A first look at ShopRite Niskayuna

shoprite niskayuna grand opening composite

Thankfully, no one lost a limb in the rush for discounted lobster. We hope.

By Daniel B.

Our chief senior special supermarket correspondent checks in with a report from the grand opening of the new ShopRite in Niskayuna on Sunday.

What makes ShopRite different from all other markets? That was the primary question I focused on trying to solve as I wondered why this ordinarily quiet section of Niskayuna resembled Walmart on Black Friday.

Maybe it was even worse.

Traffic was snarled on Balltown Road headed up to the corner of Nott Street where the entrance to the newly christened ShopRite Square is located. Despite the throngs of people descending upon this newly arrived grocer, the parking lot at the nearby Price Chopper was also totally full.

The ShopRite parking lot however was over full. As people circled around trying to find a spot, you could see the road rage in their eyes. Cars were parked illegally all throughout the lot, and I was lucky to get a spot in its furthest recesses, behind the store between the dumpsters and the loading bay.

Inside proved to be a treasure trove of delights, but only for the most intrepid shoppers.

shoprite niskayuna checkouts packed

Depending on your point of view there were either not enough shopping carts -- or far too many. Not everyone who wanted a cart could get one. But on the other hand, I couldn't imagine how much more difficult it would be to maneuver through the store if there were more carts on the floor.

Also wandering the store were the ShopRite personal shoppers, filling orders for those who choose to shop online. They were zapping products with mobile devices as they filled up shopping baskets. Perhaps they were helped by the free, open and fast wi-fi that is available to shoppers.

As it was, in many parts of the store, shoppers were pushed along as if being carried by a tide of humanity. The fish counter and meat section where two of these areas. In support of the grand opening ShopRite was selling whole live lobsters for $4.88 per pound. It worked -- the fish counter was mobbed, and I couldn't get near it. Although I did fall in love with the crates of dried salt cod beside the counter.

shoprite niskayuna fish counter

The butchers were selling whole beef tenderloins for $4.88 per pound as well, and Australian lamb chops at half price ($4.99 per pound).

As I heard a lady say, "This is not a great day for comparison shopping."

Invariably ShopRite will be added to the annual supermarket price comparison in the spring. It will be interesting to see how they stack up on a common basket of goods.

Local items

What is interesting today is ShopRite's mix of products.

In a large grocery store that operates across six states with hundreds of locations, one might expect to see the same identical national brands as any other large regional market. And while all of those national brands are present and accounted for, there is a persistent smattering of small local business throughout the store.

shoprite niskayuna tony boffa

On the occasion of the grand opening, the whole Boffa family was on site sampling Tony Boffa's namesake sauce. He has a restaurant down in Middletown and incredibly his vodka sauce is made from just tomatoes, heavy cream, romano cheese, butter, garlic, vodka, spices and olive oil. The marinara sauce has just five ingredients.

shoprite niskayuna local dairy

A bit closer to home are the Ronnybrook Farm Dairy and Battenkill Valley Creamery, which are both represented here in many various forms. As is the ever popular Old Chatham Sheepherding Company yogurt. In addition to these are pints of ice cream from The Ice Cream Man and Adirondack Creamery. There are also apple cider donuts from The Cookie Factory in Troy.

National surprises

But the special items aren't limited to those with a local appeal. There are great products from other states that I've either never stumbled across or merely have overlooked. Like Alden's organic ice cream from Oregon, or America's oldest ice cream company, Bassett's from Philadelphia. There is also a wide selection of natural and organic meat products from Applegate Farms, plus fanciful items like fresh quail eggs, Bosco chocolate syrup, and Mary Jane candies.

shoprite niskayuna national ice cream

shoprite niskayuna applegate

For a supermarket, ShopRite's cheese selection was surprisingly respectable. too. A few highlights include Cypress Grove Humboldt Fog, Fromager d'Affinois, Maytag blue, Taleggio, Raclette, Morbrier and cave aged Gruyere.

shoprite niskayuna cheese

I think about the local love for the Wegmans and the desire for a Trader Joe's, and in my mind those are about a higher level of quality of everything all around and great prices on solid private label gourmet-inspired foods. On the strength of its product mix ShopRite gets the closest to Wegmans of anything we have locally -- and nothing is quite like TJs.

Most people here are dissatisfied with the fish they can get from grocery stores, and I think the overall quality of meat available in local markets could be improved upon. I didn't get close enough to these sections to see if it fulfills the hopes and desires of those in the area who are looking for better. The in-store bakery didn't look special enough from afar to brave the crowd that surrounded it.

The one thing I really wish ShopRite carried that I actively didn't see was a "happy" rotisserie chicken. The specimens they had out for sale were all mass-produced factory-farm Purdue birds.

What ShopRite is...

shoprite niskayuna baggers

I had decided early on that I would just be making a scouting expedition and not be braving the harrowing lines of frenzied shoppers trying to pay for their lobsters and tenderloins. The people of Schenectady will eat well this week.

But while I left empty handed, I felt like I had a better idea of what ShopRite has brought to the Capital Region. They are a full-service supermarket that has a surprisingly robust selection of gourmet, natural, organic and specialty items along with other regional delights. They aren't as precious as The Fresh Market, and they pride themselves on being price competitive.

It's a smart combination.

I think ShopRite succeeds at filling a hole in the supermarket scene. It's a single place where you can get a mix of products that up until now would have to be gathered from a variety of locations. But the rotisserie chicken alone will keep me going back to Hannaford. And the sheer ubiquity of Price Choppers will keep me in their stores.

While ShopRite was better than expected, it's still a haul for residents who don't live in or around Niskayuna. It will be interesting to see if Price Chopper makes any further improvements to their Albany stores in advance of next summer's anticipated opening of the Central Avenue ShopRite.

I'll still shop around at all our local markets, but I can imagine leaving ShopRite with a heavier basket than I might at Price Chopper, Hannaford, or The Fresh Market.

You know, if I can ever make it to the check out lanes.

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

Earlier and elsewhere:
+ TU: Battle lines drawn in supermarket war
+ About the Niskayuna Co-op and ShopRite...
+ Supermarket Showdown IV
+ On being an opportunistic grocery shopper
+ A first look at Fresh Market

Find It

ShopRite Niskayuna
2341 Nott St E
Niskayuna, NY 12309

Comments

Growing up in Middletown, and being familiar with Tony Boffa, I am shocked that this is what he is up to now.

I don't get the draw. Where I grew up in PA I always thought of ShopRite as the crappy supermarket.

Come to find out that yesterday morning I was unknowingly stuck in now what I understand to have been ShopRite traffic.

The people back home are never going to believe this.

Seconding what Dawn said above. ShopRite was always the "crappy" super market where I grew up, on Long Island. And have you ever seen the one in Hudson? My husband went to pick up some sour cream and all of the ones out were expired. Yuck.

When I was a kid, there was a ShopRite in the plaza with the Jamesway in Rotterdam. (That same plaza has a Hannaford and a Walmart now.) I remember going there in tow with my mother. I was pretty young when it closed, but I don't ever remember people missing it. I suppose two things explain the difference between then and now.

First, whether ShopRite is low-end or high-end, it's at least different, and that means they carry different specialty brands than what we're used to. Diversity is better than monoculture, so the new brands are welcome.

Second, is ShopRite trying to improve its product line? I suppose all supermarkets should be trying to improve, since consumers are looking for different things now than 20 years ago. Just because ShopRite used to be worse, are they still? Is it possible that they've gotten better while Price Chopper and Hannaford haven't progressed as quickly?

Reputations can be hard to shake, so we're judging them with a clean slate while they haven't shaken their old reputation in the places they've always served.

I won't be driving to Niskayuna to do any grocery shopping, but I'll check them out when they open their Central Avenue location.

If Price Chopper wanted to keep my business, they would renovate their Delaware Avenue store. That one is much more convenient than any of the (soon to be three) Central Avenue supermarkets, but for whatever reason the Golub Corporation thinks they're supposed to run a soup kitchen downtown and not a nice, New Urban store.

I live five minutes from that store, and wouldn't have gone near it yesterday for a paycheck. You're braver than me, Daniel B.

The Niskayuna Price Chopper had a "Grand Re-Opening" yesterday, presumably to compete with the ShopRite craze. So - I had take-out for dinner. :)

Been there around 8 PM (the store closes at 10). Still had hard time finding a parking spot.
The store was well-stocked though.
Saw a man at the front door who appeared to be a manager. He was watching the crowd which, I suspect, will never ever be this big in the future of the store :)

Prices appear to be on the higher side, definitely higher than at Hannaford. We filled 4 bags with groceries at what appeared to be good, honest prices ($3 / half-dozen bagels, $1 chobani etc) but the receipt said that we "spent $29, saved $22". Wow. You guys are that overpriced?

I think Price Chopper should not worry too much about competition.
ShopRite has its own niche and its own customers.
Personally I go to Hannaford for everyday items and visit Price Chopper (the closest to out home) only in emergencies like: "I need flour now...and I am without a car..... I can quickly run to Chapper.. If I cover my nose at deli, fish and cheese aisles I will be OK"

Ecoing what Ed L. said: ShopRite looks nice and I will definitely check it out when it comes to Central Ave... but Price Chopper could take 100% of my grocery shopping business if the Delaware Ave location wasn't so horrible.

I'm surprised to see Tony Boffa bottling his sauce! My boyfriend tells the story of how his grandma would send him up to Boffa's with a pot and they would fill it with spaghetti and sauce. She must have had some sort of arrangement with them because I don't think he paid for it. But I agree with Dawn, we had ShopRite back home and they were the worst places to shop, I would always find moldy cheese in the dairy cases. We were delighted when a Hannaford's moved in.

I stopped in and wandered, but I'll stick to the Niskayuna Co-Op. It's so friendly and the service is amazing. They are so good at stocking customer suggested products. The staff is the best and even the customers are friendly to each other!

I'm interested in checking out the Niskayuna ShopRite, because I also grew up with not one, but two very crappy ShopRites, both in Middletown (I'm honored to share a hometown with both Tony Boffa and DerryX). I had vowed never to shop there again.

This past weekend, though, I was visiting family down there, and had occasion to shop in one of the M'Town ShopRites. It was drastically different than I remember: enticing produce department, clean floors, wide aisles, and fast-moving checkouts. I was pleasantly surprised. It is Middletown, after all.

Once the new-store fervor dies down, I plan on making a stop at the Niskayuna ShopRite. Finally I have a decent grocery store that is on my way home from work. Also can't wait to try the personal shopping service.

All that said, I'm a confirmed cheapskate, and I will shop at the store with the best prices on the things I like. Let the games begin!

@Ed, Paul: That Delaware Ave Price Chopper leaves a lot to be desired, but at least it exists. Of the large supermarket chains in this area, Chopper is pretty much the only one that has stuck with the small urban/neighborhood store format. And while I don't doubt those stores make money, I bet they're not as profitable as the larger stores.

That's not to say they couldn't/shouldn't make that store better. Apparently the small Chopper in downtown Saratoga is being reformatted as part of the mixed-use development going up there. It'll be interesting to see if the company takes anything from that and applies to its other small stores.

Sounds good, but the real test will be to see what products they're selling in six months to a year.

I've actually warmed to the "Ghetto Chopper".

It's possible my expectations have just been beaten down over time, but the staff seems to be getting friendlier and more professional. The produce selection, while still a bit limited, seems more fresh than it used to, though I'd like to see some local and organic stuff. Most importantly, as Greg says, they are there and serving a neighborhood that needs a market. Plus, I've never been to another grocery that stocks pig's ears, trotters, oxtail, and marrow bones as regularly.

Not that it still can't improve, and I actually dislike Price Chopper as a whole (they are generally overpriced and the sales are unabashed marketing tricks, hint: marketers do not have souls), but it's not like anyone else has stepped up. A renovation would be nice but I'm not sure what it would change, ultimately the store's utility lies in product, service, and location.

I am soooo excited that Tony Boffa's Sauce is finally on shelves to purchase!! They have the best food and whenever we are in Orange County visiting relative we make sure we all meet up at Tony Boffa's for dinner. I can't wait to go and buy their sauce it is fantastic!

I've actually warmed to the "Ghetto Chopper".

I agree that they are doing good job by just staying open and serving customers of the area.
But do they really have to spread the business model of that store elsewhere?

Wow. That looks like a wheel of Humboldt Fog in the cheese picture, which is my absolute favorite cheese in the whole world. Hard to find around here, so I'm impressed to see it at Shop-Rite. I normally go to Putnam Market in Saratoga or the fancy new shop in Hudson to get that cheese.

I'm totally loyal to the Co-op, I have no intention of setting foot in this store. I seriously love the atmosphere, staff, and selection at the Niskayuna Co-op. Who needs another big, impersonal grocer when we already have a Price Chopper and Hannaford within a few miles?

I like that Hannaford provides nutritional information in their star ratings..very easy for example to pick the more nutritional crackers from the junk food variety. I wish the other chains would do this.

But do they really have to spread the business model of that store elsewhere?

If it makes it easier to find marrow bones, then yes.

My wife and I have been spending time in Capitaland since 2008 and recently relocated here from NYC this August. We've been in NYC for the past 5 years and were in Rochester before that (the hallowed grocery land of Wegmans). Maybe we're just so jaded by the horrendous stores in NYC, but we've found the Chopper to be pretty respectable and the prices not so bad. We mainly shop at the Queensbury, Wilton, Delmar and Saratoga locations, and they're all pretty nice. However, I have seen some of the old crappy ones - notably in Lake George, Cohoes and the infamous Ghetto Chopper. So, maybe those are that terrible?

I'm glad to give my business to an upstate company, but I certainly welcome a hearty dose of competition to keep prices and quality in check. I definitely won't be running to Niskayuna just for groceries.

Ummm--yeah. About those ShopRites you all didn't like in your Former Lives. I used to live in NJ --grew up in Bergen County-- and you are right---the humble ShopRite of my childhood was nuthin' speshul.

However in recent years as we have traveled in those regions for various family events we have seen that SR is evolving. We do shop there before leaving that area to get Jersey Food we simply CANNOT get here. Taylor Pork Roll (Taylor Ham to the Initiated!) And yeah you can get some version at some of the Price Chopper deli counters but it is NOT the same. REAL DELI ROAST BEEF. Not the salt injected crap we find around here. Dunno how they do it but they DO. And other stuff. Jersey HARD Rolls.

Well anyway after wiping off the keyboard---

I don't live anywhere near Niskayuna but will stop by next time I am down there to see what SR looks like here.

We also stop at several local Price Choppers. And the three smaller ones---Downtown Toga, Back Alley Lake George and the Hidden Price Chopper of Glens Falls--surely the nastiest of the bunch and yes I HAVE been in the Ghetto PC---few Jews 'cept me to be found there BTW the correct usage of the word Ghetto not lost on THIS Jersey Girl!!!! That one is---interesting. They have stuff I have not seen since I lived near the Paterson Market---the actual train yards where the produce was off-loaded and there were little market stalls selling everything from whole goat carcasses to huge flats of amazing strawberries to bushels of wine grapes and all the vats and bottles needed to make your own wine in the basement. One of the ONLY things I miss about Jersey is the Paterson Market and the other food items yu simply can't GET anywhere else.

Suspect that the taxes on the more southern area ShopRites might have something to do with them not being too spiffy---that and Jersey Blue Laws which eat up amazing amounts of man power and lost sales revenue.

And oh yeah where do I live NOW? If I listen carefully I can HEAR the cows from the Battenkill Valley Creamery---they are my "Backyard Neighbors".

Just a little heads up..shoprite might have the sales But there is one thing that disturbes me..They treat there employees very poor..underpaid over worked and basically the union is worthless..i spoke to more then a few employees at the niskayuna store and there quitting left and right some struggling to make ends while the higher ups demand work..when you go to fight for whats right you are now a victim of there slavery. if you are experienced in there departments they can actually care less...you recieve no recognition for your hard work and dedication and knowledge and experience..i would make sure if you are seeking a career in this establishment you demans what your worth other wise its just another slave ship coming in...from my hard work and experiences in there cooperations only one store stands strong with doing the right thing for there employees and thats hannaford...cheers feel free to respond...

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