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The food court area near the main entrance.

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Lewis Shaye, the Golub Corp's VP of culinary concepts, who's overseen the development of the food court offerings. He said he'd previously spent 25 years in restaurant research and development. And he's the kind of guy who can talk in detail -- enthusiastically -- about how lettuce is shredded.

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The lobster roll from the seafood counter in the food court. Shaye said it's made with the meat from two 1-pound lobsters and "just enough mayo to hold it together." Price: $16.95. Shaye: "It's expensive, but it's worth it."

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The sushi counter. Among its selection: a "toasted" hot sushi.

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The cheese counter. The category manager for cheese said they'd picked 150 new cheeses for this location.

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A growler station for beer, like the one in a few other Choppers.

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The Italian deli section.

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A display case of sausage

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This was pretty cool -- a whole case of fresh pasta, for either $5.99 or $6.99 a pound. "No one is offering an array of pasta like this," said Shaye.

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A bulk olive oil and vinegar station.

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The second of the three delis in the food court area. This is one like you'd find in most big supermarkets.

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The third deli: a Ben & Bill's NYC-style deli, like the delis in a few other Choppers (example: Slingerlands).

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Among the details Shaye said they're focused on: the pizza dough, which he said they let rest for 48 hours to allow it develop flavor.

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The seating area in the food court. Not the typical supermarket lighting.

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Chef's Grill is the full service sit-down restaurant that's not yet open. The plan is for it to offer breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Among the dinner entrees planned: mussels served in a cast iron pan, and roasted tri trip.

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The lighting in the store is more dramatic and focused than other stores in the area.

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The gluten free aisle, what seems like a staple of most new, modern supermarkets.

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International section.

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Beer.

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Fish department.

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We like the giant MILK signage.

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This location is one of two Price Choppers with one of the new Quickcare walk-in health clinics.

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Checking out the Price Chopper Market Bistro

Price Chopper Market Bistro

The new Price Chopper Market Bistro -- the company's long-planned concept store in Latham -- is just about ready for its grand opening. But you can check out much of what's new right now, as we did this week when we got a tour.

There's been a lot of change in the Capital Region supermarket scene over the last few years -- a lot of new stores, new competitors, new upgrades. But it's not a stretch to say that there is nothing else like Market Bistro in this area.

Here's a quick photo tour and a few bits.

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

Price Chopper execs say the Market Bistro store has been four years in the planning, and the hope is to use it as a platform for testing new ideas. Or as Jerry Golub -- the CEO of Price Chopper's parent company -- said ahead of the tour: "This is a living, breathing laboratory for us."

The food court

food court

The thing that sets Market Bistro apart from other supermarkets in the area -- even the big, new stores -- is a large food court near the entrance, lined with counters offering everything from ice cream, to smoked meats, to seafood, to Italian deli items, to pizza. Price Chopper has obviously put a lot of effort into the design and look of the food court, and execs said they took inspiration from iconic spaces around the country such as the Pike Place Market in Seattle.

"Quite frankly, I don't care how about we compare to other supermarkets," said Lewis Shaye, a VP of "culinary concepts," as he led the tour through the food court. "We're competing against restaurants."

Based on the tour and hearing the Price Chopper execs talk about their ambitions for the space, we get the sense they're aiming for a target somewhere in the Panera or Chipotle range. That is, the aim is to have food that's better than typical fast food or supermarket prepared food -- but faster, more convenient, and maybe a bit cheaper than a regular sit-down restaurant. (Though Market Bistro also has a full-service restaurant that's not yet open.)

Toward that end of delivering a higher quality experience, Shaye said they've been focusing on details to elevate the food. A few of them: chilled plates at the salad counter, fish that's breaded at the time it's ordered, house-smoked bacon, a lobster roll made from the meat of two 1-pound lobsters (for $16.59). "We really wanted to have items that people could remark about [to other people]," Shaye explained.

Jerry Golub, the CEO, told us after the tour that the development of the store was "about improving our customer experience and challenging ourselves way beyond anything we've ever done ... I think everyone in our organization is excited and proud of what we've been able to accomplish here."

The groceries

MILK signage

The rest of the store -- you know, where you pick up milk or cereal or whatever -- is pretty much like any large, upscale modern supermarket. But it feels nicer than other supermarkets in this area. The signage is big and engaging. The aisles don't feel cramped. Even the lighting -- more focused and dramatic than a typical store -- is good.

If you're a Price Chopper fan, the place will probably seem like a palace. But the grocery section is still pretty much just a supermarket (though a really nice one). And if you're not a regular Chopper shopper, it might not light you up enough to make the switch. If you're interested in supermarkets, though, it's definitely worth a stop sometime just to gawk at it.

(And as an aside: There's nothing wrong with being "just a supermarket." If you dropped someone from 30 years ago into today, they'd probably be amazed at the "grocery stores" we have now. And someone from a century ago? A modern supermarket would feel like some something fantastical and mythical. We live in a time of incredible abundance and choice -- it's easy to forget that sometimes when we're grumbling because the store we're in doesn't carry exactly the kind of thing we want.)

The crowded market

Price Chopper's Jerry Golub
Jerry Golub

For years the Capital Region's supermarket scene was pretty staid. There weren't a lot of competitors, and the choices available probably reflected the uncrowded field. But the last few years have seen a surge of new competitors locally: Fresh Market, ShopRite, Trader Joe's, Healthy Living Market, an upgraded Honest Weight, and soon, Whole Foods. There are a lot of choices now.

The supermarket business is a famously competitive business, with very small margins. But Jerry Golub put a positive spin on the increasingly crowded local field: "I think it's a testament to the fact that the Capital District is going through a revival. The technology sector is growing, there are jobs being created, and as a result more and more retailers are seeing this as a really viable place to do business. So the fact that everyone's coming in here is a reflection of the kind of energy and the revitalization that's going on in the Capital Region. So, as a hometown company, for me as a hometown person, I think it's fantastic."

Comments

So they DO have milk. Tremendous.

It's a beautiful store. Unfortunately the area doesn't allow for easy parking. And the store gets so packed now it's almost impossible to shop.

Which is too bad because I prefer the nicer Price Choppers to do my weekly shopping. So I suffer through it like a champ.

Stopped going to Price Chopper after they tore down the Catholic Church in Watervliet. Lots of other places to shop. Would actually rather starve than support them and the Nigro Co's.

Wish they had a refresh of their urban stores.

It does look nice, but its just so endless. Aisle and Aisles of choices and choices. By time I get to the end I've lost desire to do anything creative. It was like going to Disney Land just to get a decent Dole Whip at the Enchanted Tiki Room, except the parking was worse. I went home, put a case of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese in a cement mixer, and drank a Genesee Cream Ale from a stubby bottle.

The new "market bistro" appears to do a mediocre job at best of copying a typical Wegmans. In a way, I kind of wish Wegmans would buy out Price Chopper or Hannaford so that we don't have to keep settling for copycat stores in the Albany area that end up carrying lousier products and less selection for the same or higher prices.

Still not as good as Wegmans. There also are better choices in the Albany area with Trader Joe's and the soon to open Whole Foods.

The renovation is truly remarkable. Everything was incredibly well thought-out and it was truly a pleasure to wander around the food court taking in all of the different options. There are separate entrances so if you just want to food-shop you can bypass all of the excitement and just head over to the grocery side. While the parking lot feels tight, I've always been able to immediately find a good spot close to one of the doors without going down more than two rows (weeknight and weekend alike). Overall, it's great to see this kind of investment in the area, and hopefully a sign of things to come for other price chopper locations in need of a refresh.

"We live in a time of incredible abundance and choice" So wonderfully put - you made my morning!

I've now been through the hoopla of the openings of Fresh Market, Shop Rite, and Trader Joe's. Read a lot about their prepared foods being SO great and I found them to be nothing much and not worth the price (also full of chemical additives). So I don't know if this will follow that pattern. Will the prepared foods (outside of that lobster roll) be any better than the mediocre fare I can find at my Slingerlands PC?

I will check out this new sooper-dooper PC if and when I'm up in Latham, but it's far from my neighborhood so it won't be a place I'll ever shop at much. I'm not driving a half hour to shop at a Price Chopper. This place is nice for folks who live in that area, but I don't see it as a destination for anybody else.

In general, I think this obsession with the supermarket scene is somewhat misplaced. I try to get good, fresh ingredients to cook with and sometimes that might call for a specialized ingredient or condiment worth a drive. But I don't need to drive an hour round trip to cook well. The focus should be on what you do in your kitchen, not what a market guru is cooking up at a supermarket.

It honestly looks way better than I expected, and even though 90% of it is copy-catting they're offering some things I've never seen in a Wegmans, which to me counts as innovation in the supermarket business. Whether the concept is embraced by shoppers remains to be seen, but if the food court is anything like a Wegmans food court it will be hopping 24/7. Now they need to focus on the core grocery shopping experience; improving the store brand items, and the brands they offer.

I guess this is the closest we'll ever get to having a Wegmans around here. *sigh*

I don't need all the variety. I need quality grocery at a fair price. Still waiting for someone to fill that niche.

looks well-executed, but the lighting is very creepy and sterile.

"Stopped going to Price Chopper after they tore down the Catholic Church in Watervliet. Lots of other places to shop."
Word.

Putting aside the ubiquitous comparison to Wegmans, which for this purpose I'll have no comment-

It doesn't compare to Panera or Chipotle. Was just there for lunch yesterday, and the food was 'fine', but it really was in the same price range as either of those two places and the quality was not there. It certainly is the most superior Price Chopper we have around here now, but it just doesn't compete with the higher-end quick service restaurants.

And the Price Choppers within the City of Albany maintain their dingy decor and yellow-tinted fluorescent lighting. Thanks PC for encouraging Albany to be a place to work and not a place to live.

No self-serve Bone Marrow Bar?
Forget it.

wow. all that for latham. nothing for the Delaware avenue PC. that place should have an indie movie filmed there. I witness SO MUCH nonsense at that place (staff and shoppers) it's insane.

I'm so glad to see that absolutely nothing has changed in Albany. No matter how magnificent a grocery store is, people will *still* complain about it not being a Wegman's.

Agree with the comments about parking - that lot has always been tough and nothing was done to improve it.

Agree with those saying its a Wegmans copy, just not as good. Any decent sized Wegmans I've been in (probably about a dozen of their stores) outshine this.

The lighting is more "dramatic," and is okay in the bistro area, but I'd like more light than drama in other areas, especially produce in order to better judge quality.

The 3 different delis thing I find to be odd. The Ben & Bills roast beef looked really good. The sesame Italian bread at the deli right at the entrance looked good. But I could not get a sandwich made with B&B's roast beef on the sesame Italian bread, only crappy looking, pre-sliced roast beef on the sesame Italian, or B&B roast beef on rye or a couple of other breads. Result was no sandwich.

After the sandwich attempt, I decided to get a burger. Ordered, was told 15 to 20 minutes. I know it has to be made and cooked, but that seemed like a long time, but okay. Returned in 15, waited patiently for another 10 minutes and was just about to go to the counter and ask when one of the counter guys came out and started approaching the 4 or 5 people waiting for their orders. I'm assuming we were all told the same thing, which was that they had "run out of hamburger" and were "hoping" that they would be getting a delivery of fresh meat in the next 15 minutes or so. The guy was very pleasant about it, but here are my observations on the situation:
1) Nobody back there had any idea that you were running low on meat a few hours earlier?
2) You took my order knowing you didn't have any meat?
3) You still made us all stand around while you decided what your were going to do instead of immediately informing us?
4) You ask, "Is there anything I can do to compensate you for this?" instead of simply saying, "I'm very sorry, here is a voucher for $5, $10 bucks, whatever, for your inconvenience?" Am I supposed to make an offer like I'm buying a used car? "How about free burgers for a year?" If you offered a free soda, it would have taken a little of the annoyance away.
5) Are you aware that you have a butcher shop 150 feet away? Is there some chance that they might be in possession of some hamburger? Could someone walk over and ask?

I ended up getting a couple of "Sicilian" slices and a couple of Margarita slices. All were past the point where they would have been considered fresh. The Sicilians were nothing like Sicilian, but tasted like they would have been good at some point earlier in the evening. Neither my daughter or I had any interest in taking a second bite of the Margarita slices after we had our first bites. We also got a salad to share, it wasn't bad. Ordering the salad could have been smoother if they had labels in the label holders for the different types of lettuce. The help should find another way to wipe the snot off their nose other than the sleeve of their clothing, though I'd rather have it on their clothing than on my salad.

Overall, not impressed at all. I commend them for the investment they have made, they obviously put a lot of money into it. Everything that I experienced that was bad can be fixed by tinkering...share the bread between the delis, don't take orders you can't fill, if you inconvenience customers do something to make them feel better about it rather than invite them to a negotiation. A lot of it is about training - they need a lot, lot more. Some of it is common sense...if you sell burgers and are running out of beef, do something about it early enough to solve the problem. In the end, all of these things fall on management and may be my biggest question mark. How in the very early days, even before the grand opening are there not a half dozen experienced managers circulating around this area watching everything that is going on and immediately instituting fixes where necessary? I hope they put the additional resources into this so that it can be successful, I'd like to have it as an option.

I have been to this new Latham store 4 or 5 times in the last month and although the parking lot always looked tight, I have always been able to find a spot and get in and out with a quarter the ease I do at any WalMart parking lot. The store itself is phenomenal - the lighting and overall atmosphere, variety of offerings, customer service, and all while sticking with their staple items at staple pricing. I love that I don't have to frequent Trader Joe's, Fresh Market, the Co-op, etc. AFTER I just did my grocery shopping. I can get all my produce, fresh meats, and dry goods while splurging on items such as fresh made pasta, an imported Dutch goat milk gouda, and a sushi roll no one will believe came from a grocery store. I think the concept and delivery is fantastic and I'm eager to see how this will expand into other PC stores. I'm patient so I know it will take awhile - even PC doesn't have the time/money to renovate all stores at once, but they are on the right track! Thank you!!

I've never been to a Wegman's, so I've no idea how this store compares to that one. However, if the lighting at Wegman's is anything like the lighting at the new Latham Chopper, I think I'll pass. I find it just too dark, not ambient. And while I do like having access to a variety of food choices, I really feel zero need for my supermarket to have a food court. Aside from people who work nearby looking for something different, perhaps, are there really that many people who want to eat a sit-down meal inside of Price Chopper?

Price Chopper cannot win with this crowd, people complain about old outdated stores so PC remodels Latham and starts updating others but then people complain about the finished product. As far as tearing down a church I believe the blame is on the diocese that closed the church and the people who stopped attending it. At least now its back on the tax rolls. As far as Wegmens yes they are nice stores if you want one I suggest you either move to central/western NY or to the mid Atlantic states.

Price Chopper cannot win with this crowd, people complain
... said Ed S on Feb 27, 2014 at 5:14 PM

I thought that businesses should adjust to the demands of "crowd" aka customers rather than blame their failings on them.
Maybe people have valid reasons to complain?

My wife and I were Latham Price Chopper lovers for 13 years. We muscled through while they rebuilt and did our main weekly shopping. I was there almost every day. After seeing the Bistro Boulevard finished, it reminded me of a circus. I used to buy 3 salads a week off the salad bar for my wife at around $3-$4 per salad, but now a salad starts at $6.47 and then increments to $9. All their prices are off the scale compared to area markets. We're Latham Hannaford shoppers now. Won't go back to PC.

The GF section looks very large. Good work, Price Chopper!

Wow lots of negative comments about the new Market Bistro. It's not a Wegmans, so get over it. I for one really like the place. I like the design of the place, it has a pleasing aesthetic and lots of room to move carts through the store. And overall it's cheaper than the Fresh Market. I'm very impressed with the customer service here, the employees seems overall very nice and helpful, which is more than I get from the other local supermarkets.

I would love to see more fresh organic vegetables. For all they offer I thought this was sorely lacking. And the parking is tight, but not bad really, I always find a close spot to one of the entrances.

I'm not sure the hot foods section is going to be as big a sell as they hope for, but I like having the option. And I'm curious about the Chef's Grill and, near the front entrance, it looks like they'll be offering cooking classes, which I'm interested in.

No one mentioned the electric car charging station! I stumbled upon it the other day. Next time I'm there I'll take a picture.

This is the store where I do my regular weekly shopping, so I will continue to go there, but I'm not impressed with the Market Bistro. I agree with all of the comments of 'people will never be happy,' but in my opinion, the issue really is they hyped this up to be the end all be all of grocery stores, and they have fallen well short of the bar they set.
Yes, there are food options. They look nicer, but are no different than the food options that existed before. They would fry fish for you to order anytime. They offered chicken and pizza, and the recipes and ingredients have not changed. I don't care how inexpensive it may if they quality isn't good. We've tried the chicken, subs, fish, and Ben & Bill's deli there over the past several weeks, and they were all 'eh' at best.
Sorry, Market Bistro, you're not Wegmans; you're not Panera or Chipotle; you're just a Price Chopper. Nothing wrong with that, but don't make yourself out to be reinvented when in truth, you just got a facelift.

"As far as tearing down a church I believe the blame is on the diocese that closed the church and the people who stopped attending it. At least now its back on the tax rolls."

This. Totally Agreed. I've spoken to folks involved in the diocese who stated that the Church could not afford the renovations required to maintain that space. It was a beautiful building, but I don't understand how folks can complain that a building no one could afford to fix was demolished. Odd to hold a grocery store chain accountable for that.

As for the new PC Bistro, it's a great upgrade over the traditional PC set-up. Yes, it apes Wegman's, and No, it doesn't quite pull it off, but at least PC is trying. I'll give the Bistro a few more visits and see if it can find its stride.

I live in Albany, and I think there is something to be said that Price Chopper has three stores within the city limits, as opposed to its competition. My favorite store is the one at Westgate Plaza: wide aisles, great service, good food selection. I'm sure I'll shop at the Market Bistro, but I will continue to patronize those Albany stores to show Price Chopper that there is a demand and we are happy they have chosen to stay invested in our city and its residents.

The real appeal of Wegmans is their Customer Service. Price Chopper should focus on better training and pay for their employees.

The store looks nice; the wannabe trendy Market Bistro by Price Chopper is lame, sounds like some sort of former knock off.
I remember Grand Union being the first local market with an upmarket concept, and the Johnson Rd store was pretty great. This Latham store is too much & and I can't help but think PC would be better off developing a new format appealing to both the chain's traditional blue collar base (currently heading to Shop Rite) & new upwardly moble shoppers interested in a Trader Joe (discount gormet) experience.
There is a third road and whatever chain funfair, wins...

Went to Market Bistro last night w/ family - it was ok, nothing to go nuts over. My husband had a fish fry that he said wasn't that good. My son had a burger that he waited to be cooked for over 20 mins... wasn't that great. Daughter just had prepackaged sushi from sushi counter...it was outrageous (9.49 for 8 pieces and the crunchies like Durkee fried onions on top). I had a quesadilla that was so soupy it was running all over the place and nearly ruined my shirt. It was a grilled chicken BBQ flavored - was horrible w/the carrots that come w/it & baked in. Like I say it was not enjoyable because it was basically soup running all over the place when I picked it up. Very disappointed for the amount of money we spent...it isn't cheap...2 drinks w/ all the above was over $38...

another pathetic attempt by the Golub's to be something that they're not (ie. Wegmans, Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, Fresh Market, Honest Weight). After the novelty wears out, I don't think the clientele that shop at a Price Chopper will spend $8 for a burger or $10 for sushi.

I really hope Price Chopper goes under.....and something else better moves in

I'm from Syracuse and haven't been able to find a good grocery store in the Albany area. Every Price Chopper I've been to in this area makes me bag my own groceries. I have two young kids which makes this task difficult and annoying. But, the worst is when they ask after if I need help to my car. No, I needed help bagging my groceries.
It was pouring out when me and my one year old went to the new market bistro. I tried getting into the bottle returns which is outside but the doors never opened and the carts were sort of blocking. We went into the store and asked for help which was a joke. The woman said the bottle return center is outside and chuckled at me. After trying to convince her that I knew but couldn't get in, she said I'd have to find someone else and turned her back to us. We left and tried Hannaford across the street and can't believe how different the experience there was. I was shocked when they bagged my groceries at the end too. The good thing about the new Price Chopper is it led me to Hannaford.

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