is a video that CBS did about the co-op:
http://www.cbs6albany.com/video/?videoId=627080285001&lineupId=1143371293

We still need to raise money and get new members! For those who have been waiting to see what the store looked like before joining, please consider joining today!

http://www.troyfoodcoop.com/join

Daniel,
Just wanted you to know that I stopped by the co-op tonight and noticed that there are now tongs in some of the bulk items, and the local veggies now list where they are from!

Officially today is the Grand Opening of the Pioneer Market. I'm hoping to make it back there this week for some Applegate Roast Beef (on-sale for $8.99 per pound). I've never tried it, but it sounds like everything I've always wanted in a deli meat.

http://www.applegatefarms.com/

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