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The Grocery will also double as a little bar, so people will be able to stop in and have a glass of wine or beer.

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Andrew Siskind, The Grocery's manager. If you stop in, say hi. We get the impression he'll be happy to talk about what the store carries/could carry -- or just food in general.

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Heather LaVine said they wanted a "nostalgic, throwback, old Troy" feel for the store.

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Vic Christopher and Heather LaVine. When we stopped in Tuesday, Christopher talked about the business opportunities in Troy. "I think a regular guy can do things in Troy that you can't do other places."

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Checking out The Grocery in Troy

The Grocery exterior

The new food market in downtown Troy -- The Grocery -- officially opened Tuesday on Broadway, half a block from Monument Square.

It's the latest project from Vic Christopher and Heather LaVine, owners of The Confectionery, located in an adjacent building. And much like the wine/coffee bar, Christopher and LaVine have created another space with a definite sense of place.

We stopped in Tuesday afternoon to have a look and talk with a few of the people involved, about how it came together and trying to find the right approach for a grocery store in downtown Troy.

There are large-format photos above -- click or scroll all the way up.

The Grocery cheese counter

Christopher and LaVine bought the building that houses The Grocery -- 207 Broadway -- this past March. And at the time, the building was in bad shape. So the first order of business was getting it cleaned up and stabilized.

"We started asking people what a need would be, or what a cool thing would be [for 207 Broadway]," Christopher explained Tuesday afternoon. "And by far -- beyond anything we could have imagined -- a grocery was what the people wanted."

And as they kicked around the idea, LaVine said they realized a grocery store could work well with the Confectionery (the two spaces are linked by a patio). The wine bar could use ingredients from the grocery, and the grocery could sell items -- like cheese -- that people tried at the wine bar.

But they'd need the right person to run the grocery store. And that's when they encountered a bit of serendipity. Andrew Siskind, who had worked in specialty food and cheese shops in Brooklyn and Manhattan, was up in Troy visiting a friend who worked at the Confectionery. He met Christopher and LaVine and they talked. LaVine said the light went on right way: "We basically offered him the job on the spot because we knew he was the person we had to have to run the store."

Now open

Andrew Siskind, manager of The Grocery
Andrew Siskind, The Grocery's manager

When we stopped into The Grocery Tuesday Siskind was chatting up customers, offering them samples of cheese, asking them which products they might like to see. He appeared to be very much in his element.

"It's my interpretation of what a grocery store would be like 100 years ago," he said as we talked over the cheese counter.

The vision for the cozy space -- it's probably no bigger than, say, a Stewart's -- includes a range of products you might not expect. There are expensive specialty cheeses, jamon serrano, and craft beers -- but there are also $1.50/pound apples, Heinz ketchup, and Campbell's cream of mushroom soup.

"I hope people make green bean casserole, because it's delicious," said Siskind, nodding at the soup, as we stood checking out the products in one corner of the store.

Christopher and LaVine highlighted this mix of the high end and the everyday.

"Our goal was to create a place where people could come in, and have enough stuff, that they could walk out with dinner that night," said Christopher.

"Unique, but accessible," added LaVine.

"It will evolve a lot," continued Christopher, "We're going to give the people what they want."

Or, as Siskind explained to us earlier, about an encounter during a store preview for Troy Night Out: "People are like, 'You don't have bologna.' So I ordered bologna."

Making it work

Vic Christopher and Heather LaVine
Vic Christopher and Heather LaVine

Fairly or not, the Grocery is going to get compared to the Pioneer Food Co-op. The ambitious project, which was located just a few blocks away, closed in 2011 after about a year of operation.

"You walked into that place and it was spectacular," said Christopher. But the Pioneer market was a multi-million dollar project, and it struggled under the weight of debt it had accumulated during its startup.

Christopher and LaVine are aiming to avoid that fate by taking things slow, opening small, watching expenses, and only taking on debt when they consider it absolutely necessary (they bought the building with cash). "We don't owe a lot of money, so I think we'll be fine," he said.

The couple also seemed heartened by the response they've gotten from Troy so far, both for the Confectionery and their new market, acknowledging the help and support they've received from a range of people.

"People rally around you here," said Christopher. "We couldn't accomplish this in another city."

The Grocery currently opens at 11 am, seven days a week. Daily closing times are still being determined.
____

The Confectionery was a stop on the AOA Historic Bad Boys, Broads, and Bootlegger tour.

Find It

The Grocery
211 Broadway
Troy, NY 12180

Comments

I think this is very exciting. It's like being pioneers in the revitalization of old decrepit buildings into viable businesses. I really am impressed by this couple's vision and willingness to take a chance, work hard, and to be in touch with what the people want and need. I admire their flexibility and creativity.

I can't imagine what the purpose of the store will be, it's too small to make going in for groceries at all worthwhile. It doesn't have as much selection as any of the numerous bodegas already in the area. It at least has a better selection of fresh vegetables, but it's not worth going in just for that when I can't get chicken breasts, paper towels, etc. Oh well.

I hope this works. Can Troy support $23 a pound Spanish Pork and $19 a pound Vermont cheese? It's not really a grocery it's a mini Dean & Deluca. Pioneer failed, mostly because it was too big, but also because the things it was selling weren't what the people in the city could afford.

I was down there for the "sausage cutting" and it looks very promising. Is it really true that there is no other source of excellent cured meats and cheeses and obscure microbrews in downtown Troy? If so, these guys are going to do very well.

Excuse me, they sell Bell's?
I'll be right over.

Well, it just looks lovely. It's so nice to see that they are also selling "every day" things.

@big vic -- hard to know until they've had a run at this in Troy. I know people of moderate means who love good food and devote more of their budget to quality foods and cut back in other ways. Just like Europeans who spend more on food because it's a high priority in their life, but have small houses. In Albany, at the Honest Weight (where I'm a member worker in Cheese & Specialty Foods), I also look around and wonder who is buying the really expensive cheese, chocolate, and aged balsamic, and then I see pretty ordinary looking people buying it. Maybe not all the time, but enough to keep us restocking those items. I wear old clothes from garage sales, but I have a bottle of truffle oil in my pantry. Good luck to the The Grocery -- I hope they thrive.

This could be successful of they keep costs low and find the right balance of products offered. If I lived in the neighborhood I'd be very excited.

@jeffrey

Its not the place people go to stock their fridge. Its a place people go to buy specific stuff for a singe meal or two and some snacks. No ones claiming that you can do ALL your shopping there.

I work and live in the neighborhood. I love that I can stop in for snacks, specialty items or the red bell pepper, onions and chicken stock for dinner.

I was in the first day and bought some cheese and slice of the fig/almond cake for a meeting. It has a nice atmosphere and friendly service.

I eat some terrible food because it's cheap, but I go to the Coop 2-3 times a week for cheese, olives, meat, fruit, juice and pet food.

I can't eat "normal" cheese or olives any more. Even the olives at specialty delis do not compare to what they have at the Coop. Maybe I'm an outlier, but I'm definitely the type of person who would frequent a place like this in my neighborhood.

And by all accounts the Confectionary is doing well, and everyone who goes there is in the demographic of people who would buy the items they stock at the Grocery.

Without carrying much debt I think it'll do fine.

Sorry complainers, you want staples, go to Price Chopper. You want gourmand, go to a shop like this. Time for Troy to stop serving the lowest common denominator and build up to where it could and should be.

Crossing my fingers it does well. It's a gamble- not because it's in Troy- but in general there doesn't seem to be a huge demand for specialty goods like these in the Cap Region. But perhaps it's more of a "if you build it, they will come" situation. Which would be awesome! And I agree with others, it is not trying to replace Price Chopper. It's offering something they don't offer. Just as you don't do all of your shoe shopping at only one store, it's reasonable to offer more than one food market to people, too. I just hope people come and the store thrives!

KK

At least they did it right and didn't go into a ton of debt like the Pioneer Market.

And so what if they sell pineapples for $5.50 along side very fancy cheese and ham, if you don't like it, can't afford it, don't shop there. End of story.

They will do fine. They bought the building for a song and did the work themselves. They will have another restaurant and apartments in the building to support it all too. Like Vic said, they have little debt. Pioneer Market took on $2 million in debt to get going and was poorly run. It would have worked if it was conceived better.

We need to stop thinking that any kind of new business is doomed to failure if they aren't all things to all people. Troy has a great bookstore. Do they carry every book that Barnes and Noble carries, for the same price? Of course not. There are boutiques in town with great clothes. Are they priced or stocked like Macy's? No.

Small specialty stores are not large chains, just as the Grocery is not Price Chopper, or even Trader Joe's. There is room for all kinds of retail, at all kinds of price points, and all kinds of product. I'd rather have the small shops any day of the week.

New shops are opening in Troy just about every day, I think at least three opened last week, including the Grocery. That's amazing and wonderful for Troy, the shop owners, and all of us consumers, and is just another reason why Troy is such a great city.

Shopping at the Farmer's market, running by the Grocery to pick up a few things, all in Troy, then going home in Troy to put together a couple of healthy, fresh meals. It can't get better than that! Vic and Heather are going to do great!

A small business can never be a one-stop destination for EVERYTHING. You need to learn who your customers are, what they want to buy and anticipate their needs. It sounds simple, but it's clearly not. I wish them the best of luck!

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