Items tagged with 'supermarkets'
Back in November Reuters reported that that the Golub Corp was in "advanced talks" about a potential sale of the Price Chopper/Market 32 supermarkets to Albertsons, the huge chain of chain based out west. And now this week the supermarket trade publications are reporting the deal is off.
From Food Trade News:
During the past six months, multiple financial sources told us that interest in the approximately 135-stores chain was far from robust with Albertsons emerging as perhaps the only bidder to acquire the whole company (reportedly minus real estate) for about $1 billion. ...
However, we were told that, just before 2016 ended, Albertsons elected not to pursue the Price Chopper purchase, opting instead to prioritize its effort to take the company public, something it first announced 18 months ago.
And from Supermarket News:
Price Chopper engaged the advisors last year as it sought additional capital investment for the purpose of funding the ongoing transformation of its stores from the Price Chopper banner to the Market 32 concept it introduced in 2014. Price Chopper has said that initiative would cost about $300 million over five years to convert roughly half of its 135 stores.
Sources told SN this week it was likely that Price Chopper would continue to seek avenues for new investment but that a strategic acquisition was unlikely with Albertsons off the table.
Both articles are interesting not just in the alleged specifics about the situation surrounding Price Chopper, but also how the big picture is about the sloshing motion of huge pools of capital. In some sense, Price Chopper -- a billion dollar company -- is just a cork in a vast ocean of money. (Alas, aren't we all.)
The Golub Corp never acknowledged the rumored deal back in November -- Neil Golub called the reports "nonsense articles coming from halfway across the country." And the company no-commented it again today. [Biz Review]
The Save-A-Lot chain opened a new supermarket on Central Ave in Albany Thursday, just about two blocks west of Swinburne Park. It's the company's second store in the city, joining one on Delaware Ave.
The store is in a building that, in the immediate past, was an Albany Med office. But its earlier lives include time as both A&P and Star grocery stores. So it's new, but also kind of old.
Save-A-Lot is a discount chain that specializes in small-format stores -- at 20,000 square feet the Central Ave store is one of the smaller supermarkets in this area. And one of the location types it looks for is densely-populated neighborhoods, the sorts of neighborhoods that, at least in the Capital Region, have struggled to attract new supermarkets over the last few decades.
"We're like a well-kept secret from a lot of people even though we have 1,300 stores across the United States," said Tom Kallio, the northeast business unit director of Save-A-Lot, Thursday. "But because we don't have a big footprint, we don't make the big thunder."
Here's a quick look around the new store, along with a quick chat with Kallio about why the company seeks dense, urban neighborhoods.
A bit we stumbled over recently while doing history of Price Chopper research: The first supermarket self-checkout station was installed at the Price Chopper in Clifton Park in 1992.
The story of the tech's rollout at Price Chopper was part of a recent NPR Planet Money podcast about the self checkout, which focused the inventor of the devices, a Canadian doctor named Howard Schneider. Here's a clip (from about the 10:30 mark) -- Schneider's just had his pitch somewhat harshly turned down by Stop & Shop and he's discouraged. But he get's a meeting with Price Chopper:
The italics are the hosts talking.
The head person [at Price Chopper] actually saw the machines and he said, "I like it. Let's do it." And after that everyone's very nice.
The CEO says we're not going to buy the machines from you. But you can use one of our stores in Upstate New York as a real world experiment.
And on August 5, 1992, grocery store shoppers what may be, depending on your definition, what we're going to call the first fully-automatic check-out machines.
One of the big local news stories this week is the Reuters report that the parent company of Price Chopper is in "advanced talks" for a billion-dollar sale of the supermarket chain to Albertson's, a huge chain of chains headquartered out west.
The Reuters story is based on unnamed sources, and the central players are no-commenting it. (Neil Golub was a little more pointed in not addressing the story.) But the idea that the Golub Corp has been exploring some sort of sale or deal for Price Chopper/Market32 has popped up recently, most notably in a report in the trade journal Supermarket News this past August. And it fits with the overarching trend of consolidation withing the supermarket industry.
So, if a Price Chopper sale is in the works -- and that's still if -- it would be one of the biggest Capital Region news stories in recent years. Here are a few reasons why...
To cap off Supermarket Week, we thought it'd be interesting to get an outside view of the supermarket scene and why some chains do or don't end locating in metro areas. (Maybe there's a certain chain that springs to mind...)
So we got in touch David Livingston of DJL Research, a supermarket industry analyst, to talk a little bit about the scene.
Here are a few quick bits from the conversation -- about Price Chopper, Wegmans, and why some of the sought-after chains expand slowly...
It's back: Supermarket Showdown, in which check prices for a basket of 40 items across multiple supermarkets here in the Capital Region.
The showdown has taken a few years off -- the last time we did it was in 2012 -- and this year it returns with a new basket and three new stores.
Without further ado, let's get to it...
I find that I am often a bit naive about how Americans truly eat at home, regardless of the fact that I make a living from writing about food. I eat out a lot and I when I cook at home, it either leans towards the clean, healthy side (to counteract all the eating out) or it turns into a production somehow related to a story.
That's not to say I live in a vacuum, but I realize that sometimes my grasp of what the typical grocery run looks like it a bit slippery.
Lately, I've noticed plenty of friends, acquaintances, and colleagues talking about ALDI, the low-priced chain of grocery stores with European roots that's rapidly expanding. (According to the US ALDI website, the supermarket will have 2,000 US-based stores by 2018.)
I remember shopping at LDI with my Aunt Laura and her kids growing up. It was the first stop on the bi-weekly shopping trip, followed by Tops, Grand Union, and Price Chopper if absolutely necessary. The generic-looking packaging under ALDI private labels, the fact that you had to bring your own bags, and the way the entire system worked always gave me the impression that ALDI was low-quality.
Now, some of my favorite food enthusiasts shop there... and they won't settle for subpar. So there's got to be something worth checking out.
So I did.
The trick of time is that it passes slowly, and changes are incremental, so you can hardly notice it happening. The world of today looks mostly like the world of yesterday to us, and yet there have been a thousand little changes over the years that separate those worlds. When things change all at once, it seems a revolution, but when they change little by little, it just seems the passing of time.
Grocery stores are one example. Sure, 50 years ago, they were selling milk and meats, frozen foods and Cap'n Crunch, just as they are today. And yet everything about them has changed.
Drawing's closed and winner's been emailed!
It's back: Supermarket Week returns to AOA this week. We'll have a bunch of posts about supermarkets -- including a new version of the popular Supermarket Showdown price comparison -- because, well, we all have to eat.
To start things off, we have a drawing for a $100 gift card to the local supermarket of the winner's choice. To enter the drawing, please answer this question:
What's a bit of supermarket shopping savvy that you can share with everyone here?
The range of possible answers is very wide. Maybe it's a tip about how to play the coupon game. Or maybe it's the best local market for finding a certain item. Or maybe it's about your system for doing your shopping quickly. Or maybe it's the best way to pick out a certain type of fruit or vegetable.
We'll draw one winner at random. That person gets the $100 gift card of their choice. (The gift card must be to a supermarket in the four core counties of the Capital Region.)
Important: All comments must be submitted by 11:59 pm on Wednesday, November 16, 2016 to be entered in the drawing. You must answer the question to be part of the drawing. (Normal commenting guidelines apply.) One entry per person, please. You must enter a valid email address (that you check regularly) with your comment. The winner will be notified via email by noon on Thursday and must respond by noon on Friday, November 18.
Over at Politico New York, Jimmy Vielkind pitches the idea of using a Wegmans to anchor development at the former convention center site in downtown Albany. A clip:
The Rochester-based grocery chain has a nearly religious following in the areas of upstate New York where it operates, but there are no outposts in the Capital Region. In locating a store at the vacant site downtown, it could simultaneously provide a needed amenity for the struggling neighborhoods nearby and create a regional attraction that would draw people from the surrounding office towers and suburban communities.
Imagine a supermarket with a street-level cafe opening onto Hudson Avenue, beckoning to pedestrians along Broadway and Pearl Street or people in town for a show at the arena or a convention up the hill. Several floors of rental housing or condos above the store -- perhaps with requirements that some units be affordable -- that will give a further boost to the burgeoning residential options in the old business district and prevent the area between the Pastures and Sheridan Hollow, two predominately residential areas, from seeming lifeless after dark.
Call it the Wegmans effect, a development strategy for lagging urban areas rooted in designer cheese. Wegmans, or something like it, could do for Albany what Fairway did for Red Hook.
To be clear: There's no indication that Wegmans is actually considering this -- a spokesperson for Wegmans says as much to Vielkind, noting the company has looked at the Capital Region in the past but seen more opportunity in places such as Maryland and Virginia. And he figures it would take a push from Andrew Cuomo to make it happen.
The former convention site has been the subject of some intrigue recently because the Capital Region's Upstate Revitalization Initiative proposal included mention of an almost unbelievably big "catalyst" project there -- 1,200 housing units, more than 400,000 square feet of office space, and 295,000 square feet of retail. As you know, the Capital Region didn't get one of the $500 million grants. Before that, there had been a pitch to build an aquarium, which also fizzled. Now it's unclear what -- if anything -- is going to happen at the site.
One of the interesting angles to this topic is the question of whether downtown Albany should by vying for some sort of high-profile development piece like a Wegmans or (insert some other large, big-name retailer/project) -- or if it's better off cultivating the steady bit-by-bit development it's experienced in recent years.
Earlier on AOA:
+ The plan for the former Jillian's building, and cultivating retail in downtown Albany
+ Scanning the Capital Region's bid for half a billion dollars from the state
+ Wegmans? Really? Please explain.
The Golub Corporation -- the privately-held parent company of Price Chopper/Market 32 based in Schenectady -- announced Wednesday that it has a new CEO. And notably, the person is not a Golub.
Scott Grimmett, who had been the company chief operating officer (he was the first non-Golub to hold that role), is succeeding Jerry Golub in the CEO role. Grimmett (that's him on the right) joined the Golub Corp in 2012 after working for Safeway for 37 years. He's been part of the company succession plan since he was hired, according to a press release.
Press release blurbage:
"This is an exciting time for our company," said Neil Golub, chairman of the board. "While international conglomerates and Wall St. continue to consolidate our industry, we are investing in our future as a strong, American-owned, family-built regional chain. The design work that we invested in Market Bistro (circa 2010-2014), coupled with the brand-defining innovation that has given rise to our first few Market 32 concept stores has not only laid the groundwork for our continued growth, but also fueled the acceleration of our plans to modernize our stores under the Market 32 banner. "
Jerry Golub is now vice chair of the company's board and will be leading a committee focused on accelerating the switch from the Price Chopper brand to Market 32, according to the press release.
The in-development Electric City Food Co-op -- "organizing to bring a community-owned, one-stop grocery market featuring local and bulk foods to the downtown area of Schenectady" -- has an informational meeting lined for this Saturday, January 16.
The Electric City Food Co-op hopes to expand market opportunities for local farmers and entrepreneurs, bring the healthiest and freshest foods to one of the food deserts of Schenectady on a full-time basis, offer greater opportunity for intentional eating, and strengthen the local economy by keeping our food dollars local.
Here's an FAQ on the co-op's website about its plans.
Co-op organizers say they've gotten financial commitments from 155 households so far. When it reached 300 households, they say they'll be able to begin the process of site selection. (And 1,000 member-owners will eventually be needed to open.)
The info meeting Saturday is at the Schenectady County Historical Society (32 Washington Ave in Schenectady) from 10:30 am to 12:30 pm.
There's a new grocery store in downtown Albany. The Steuben Street Market opened at 58 North Pearl Street for the first time Wednesday, and will be open seven days a week.
The market's opening is notable because a grocery store has been a missing piece in downtown Albany's ongoing evolution into a residential neighborhood. Roughly 1,000 new residential units have been added downtown during the last few years, and residents, developers, and other business owners have all mentioned that the addition of a grocery could mark an important turning point for the neighborhood.
This could be interesting: The Honest Weight Food Co-op is hosting a series of strategic planning sessions during May -- and they're open to everyone. Blurbage:
Now that the new store has been open for almost two years, Honest Weight is undertaking a strategic planning process that will rely on input from our members, shareholders, non-member shoppers, vendors, management, staff and other interested groups. We will create a shared vision of who we are as an organization and a business, what we wish to become, and how to get there over the coming years.
We'll be hosting 3 large community events across the Capital Region to bring people together for conversations that we hope will identify the perceptions and values we hold in common. We'll then use that information to help define ourselves into the future.
The first event is this Saturday, May 2 at RPI's Russell Sage Dining Hall (1649 15th Street in Troy) from 1-4 pm. There are also sessions planned for May 17 at the Desmond, and May 30 at St. Sophia's in Albany.
The co-op is asking people to pre-register for a session (and for one session only).
The Honest Weight Food Co-op advertises on AOA.
We've enlisted Daniel B. to survey Capital Region donut shops -- and pick his favorite donuts -- for a short series called The Best Dozen.
Donuts are defined by their garnishes. Yeast-raised donut shells aren't very fun on their own. They require something extra to make them come to life. It can be as simple as a dusting of sugar. But part of the joy comes from the variety of toppings and fillings that make these fried rounds of dough a sweet treat.
A professional baker might be able to detail the technical difference between glazes, icings and frostings. For the purpose of this series, glaze is a clear sugar coating; icing is a thin, dense top coat; and frosting is what you typically find on cakes.
At Hannaford, many of the donuts from their bakery appeared to be frosted and drizzled with a fudgy icing. An abundance of caution and gut instinct told me to avoid the ones with bright red icing. Past experience ruled out the specimens covered in sprinkles.
But there were still plenty left to try in the search for the best dozen, including a cro-dough.
I'm the CEO of a supermarket chain that just announced it's changing its name -- ask me anything.
OK, that's not exactly how Golub Corp CEO Jerry Golub introduced himself on Facebook Friday afternoon. But the huge FB thread -- more than 500 comments -- took on an AMA-style feel with Golub fielding questions and comments about Price Chopper's impending name change and modernization campaign.
This response from Golub, to a question about the company upgrading its stores in urban areas, caught our eye and we thought it'd be interesting bit to people around the city of Albany (emphasis added):
Jerry Golub: We will also be updating our smaller and urban stores. The first will be our Delaware and Madison Avenue stores beginning early next year although they won't be getting the complete Market 32 identity right away. We want to introduce the complete Market 32 concept in the larger stores and then apply it to the smaller stores.
Update: We checked with a Price Chopper rep about the updates planned, and specific details aren't ready to be released yet. But the planned updates were described as part of the chain's overall modernization effort.
A few other exchanges that caught our eye...
Everybody eats. And (pretty much) everyone shops for food.
So the news that Price Chopper is changing its name to Market 32 prompted a lot of reactions, even more so because the company is a local institution.
For a while on Tuesday our Twitter feed was jammed with people commenting, criticizing, cracking jokes about the change. It was the topic of the day at the virtual water cooler.
Here's a quick collection of a bunch of those tweets.
Price Chopper's parent company announced Tuesday morning that it's rebranding as "Market 32," part of larger campaign to modernize its stores. The "32" is reference to the chain being founded in 1932.
The company says the new stores will have "expanded food service options, an enhanced product mix and a re-emphasis on customer service."
From a press release:
"Market 32 represents the next leap forward for our company. We have evolved from the Public Service Market to Central Market to Price Chopper by responding to customers' changing needs over time and Market 32 is the next natural progression for us," said Neil Golub, Price Chopper's executive chairman of the board. "Early learnings gleaned from our Market Bistro concept store have put our next generation in an excellent position to make this move today." ...
"Market 32 combines what we are hearing from our customers and what we are learning at Market Bistro with some of the best thinking in the retail industry, and will focus on delivering a distinctively different shopping experience to our customers. Our stores will meet customers' needs today and for decades to come. Most importantly, though, we will continue to offer great value for great food and service," said Jerel Golub, Price Chopper's president and CEO.
That the Golub Corp, PC's parent company, is looking to up its game chain-wide isn't surprising. The supermarket industry is famously competitive and intense.
Greulich's Market in Guilderland, in business since 1949, has closed, according to its Facebook page. The Gazette's Bethany Bump reports the situation around the closing is unclear, and there was at least some indication that the store might still have a future.
Greulich's, near the border between Guilderland and Schenectady, was like something from another time -- a small, independent grocery store that focused on customer service. But the grocery business is a notoriously difficult industry with tiny margins. And as manager Robert Van Allen told Liz Clancy Lerner for AOA a few years back, Greulich's was feeling the pressure of staying small in a world of supermarket giants:
You gotta realize when you go into a big chain, their groceries are going to be cheaper; they'll always be cheaper because they buy railcar loads, where I buy one at a time. ...
The biggest change is that years ago Hannaford wasn't down here, the beverage center wasn't down here. So when the other places come in, probably our grocery business has gone down a little bit -- but our perishables are still way up there because we can offer a more personal touch to that. The beer business has gone down because that's gone to drugstores and discount beverage stores because they get a huge quantity.
But as Van Allen told Liz about managing a small, independent store: "You become tight knit and you're able to do things on your own [here] where in a chain you have to just follow the policy 'bang, bang, bang, bang, bang.'"
Yep, Wegmans does top this ranking of grocery store brands for the Northeast, as compiled by the polling firm Harris. But the thing that caught our eye about these rankings: Six grocery chains with presences in the Capital Region ranked above the category average for the Northeast -- and three of them are relatively new arrivals.
In descending order, those chains were: Trader Joe's (2), Whole Foods (3), ShopRite (4), Hannaford (5), BJ's Wholesale Club (Groceries) (6), and Price Chopper (9).
Other brands with local supermarket presences -- Aldi, Sam's Club, Target, and Walmart -- ranked below the regional average.
We gotta admit, we're not sure whether these sorts of lists actually tell us anything because they're not based on direct assessment/measurement/analysis of price/value/experience/whatever for the chains. That link at the top has a methodology section at the bottom -- basically, this was an (methodically done) online poll that asked people to rate brands. So, if anything, the rankings give some sense of to what degree people are fans (or not) of a certain brand.
For what it's worth, Wegmans and Trader Joe's also ranked 1-2 in the Consumer Reports' national ranking of supermarket brands this year. The CR rankings were also based on a survey of the public.
Earlier on AOA: Wegmans? Really? Please explain.
image: Harris Poll EquiTrend
A little bit of number gawking*: Whole Foods announced last week that it would be donating $11,303 to Capital District Community Gardens based on opening day sales at its new store at Colonie Center. The donation was 5 percent of sales from that day.
So, that donation figure points to Whole Foods doing something like $225,000 in sales that day. That seems like a pretty good first day.
For some perspective, Whole Foods stores averaged $719,000 in sales per week during the first quarter of this year, according to the company.
Of course, the opening day for a location is probably always going to be an outlier. But the (guessed) sales total points to the level of interest and shopping visits the opening was able to generate.
*We don't even know if number gawking is possible. Number noodling?
The long awaited Whole Foods at Colonie Center opens this Wednesday.
We figured a lot of people will be curious, so we stopped by for the media tour Monday afternoon.
Here are a bunch of photos and a few thoughts...
Urban planning and development often prompt a lot of discussion here at AOA, so we thought it'd be interesting to have an actual urban planner look more closely at some of the topics that bubble up. Meet Alison Bates, who takes up the issue of a downtown Albany supermarket today.
As the discussion of downtown Albany's redevelopment progresses, the call for a neighborhood supermarket has become central to the conversation. A place close at hand to get good food if you live or work downtown, a way to avoid driving to a strip mall each week to do your grocery shopping -- many of us would like this.
Not only would it be a convenience, but it would speak loudly about downtown Albany. Downtown grocery stores are an important piece of a city's redevelopment. They're a classic urban amenity that sends a message that your downtown is doing well, and that breathing new life into your city is not only possible, it's already happening.
So what would it take to make this a reality? There are some sizable economic, political, and logistical challenges. But there is hope.
Let's look at some of the economics -- because urban planning usually comes back to the numbers (and because everyone secretly enjoys econometrics) -- and some different ways of thinking about the situation.
Whole Foods announced today that its new store at Colonie Center will open June 18 at 9 am.
The new store is in the mall's southwest corner -- the company is leasing space from the Sears there. (The facade recently went up and is visible from both Central Ave and Wolf Road.) It was planned to be about 32,000 square feet -- that's about the same size as the new Honest Weight Food Co-op location or the Healthy Living Market that opened in Wilton.
As you know, it's the first Whole Foods in the area. (The current Whole Foods closest to the Capital Region is in Hadley, Massachusetts.) The company first announced its intent to open here in May of 2012.
With the news that Walmart is planning an enormous (technical term) new supercenter at the Latham Circle Mall redevelopment, we were curious about how Capital Region supermarkets compare in terms of square footage.
So we looked up a bunch of examples.
A table with the results, and big graphical comparison, along with a few notes and thoughts, after the jump.
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.
Word started circulating this week that an Ideal Food Basket supermarket is set to open on Broadway in Menands sometime in the next month. It'll be the first location for the Long Island-based chain, which already has stores downstate, as well as in Connecticut and Massachusetts. [Biz Review]
We'd never heard of Ideal Food Basket, and after some poking around -- and admittedly without stepping into one -- we get the impression it's a pretty average "neighborhood" style supermarket, maybe with slant toward being a discount market. The thing that did stand out, though: Where it's decided to set up here.
The Ideal Food Basket is going in to the former Save-A-Lot space at 100 Broadway in Menands. That spot is notable because it's located near areas in North Albany and Arbor Hill that are designated as "food deserts" by the federal government. What's that mean? Well, in the simplest sense, it means there isn't a supermarket within a 1-mile (or half-mile) radius of those neighborhoods (the whole definition is a bit more involved). A map we created last year about Capital Region supermarket geographic distribution might make it clearer.
The chain's parent organization has apparently decided to focus in part on opening stores in such areas. Said the company's CEO to the Times Union: "We get into areas where most organizations don't go into ... We go into underserved areas. We hire only from the neighborhood." Just this past month it opened a store in Nassau County on Long Island that was hailed as bringing a supermarket to an area with a "critical food-access issue." [TU] [Newsday]
For all the booming that's happened on the local supermarket scene in the last few years, the development has almost entirely focused on high-end products (Fresh Market, Whole Foods) and/or areas that already had other supermarket choices (ShopRite). It's interesting to see a company looking at areas not currently served as a business opportunity.
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.
Today's moment of odd seafood: Price Chopper reports it recently received three rare orange lobsters as part its regular shipment of lobster. You know, they kind of looked like they'd been cooked, but... weren't. (Here's a closer look.)
The unusually-hued crustaceans ended up at three stores in New York: Guilderland, Middletown, and Binghamton. The lobsters will be held in the stores until later this week, when the company says they'll be sent to aquariums. (Somewhere an Albany Aquarium proponent is sighing at the missed opportunity.)
Update July 3: More orange lobsters have turned up at Price Choppers -- two in Glens Falls, and one near Syracuse. [Syracuse.com]
Price Chopper gets its lobsters from Canada, via a Cape Cod-based company called, appropriately, Lobster Trap. A PC spokesperson tells us that the company's VP of seafood merchandising has never seen an orange lobster in his 17 years with the supermarket chain -- and their contact at the Lobster Trap has only seen one in 33 years.
Maybe the problem wasn't the parking lot, but rather the drivers. Honest Weight Food Co-op's old parking lot will be fondly remembered by no one. Now they have a brand new parking lot that's much bigger than the old one, and a whole new building to go with it. But still, finding a spot might be a challenge.
The new market opened Wednesday, even though the official grand opening isn't until August, and shoppers around noon were remarking on how they had to drive around the lot a few times before they found a space.
But there are plenty of bike racks right out front and a CDTA bus stop (#125) on the corner (and a stop for the #138 a block up the street).
There has been a lot of hand wringing about this new location, but I have to admit, taking I-90 to Everett Road exit 5 makes the trip super convenient, easier to get to than the Albany ShopRite, Price Chopper or Hannaford that all compete within a very narrow radius of each other.
Parking and accessibility aside, how is the new co-op different from the old co-op? For some it may take a little getting used to -- for others it is likely a dream come true.
The long-planned new Honest Weight Food co-op location on Watervliet Ave in Albany is slated for a soft open on June 19, with a formal grand opening scheduled for August 8. Honest Weight marketing manager Jennifer Grainer says construction has been on time and is expected to come in under budget, at around $5.5 million.
With just over a month to go before the opening, we got a quick tour of the building, which includes a full commercial kitchen for catering, a station for smoking meats, and a teaching kitchen for classes.
Here's a look at how it's shaping up.
The new Healthy Living Market and Cafe in the Wilton Mall is hard to nail down.
It's not a health food store, yet it has a section full of natural health products and supplements. It's not a specialty foods store, even though they stock some hard-to-find, high-end items that are bound to delight enthusiasts. It's certainly not a conventional grocery store, although it has everything from pet and baby food to cleaning supplies to toilet paper.
And while they will proudly carry conventionally produced strawberries in the winter -- because, as Healthy Living owner Katy Lesser explained, that's "what Americans want" -- they will never stock Coca-Cola. Not even the Mexican stuff with real sugar.
So what is this place, how does it fit into the region's supermarket scene, and is there anything there worth a drive?
Update: The opening has been moved to March 21.
This is just the second location for the Vermont-based company. It opened its first store in South Burlington in 1986. The company touts itself as "a one-stop destination for natural groceries, fresh organic and local produce, locally sourced meats and poultry, crusty artisan breads, a world of cheese, health and beauty products, a complete vitamin/supplement department, freshly prepared foods and a broad selection of microbrews and wine." (It's opening a separate wine shop -- that gets it around the state's restriction on wine in grocery stores.)
The market occupies the space left empty by the former J.C. Penney at the mall. It's about 35,000 square feet -- that's about half the size of, say, one of the new ShopRites around Albany.
Earlier on AOA: Healthy Living Market opening in Wilton (February 2012)
Updated Wednesday morning
State attorney general Eric Schneiderman announced today that his office reached an agreement with Price Chopper over an investigation into what the AG's office says was "deceptive" advertising of the chain's double coupon policy. From the press release:
After implementing a corporate-wide policy that limited the doubling of coupons "up to 99 cents," Price Chopper failed to disclose this restriction in its advertisements leading consumers to believe that $1.00 coupons would be doubled. Prior to this corporate policy, Price Chopper's double coupon policies had previously varied from store to store. A number of stores doubled coupons up to $1.00 whereas others restricted the face value of coupons that could be doubled.
Coupons draw consumers into stores with valuable offers, leading to the purchase of other goods. Restrictions on double coupons, which can make a significant difference in savings, must be clear to consumers who shop on a budget. In just April and May of 2012, Price Chopper shoppers redeemed 34,616,602 coupons valued at $.99 or greater; approximately 8 million of these were valued at $1.00 or more.
The AG's office says that as part of the agreement, Price Chopper is "required to clearly and conspicuously disclose any face value limits on coupon redemption." It will also pay the state $100,000 in penalties and costs.
Price Chopper response
Price Chopper released a response to the AG's announcement Tuesday afternoon, disputing the way the agreement was described:
We were appalled and disappointed by the inflammatory press release distributed earlier today by the New York State Office of the Attorney General (OAG), as its portrayal of Price Chopper's conduct is false, misleading and inaccurate in significant respects, and is not supported by the Assurance of Discontinuance (AOD) to which Price Chopper agreed. In fact, contrary to the Press Release, the AOD makes no assertion that Price Chopper acted intentionally to harm consumers or that its practices caused any losses, let alone millions of lost savings to its customers. We've been in direct contact with the OAG to express our concerns and are awaiting their response.
What the OAG actually asserts in the AOD is that Price Chopper inconsistently denoted in its advertising the dollar value limit of its double coupon policy during select weeks in June 2011, January 2012 and April 2012 in Syracuse and Cortland, NY. Our decision to sign this agreement was reached after considering the likely cost of alternative actions, and because settling the matter will allow us to focus on serving our customers, including offering double coupons up to $.99 in all 130 of our stores.
Update: Here's the "assurance of discontinuation" from the state AG's office, as posted by the Syracuse Post-Standard. It makes the AG's office's issues with Price Chopper a bit more clear. The bulk of its complaint is an allegation that Price Chopper didn't note double coupon restrictions in some of its print ads, and that the policies posted at some stores differed from what was posted on the company's website.
By the way: Here are Price Chopper's coupon policies, as listed on its website. After the jump, links to the coupon policies for other supermarkets in the Capital Region...
It's pretty much what it sounds like -- a counter in the prepared foods section for getting growlers filled with craft beer. And it's the Chopper's first test of the concept.
So how does it work?
Price Chopper announced today details for the "concept store" it's building at the location of its Latham store. The Chopper is pitching the project as "the most ambitious project ever undertaken" by the supermarket chain.
From the press release:
The most notable new feature will be a multi-faceted, full-service culinary offer in the form of 16 themed, fast-casual/cooked-fresh-to-order dining experiences, accompanied by in-store seating for 140 guests and seasonal outdoor seating. Among the moderately priced dining areas will be a Ben & Bill's NYC-Style deli; a Chef's Grill where a variety of specialty dishes - from steak to mussels to seafood to antipasto - will be prepared fresh for each guest; a Mexican themed restaurant featuring international flavors; a classic pizzeria, a meat rotisserie offering succulent pork and beef, in addition to poultry; an old-fashioned sub shop; a New England style fish fry restaurant, and a full-service salad and vegetarian/vegan bar, just to name a few. Other specialty restaurant concepts still being finalized will be unveiled in the coming months.
Also planned are a complete cooking school in which local/regional and national chefs and specialty instructors will teach recipes, techniques, trends and meal solutions for classes, parties and special events, the growing and harvesting of some fresh produce right in the store, and the building of a drive-through pharmacy.
More details and concept images are after the jump.
Price Chopper aiming to complete the store sometime in late 2013/early 2014. The company says it will also makeover eight of its other stores in the area over the next two year. Counting recently finished store remodels -- like the one in the Slingerlands -- PC says it will put almost $90 million into upgrading Capital Region stores.
Of course, all this comes in the context of much increased supermarket competition in the Capital Region:
+ ShopRite just opened its third store -- in Slingerlands, right across from a Price Chopper -- has plans for a fourth, and seems intent on going head-to-head with the Chopper.
+ Hannaford has been remodeling stores.
+ The Fresh Market is now here.
+ Trader Joe's opened this year.
+ Honest Weight Food Co-op is moving ahead with its new location.
+ Whole Foods is planning to open at Colonie Center sometime in early 2014.
+ And there's also the unnamed, unconfirmed chain that's reportedly been looking at the Latham Circle Mall site.
The competition is forcing everyone to step up their games.
ShopRite announced today that its new store at the Vista Technology Campus in Slingerlands (on Route 85) will open September 30. (press release post jump)
The store is the third of four the chain is aiming to open in this area. A Niskayuna location opened a year ago and the Albany location opened in April. A fourth location is planned for Colonie. Coincidentally or not (probably not), all those spots are close to Price Chopper locations. In fact, the Slingerlands location is literally right across the road from the Chopper there. [Biz Review]
The chain says the new store will offer the "ShopRite from Home" delivery service. That's apparently been popular here -- the company is expanding its Niskayuna store to make more room for the service. [Biz Review]
Interesting non-grocery bit: ShopRite says the Slingerlands location will include a park and ride lot for CDTA routes #13 (New Scotland Ave) and #18 (Delaware Ave). Both those routes run into downtown Albany.
Earlier on AOA: Delivery! Comparing ShopRite from Home and Price Chopper Shops4U
The Capital Region has one of the world's largest Walmart stores -- and soon, it will have one of the smaller ones, too.
Walmart announced today that the Mansion Square project in Niskayuna will include a "Walmart Neighborhood Market" -- a scaled-down supermarket version of the chain's traditional mega-mart. It will be first such store in the state. [Biz Review] [TU]
A Walmarket (we made that name up) offers "fresh produce, meat and dairy products, bakery and deli items, household supplies, health and beauty aids and a pharmacy." The company's website says the stores were designed as "a smaller-footprint option for communities in need of a pharmacy, affordable groceries and merchandise." The stores are about 38,000 square feet, which is roughly the same size as one of the small Price Choppers and about twice the size of the new Trader Joe's. (It's a little bigger than the new Honest Weight and the planned Whole Foods at Colonie Center.)
There are about 200 of these stores around the nation, and the chain appears to be pushing the format. Among the places they've recently opened: Georgia, Miami, and Orange County (California). [Atlanta Business Chronicle] [Miami Herald] [Orange County Register]
The idea of another Walmart doesn't really do much for us, but this smaller version could be a good sign.
The Honest Weight Food Co-op recently announced that it will be officially breaking ground next week on its long-planned new location on Watervliet Ave in Albany. It's a big step for the co-op -- the project is expected to cost $5.4 million -- and will be a significant upgrade in size and amenities over its current Central Ave location.
Of course, the co-op's expansion also is part of a rapidly changing local supermarket scene. The traditional players now face competition from ShopRite, Fresh Market, Trader Joe's, and (eventually) Whole Foods. That's prompted some concerns about how Honest Weight will fare in the re-arranging scene, especially given the leap it's about to take with the new store.
Curious about how Honest Weight sees the situation -- and how it's planning to adapt -- we bounced some questions to Lily Bartels, the co-op's communications leader.
As you surely know by now, the new Trader Joe's on Wolf Road opens this Friday. The store is the first TJ's in this area -- the first in all of upstate New York, in fact -- and the opening will probably be jammed. There are people around here who have been anticipating this day for years.
We got inside the store this week ahead of the opening for a preview. So let's get to it...
Hey, have you heard the rumor about Wegmans coming to Albany? At the Latham Circle Mall? At the First Prize Center?
Variations of this rumor have been circulating since at least the beginning of the year. We've heard from it about 100 different people (an exaggeration, but not by much). And they all heard from a guy who knows a guy who... you get the picture.
The latest version surfaced Tuesday and it goes like this: the big W has bought the Latham Circle Mall -- it's a done deal -- and Wegmans will start demolition/construction soon. Since then, we've watched search referral traffic for "wegmans albany" come rolling in. The word has obviously gotten around.
Well, for what it's worth, Jo Natale -- a spokesperson for Wegmans -- told us today that the company has not bought the Latham Circle Mall property.
But that story is just so delicious. And it's easy to see why -- it follows the recipe for a juicy rumor...
Could the best chicken dinner in the Capital Region come from inside a plastic box?
Every fiber of my being is telling me not to write this story. There are precious few Nature's Place rotisserie chickens in the case at my local Hannaford to begin with. Often I get the last one or two. Sometimes I have to wait around until the next batch comes out of the oven. So if even just a few people decide to make this a regular part of their Friday night supper, I might find myself in the lurch.
Not all the Hannaford rotisserie chickens are created equal. The Nature's Place birds are special. Occasionally you have to look closely at a label to make sure you are getting the right one. But you can always tell, because the Nature's Place chickens are trussed with a green string.
Now, I'll admit that it doesn't look like much sitting in its little plastic prison, especially the ones that are a day old and chilled in the cold case -- but these are actually the very best specimens. It sounds a bit odd, and I don't blame you for being suspicious. However, this chicken exists in the fortuitous intersection of quality, convenience, sustainability, taste and value.
Update: The store opened August 3 as planned. Here was a preview tour we got that week.
The opening date for the Trader Joe's on Wolf Road is August 3 (a Friday), the company announced in a press release today. The store will open at 8 am that day. (Odds there will be a line before it opens: good. Odds people will be camping out: not bad.)
The company also says it will start accepting applications for jobs on June 18. "Interested individuals need to apply in person and can obtain an application on site or online."
Full press release post jump.
It's Supermarket Week again on AOA. All this week we'll have posts comparing, thinking, and talking about supermarkets. Hey, we all have to eat.
If there's one constant in the Capital Region supermarket discussion, it's that people desire a Wegmans. Actually, desire might not be a strong enough word -- crave/swoon over/confront an existential crisis in the absence of/long for a Wegmans.
And I don't really get it. Because last I checked, Wegmans is still... a supermarket.
Sure, Wegmans routinely tops the Consumer Reports rankings of best supermarkets. And I've shopped there more than a few times -- they're nice stores. Worthy of adoration, though? I'm skeptical.
But, OK, I'm open to the idea. So I got connected with editor, savvy shopper and skeptical consumer Laura Northrup. She lives in the Capital Region now, but she grew up in the Syracuse area where her family shopped -- and dined! -- at Wegmans. I know she has an appreciation for the place.
Maybe Laura could explain.
It's Supermarket Week again on AOA. All this week we'll have posts comparing, thinking, and talking about supermarkets. Hey, we all have to eat.
Isn't it strange how life-affirming events almost always happen in the most mundane of all places, or, more specifically, during the pursuit of the bland?
I suppose I shouldn't be surprised. It's not like revelation waits for those RARE moments when you're all gussied up, coiffed and powered, and sets a place card for you at the table.
Nope. Revelation, for me, happens a few steps before putting fork to plate -- usually at the supermarket.
It's Supermarket Week again on AOA. All this week we'll have posts comparing, thinking, and talking about supermarkets. Hey, we all have to eat.
Yes, that grand tradition -- the Supermarket Showdown -- has returned. As we have for the past (gulp) four years, we price checked a basket of items across the local supermarket chains.
New this year: ShopRite.
Can it unseat Walmart, the four-time defending champ? And how have the other two players reacted to its arrival?
Update: The contest is now closed, but you'd still like to guess, go for it. Your guess just won't be part of the contest.
We don't know when the Trader Joe's on Wolf Road will open. If we did, we'd tell you.
So, let's have some fun. In the comments, guess the date you think the store will open. If you're correct, we'll give you a $25 gift card to TJ's. (please see details below)
We stopped by the store's location this week and peeked in the windows. The floor is now in, as are some of the shelving units (photo post jump). The company has said it plans to open the store during the second quarter of 2012 -- though things might have been slowed by a permit snag (now resolved).
Important: All comments must be submitted by noon on Thursday (May 31, 2012) to be considered. One entry per person. You must enter a valid email address (that you check regularly) with your comment (seriously, we want to give you gift card if you win). Please include the month and day you think the store will open. We will consider that all dates are for 2012 unless specifically mentioned otherwise. "Opening day" will be the first day the store is open for shopping to the general public as stated by the company. (If an opening date is announced before the entry deadline May 31 at noon -- the game's over and there will be no winner.) If multiple people pick the date correctly, a winner will be picked at random from the correct entries. The winner will be notified via email and must respond within 24 hours of being notified.
I love grocery shopping.
I love wandering the aisles, smelling fragrant greens, deciphering nutrition labels, discovering new and exciting products, imagining possibilities for weeknight dinners, finding great coupon deals, keeping track of prices in my grocery list app.
What I don't love about grocery shopping is that there are other people involved in my experience. People just get in my way and ruin everything.
Sometimes, one of those people is me.
Not often, but sometimes.
Supermarket Week is back on AOA. All this week we'll have posts comparing, thinking, and talking about supermarkets. Hey, we all have to eat.
I've been hearing a lot lately about home grocery delivery. The new Albany ShopRite offers home delivery, and the Westgate Price Chopper recently rolled out a similar service (and made sure we knew about it -- we received Price Chopper flyers advertising the service in the mail every day for weeks).
I've been intrigued by the idea. After my daughter was born last year many things changed within our family, including my work schedule and our income. I usually do each week's shopping on my Mondays off, with my one-year-old in tow. Sometimes this is awesome. Sometimes it means rushing through the store doing everything I can to stave off a toddler meltdown ("Here, hold this bag of beans. No no, don't eat the bag. Ok, now we have to give it to the lady to scan. She'll give it back! I promise!") And then there's the part where I do a circus routine to get the baby and the groceries in the house.
The idea of having someone else do the shopping -- and deliver the goods to my door -- is very appealing. So recently I gave each service a go.
Update July 2012: There continue to be lots of rumors. Here's some discussion about all that.
Yep, the Capital Region just got ShopRite, and soon we'll have Trader Joe's, and sometime after that a Whole Foods.
And, yet, the clamoring continues: What about Wegmans?
Updated 11:55 am May 3, 2012
Whole Foods announced in its quarterly earnings report yesterday that it has signed a lease for a store in the Albany, New York area. The company also mentioned it on its Twitter feed.
A spokesman for Whole Foods, Michael Sinatra, tells AOA the store will be at Colonie Center. He says the supermarket chain will be taking over a portion of the bottom floor of the Sears space there. The store is expected to be 32,000 square feet.
Sinatra says the target date for the store opening is
late 2013 early 2014. The store is still "very much in the planning phase." It will be Whole Foods' first store in upstate New York. Sinatra says the company already works with a lot of farms in this region.
"We've had requests for sometime from that area, so we're excited to open there," Sinatra says. And in an follow up email: "Nothing in particular pushed us over the edge [in deciding to expand to Albany] other than tremendous support from the local community in having us come to Albany."
At tip of the hat to Business Review for first reporting the lease signing.
What about Sears?
The announcement prompts the question: What about Sears? Susan Spaccarelli, Colonie Center's marketing manager, told us this morning that Sears will not be leaving the mall -- but she couldn't share details because the mall has not received official confirmation of the deal. Spaccarelli said Sears owns its chunk of the mall, so any leasing deal would be between Whole Foods and Sears.
A spokesman for Sears, Chris Braithwaite, tells us the company plans to continue on as usual at the Colonie Center location -- it's just that part of its space will be turned over to Whole Foods. He says it's too early to tell what the product mix will be in the reconfigured space. Braithwaite says the Colonie Center store is one of the bigger Sears, though he declined to share its square footage.
Sears and Whole Foods have teamed up for a similar deal in at least one other location, in Greensboro, North Carolina.
Supermarket field is getting crowded
Either by coincidence or strategy, the Whole Foods will be going in just down the street from the new Trader Joe's on Wolf Road. TJ's hasn't announced when that store will open, but it probably won't be long -- the company has said it would be during this quarter.
Another angle in all this: the local supermarket field is getting crowded -- and competitive. ShopRite is investing significantly in this area with two (eventually four) new stores. A Vermont-based market called Healthy Living -- which is a bit like Whole Foods -- is planning to open a store in Wilton. The relatively new Fresh Market in Latham has apparently been very well. The Honest Weight Food Co-op is looking to move ahead on its planned location in Albany. And the established players, Price Chopper especially, appear to be trying to step up their game.
Wegmans could cause a mass medical emergency right now with any sort of nod toward this area. Thousands would probably succumb to supermarket hysteria-induced fainting.
After the jump, much reaction -- a lot of it not positive -- from Twitter and Facebook.
photo: Flickr user Roebot
Price Chopper announced today that it's discounting its gasoline discount program (press release post jump).
Starting May 13, AdvantEdge card holders will earn a 10 cent/gallon gasoline discount for every $100 they spend. The current rate is 10 cents off per gallon at Sunoco for every $50 spent at Price Chopper. (It's been that way since PC expanded the program to this area in 2009.)
The supermarket chain is trying to frame the gas discount cut as a shift to more discounts on food. It says it's in the process of lowering prices on 10,000 products. Said Price Chopper in response to critical comments on the company's Facebook page:
We have had an overwhelming number of customers tell us that they want to save more money on food. We are lowering prices all over the store and our ads will be hotter than ever. ... We will also be offering even more ways to earn fuel rewards in our ads though the purchases of specific products...Check it out this Sunday!
It's fair to say the change wasn't going over well with people there (understatement).
The gasoline discount isn't some sort of fundamental human right. The company doesn't owe it to anyone. But it did help mitigate Price Chopper's often higher non-sale prices (though not necessarily enough to bring them in line with competitors). It'll be interesting to see if the change actually does result in lower food prices -- and in what way (sales, coupons, whatever).
The new Albany ShopRite opens this Thursday. If the opening of the Niskayuna location is any indication, the scene will probably be a zoo. Such is the product of the Capital Region's apparent supermarket obsession.
We were invited to check out the new Albany store today, and went for two reasons: 1) to gawk at perfectly stocked aisles and 2) to maybe find out why ShopRite has decided to build four stores in the Albany area -- and why now.
Not surprising: Wegmans was again the #1 ranked supermarket in Consumer Reports annual survey of its readers with a score of 88.
Number two? Trader Joe's (again) with a score of 86.
A lot of the other local chains didn't score that badly, though their ranks were a bit lower:
Hannaford ranked #19 (score 79) | Aldi #20 (79) | ShopRite #24 (78) | Price Chopper #30 (76) | Walmart #51 (69)
Fresh Market wasn't included in the rankings.
CR says the survey is a measure of "overall satisfaction" -- and differences of fewer than five points in a supermarket score are not meaningful. Also: "These findings represent the experiences of our readers, not necessarily those of the general population."
About Trader Joe's... A few people have asked if there's an opening date, yet. As of two weeks ago, the company said it still didn't have a date.
photo: Flickr user chrstine592
The new Albany ShopRite will open April 26, the company announced today. The store is at 709 Central Ave, on the site of the former OTB Tele-theater (a new version of which is now next door). Full press release after the jump.
We stopped by the store this past week to peek in the windows. The store looked more or less complete -- in fact, we noticed that some of the aisles were already stocked with products.
This will be the second ShopRite in the Capital Region. The company opened a store in Niskayuna last year, is building another in Slingerlands, and just got approval for a fourth store in the village of Colonie. [TU]
If the opening of the Niskayuna ShopRite is any indication, the scene surrounding the Albany store will be a zoo initially.
It'll be interesting to see how it affects competition -- Price Chopper and Hannaford are literally just down the street.
Earlier on AOA: A first look at ShopRite Niskayuna
Prompted by a discussion earlier this week about chain supermarkets and food deserts, we figured it'd be interesting to see how supermarkets in the Capital Region are distributed geographically. It might give us a better sense of what sort of supermarket access there is for each part of the area.
The resulting map -- along with another map of officially designated food deserts -- and some quick discussion, after the jump.
The Vermont-based Healthy Living Market and Cafe announced today that it's planning a new store at the Wilton Mall, aiming to be open next winter.
The market will occupy the space left empty by the former J.C. Penney at the mall. The company says the store will be about 35,000 square feet. (For comparison: the new ShopRite being built in Albany will be 65,000 square feet.) The company says it's planning to hire about 140 people.
The company touts its store as "a one-stop destination for natural groceries, fresh organic and local produce, locally sourced meats and poultry, crusty artisan breads, a world of cheese, health and beauty products, a complete vitamin/supplement department, freshly prepared foods and a broad selection of microbrews and wine."
We hear from a Vermonter that Health Living is like a Whole Foods or Fresh Market, but with an emphasis on local food. We also hear that its nickname around Burlington is "Wealthy Living," because it does tend to be high-end.
This will be the company's second store. Its first opened in South Burlington 26 years ago. If you've ever been to that store, we'd love to hear about it.
Full press release after the jump.
photo: Flickr user NNECAPA
Over the last month or so we've noticed signs popping up on dairy cases at both Hannaford and Price Chopper noting that there's an organic milk shortage. And the shelves in the case have appeared rather bare at times. (We were the ones who took the last half-gallon of organic milk at the Slingerlands Price Chopper the other day. Sorry about that.)
So, what's going on?
The supermarket market in the Capital Region is going through some interesting changes right now. ShopRite is making a major investment by building as many as four stores in the area, seemingly with the aim of going to head-to-head with Price Chopper. The Chopper is planning "the store of the decade" in Latham. Fresh Market apparently has been doing well at its spot in Latham. Target has added expanded grocery sections to its stores here. Walmart keeps pushing low prices in its grocery sections. Hannaford continues being Hannaford. And now there's going to be a Trader Joe's.
As these development have come down the conveyer belt, there's been concern about where all this will leave places such as Honest Weight and the Niskayuna Co-op. And it's a good question. Both markets have passionate fans -- but they're also relatively small players, and the market is getting crowded.
So, we were interested to read how Honest Weight sees its place in the market shaping up. From an email the co-op sent out yesterday:
In the light of recent reports of major expansions from regional and national chain stores, it may bear repeating more often - to yourself, family, friends, customers, and acquaintances - that Honest Weight is NOT in competition. It is in a class by itself. We have a niche (hell, we created it!), and we will remain strong within it. ...
Perceived 'competition' is always a challenge. Honest Weight has faced and risen to the challenge over the years and we will do so now. While we have been planning for the new store, we've been tightening our belts and improving the things we're known for- diverse and natural product mix, fantastic produce, bulk, cheese and meat selections - and top-notch grocery and deli selections. We have been ramping up our catering department and honing our baking and cooking skills. You've seen the results, and eaten them. With our excellent customer service, our skilled and knowledgeable staff, our commitment to the community and our 35 years of passion for the healthiest food and widest product choice available, we welcome side-by-side comparison with any chain grocery.
The full email, which references Trader Joe's, is after the jump.
Whether you call it competition or not, having more players on the local supermarket scene will force markets to step up their game -- or risk losing out. And even then, they may end up with less than they had before the shake-up. The pie here isn't growing very fast -- but there will be a lot more people trying to take slices from it.
In the short term, that could be good shoppers -- lower prices, better service, better and more interesting selection. Let's hope it works that way in the long term, too.
Trader Joe's has confirmed that it will be opening a store at 79 Wolf Road in Colonie. The company says the store will open during the 2nd quarter of this year. The grocery store will be approximately 13,000 square feet.
Commence whatever ceremony you had planned.
The strip mall where the TJ's is being built formerly housed an Office Max. When we stopped by last week to peek through the windows, the interior had been gutted to the dirt. A construction worker told us the space will be filled by a "a Chinese restaurant and a gourmet grocery store."
The Wolf Road Trader Joe's will not be carrying wine, says TJ's spokesperson Alison Mochizuki. This isn't surprising -- in New York State retailers are only allowed one location to sell wine and liquor, and TJ's has one in Manhattan.
As for why the company chose Albany -- and whether the We Want Trader Joe's in the Capital District group influenced the company, Mochizuki says in an email:
There's a lot of foodies in Albany! We consider ourselves the neighborhood grocery store and feel Albany is a wonderful community to be part of.
Although it is very nice to be wanted, wooing doesn't go into our decision making processes of selecting a location.
Full company press release after the jump -- and a bunch of reaction from people on Twitter...
Officials from ShopRite and the city of Albany will officially announce today the plans for a new ShopRite in Albany. The all-but-official project is being constructed at the back of the OTB Tele-theater property on Central Ave just to the east of Everett Road.
The supermarket company says it's planning for a spring 2012 opening. We stopped by the site yesterday -- the frame of the building is up, but there's still a lot of work ahead on the interior. (The current tele-theater, which stands very close to the new supermarket building, is slated to be demolished for a new OTB facility.) [TU]
The Albany location will be ShopRite's second store in the Capital Region. It opened a Niskayuna location in October. That new store -- right in Price Chopper's corporate backyard -- has set off what looks like the beginning of a supermarket war with Price Chopper, with competing sales, services, and even a lawsuit.
The (re)arrival of ShopRite in the Capital Region brings more competition to the supermarket scene here and that's almost never a bad thing for customers. This spot in Albany will be especially competitive -- Price Chopper and Hannaford are just up the street. There are rumors ShopRite is planning a total of four stores for this area.
More details from the press release are after the jump -- as are few more pics of the construction site.
Check it out: Craig (Ellsass) gave ShopRite's home delivery service a try and wrote about the experience:
I love shopping online. I don't find much appeal in trekking to a traditional brick-and-mortar shop during whatever their hours happen to be, forcing a smile when the cashier mentions the weather, and waiting in endless lines. So it was with great excitement that I discovered that finally, in 2011, I can have groceries delivered to my suburban home for a reasonable price. Specifically, ShopRite in Niskayuna offers both in-store pickup (free) and at-home delivery at least as far as Latham (free until Thanksgiving for $50+ orders, otherwise a very fair $6.95 fee).
So how did it go? The ride was a little bumpy, likely due to ShopRite being very new in the area, but it all worked out well.
His post has lots of description, screengrabs, pics (those are his groceries on the right), and tips.
Price Chopper also now has a home-delivery service (hello, competition). Has anyone tried that?
After stumbling across what looked like a wine display in the World's Largest Walmart, Emily emailed with what we can only imagine was some distress:
Walmart wine? Did some law get passed that I missed?
The short answer: no.
The longer answer is... uh... tacky.
Updated at 3:30 pm after hearing from Wakefern/ShopRite.
The Golub Corp -- which owns Price Chopper -- is suing the cooperative behind ShopRite over ads the cooperative allegedly bought on Google, the Times Union first reported today. Golub is alleging trademark infringement, false designation of origin and unfair competition. (We pulled the filing -- it's embedded after the jump.)
We noticed the ads last week while looking up some stuff about Price Chopper. A search for "Price Chopper" on October 20 returned the regular search results -- and at the top: a text ad for ShopRite. We took a screengrab (above) and figured we might eventually use it as evidence in what appears to a supermarket war that's starting to heat up.
Golub saw the situation rather differently. From the filing:
Upon information and belief, Defendant Wakefern has infringed Plaintiff Golub's registered mark in interstate commerce by various acts, including purchasing keywords including or relating to the PRICE CHOPPER® mark and engaging in Internet advertising campaigns using the PRICE CHOPPER® mark, to sell, offer for sale and advertise Wakefern's retail grocery goods and/or services. Defendant's use of the PRICE CHOPPER® mark is without permission or authority of Plaintiff Golub and such use by Defendant is likely to cause confusion, to cause mistake and/or to deceive.
Golub alleges Wakefern also bought similar ads on Bing and Yahoo (and it includes screengrabs in the filing).
The Pioneer Market -- The Troy Community Food Co-op -- closed Saturday. The co-op emailed members the news Saturday night and posted a message on the org's Facebook page. (The email is pasted in full after the jump.)
The co-op had reportedly seen a bump in traffic lately because of the opening of the nearby City Station mixed-use development. But it wasn't enough. From the email: "While the co-op has had some good days, our monthly sales still remained well below the level we needed to make the co-op a sustainable business. We lost money every month during our first year, and essentially we have run out of cash."
By many accounts the market got off to a rough start when it opened in October 2010, and it made appeals to members on multiple occasions to help keep it afloat. In July it warned that closure could come soon.
The idea for the co-op was a good one -- downtown Troy lacked a supermarket, and the co-op held the promise of a consistent source of healthy food for the area. But the execution seems to have been uneven. As Mike Avent -- who joined the co-op's board this past summer -- explained in a Soapbox piece here on AOA in July:
The reality is that the co-op has never been on firm footing. In some ways, every day we've been open has been a minor miracle. I believe we opened the co-op with the minimum amount of capital needed to get the doors open. We have been in a slow moving crisis ever since. Undoubtedly, board and owners patted themselves on the back for a job well done when we should have scrambled as if the fate of the co-op depended on it.
There's a meeting for owners planned for November 1 at the Christ Church United Methodist at 7 pm to discuss the closure.
+ The co-op still owes $1.8 million to banks, government agencies, and the Community Loan Fund -- plus what members loaned it. [TU]
+ Of the co-op's cash situation: "The numbers were very stark," said the board president. [Troy Record]
+ The co-op's lenders are trying to find someone to re-open the market. [TU]
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.
Price Chopper says it's rolling out an online shopping service called "Shops4U" next week at its Niskayuna store. From the press release:
To access Shops4U, Price Chopper customers simply go to the online ordering tab on www.pricechopper.com and pull down the menu for Shops4U. Once they register, customers can pick and choose from among tens of thousands of food items carried in their local Price Chopper store. Orders can be picked up at the store or delivered to homes, offices or community gathering spaces in the Niskayuna area.
In addition to the online component, Shops4U also allows customers to interact with specially trained Price Chopper teammates who will go through the store to select the best in fresh meat, produce and seafood, along with bakery and packaged grocery items. When a customer places an order online, the pick-up time is indicated. The order will be selected and ready at that time for pick up. The customer need only drive up to the designated pick-up parking spots in front of the Niskayuna store and call the phone number indicated on the sign there. The grocery order will be brought out to the car, where the guest can pay by credit card and drive off, without ever having to leave the car.
Delivery orders will be brought to the home, business or community gathering space by Price Chopper's professional delivery staff within a designated time period.
The service costs $10, plus another $5.99 for delivery (with a discount for the first order, and every fifth order after that). The full press release is pasted after the jump.
The company says it plans to eventually extend the service to all of its stores.
In what is almost surely not a coincidence, Shops4U is rolling out just before the planned grand opening of the new ShopRite in Niskayuna on October 2. And what's one of the services ShopRite's been touting: "ShopRite from Home," an order ahead and delivery service.
We're not buzzing with excitement over ShopRite coming (back) to the Capital Region -- but if it can prompt competition with the players already here (especially on price), that's not a bad thing.
While perusing Progressive Grocer recently*, we came across this interview with Neil Golub, the CEO of the company that owns Price Chopper.
A few bits that were interesting:
+ Ben and Bill Golub, who had been in the wholesale food business in Schenectady, set up their first retail store after checking out a market on Long Island in 1931.
+ The market they set up -- "The Public Service Market" -- opened in Green Island in 1932. (The first Central Market, which would become the name for their chain, opened in Schenectady in 1935.)
+ The company changed the markets' name to Price Chopper in 1973. It also made the switch to being open 24/7. Golub says sales went up 30 percent after making the switch to being always open.
The interviewed is embedded above. And here's more on Price Chopper's history from its website.
(Video of the interview is embedded after the jump. Caution: it auto-plays.)
* What, you're not reading Progressive Grocer?
Updated September 13 at 7:30 am
Ben & Jerry's has a new flavor: Schweddy Balls. You've probably heard. It's been all over the interwebs. It's inspired (if that's the word) by the famous SNL in which candy maker Pete Schweddy (played by Alec Baldwin) brings his "Schweddy Balls" to an NPR food show (it's embedded after the jump).
Anyway, Fox44 in Burlington is reporting that "all" Price Chopper locations won't be carrying the ice cream because of the name. We put in a request for comment with Price Chopper Thursday afternoon about the story, but haven't heard back (we'll update if we do), so we can't confirm. They've admittedly had more important things to focus on this week. (
We also didn't hear back from Hannaford -- maybe no one wants to touch the Schweddy Balls issue. Hannaford got back to us -- their response after the jump.)
Said a Ben & Jerry's spokesman to Time about the name: "The name is irreverent. But we've always been about having some irreverence and having some fun ... We're not trying to offend people. Our fans get the humor."
So what's in Schweddy Balls? From Ben & Jerry's site: "vanilla ice cream with a hint of rum and is loaded with fudge covered rum and milk chocolate malt balls." Reviews of the flavor have been... mixed. [NY Mag Grub Street]
The Ben & Jerry's scoop shop on Lark Street in Albany says the
flavor is currently available there (it was sold out as of the evening of September 12). The RPI scoop shop says it might have the flavor this weekend. And the Saratoga shop says maybe by the end of next week.
The Honest Weight Food Co-op announced this week that it's passed the $1 million mark in loans from the public -- and it's now close to moving ahead with its new store.
The co-op already has a site lined up Albany's West End neighborhood -- and a new building has been in the works for years. But a financing snag in March 2010 prompted the co-op to reformulate its plan.
Now it looks like construction could start as early as this fall.
Whole Foods held its quarterly earnings call yesterday and announced that it had signed leases for eight new locations -- none of them in the Capital Region. (We had gotten a tip recently about a local Whole Foods, called the company, and it said wait for the earnings call. So, OK.)
Some hope for the seemingly large number of people who pine for a local Whole Foods: the company says it's planning to open as many as 59 stores over the next two fiscal years (list of the 54 stores publicly announced to be in development). If you'd like to play commercial real estate sleuth, here are the location criteria they look to meet.
That's a lot of stores to spread around. And it also doesn't hurt that, as we've heard rumored and totally unofficially, the Fresh Market in Latham has been absolutely killing on revenue. If true, Whole Foods almost surely knows that and, you'd have to think, at least has its eye on the area.
Trader Joe's: From an article earlier this year in the Charleston, South Carolina Post and Currier about how TJ's picks new locations (emphasis added): "From his talks with Trader Joe's representatives, [property owner] Page said the grocer likes to be close to rival Whole Foods, which is just around the corner from his antique mall." It's all connected! There's a conspiracy! What did Danny Wegman know and when did he know it! (Oh, wait... wrong story.)
Tangent: When/if the Capital Region gets a Whole Foods and Trader Joe's, a lot of people will need new hobbies.
photo: Flickr user Roebot
This past Sunday on the Soapbox, Leah offered suggestions to the struggling Troy Food Co-op -- and used the market's situation to look at the broader issue of gentrification in Troy. Her post prompted a lot of discussion, some of it pointed. Here's a response from one of the co-op's board members.
My name is Mike, and I have been a board member of the Troy Co-op for about 6 weeks. I write to explain our situation and ask for help. Frankly, we need all the help we can get.
There is a misconception that the co-op has narrowly averted a series of catastrophes since opening, and that the latest email represents another bullet to dodge. The reality is that the co-op has never been on firm footing. In some ways, every day we've been open has been a minor miracle. I believe we opened the co-op with the minimum amount of capital needed to get the doors open. We have been in a slow moving crisis ever since. Undoubtedly, board and owners patted themselves on the back for a job well done when we should have scrambled as if the fate of the co-op depended on it.
We're not out of time yet, but there is no margin for error.
Thanks to our owners, the co-op started off reasonably well when it opened last October, and sales increased slowly but steadily through December. Since then, however, sales have declined. Sales were nearly $160,000 in December, but fell to only $134,000 in June. We need sales of at least $175,000 a month to break even. Our loss in June was $18,000. Unless sales improve dramatically, we will be forced to close the co-op in a matter of months.
The full message is after the jump. It says the market's board has "a strategy to address the co-op's financial crisis."
The Pioneer Market, as the co-op is also known, opened last October. And as soon as that December there were already signs of financial trouble. In January of this year, it announced it had gotten a $270,000 loan from the Empire State Development Corporation, and the head of the board of directors said leaders were "cautiously optimistic."
It's sad to see the co-op struggle. We've enjoyed the few times we've shopped there, and there seems to be a need for a market in downtown Troy.
We were poking around The Fresh Market in Latham this past weekend, casually scanning the frozen foods section when we stopped dead in the aisle, mouth dropped open: The Fresh Market carries Graeter's ice cream
What is this Graeter's you speak of?
Graeter's is some of the best ice cream you'll ever eat.
Almost everyone who shops the Niskayuna Co-op shops somewhere else, too. But the place is widely considered to be the area's grocery heart and soul -- and inspires a fierce, fervent loyalty among its shoppers.
OK, so why? And now that a large supermarket is setting up just down the street, what now?
The long-rumored re-entry of ShopRite into the Capital Region supermarket pool became official today. Schenectady County officials announced the chain will be setting up at St. James Square in Niskayuna. From the press release:
In addition to a broad array of groceries and fresh produce, the store will have the services that ShopRite customers have come to expect including: a fresh bake shop; fresh meats; fresh seafood; full-service floral department; and pharmacy, as well as a broad selection of ethnic foods and natural and organic products in every department. The store will also offer a wide array of prepared foods including freshly made brick oven Pizza, Gourmet Coffee Bars, fresh salad and Mediterranean Olive bars and a selection of Japanese and Chinese specialties for dining in or taking out, as well as a fresh-made sushi bar.
In other words, it's pretty much like any other modern supermarket. One thing a little different: "ShopRite from Home," a service that lets you select groceries online and then have them delivered or be ready for pick-up.
The release says the chain plans to have the store open by the fall of this year. The TU has reported that ShopRite is also eyeing locations in Albany and Slingerlands.
ShopRite ranked #22 in Consumer Reports' 2009 survey of supermarket chains, right behind Hannaford. Price Chopper was #27 -- though all three chains had roughly the same score.
We recently had the chance to cruise through a ShopRite in New Jersey. It was... well... a supermarket, nothing really to get excited about. People here at AOA seemed to have pretty much same take when we asked about ShopRite a few months ago. But it's another competitor for the market, and that's rarely a bad thing for shoppers.
One more thing: for all the people pining for a Wegmans -- it would seem that adding yet another full-scale chain to this market wouldn't exactly make the Capital Region a more attractive place for the W.
It's Supermarket Week on AOA -- a whole week of posts about shopping for food. Because we all have to eat.
Time was, if you were stuck having to pick up something for dinner at Target, that meant grabbing some bread and some mediocre cold cuts, or maybe chicken strips and frozen veggies.
Things have changed a bit over at the Colonie Target.
Changed like green curry with shrimp and sugar snap peas over jasmine rice, plus a green salad with cranberries, balsamic almonds and fresh tangerine slices.
That's what I made for dinner after going to Target earlier this week.
Target's food offerings have expanded. At the end of March, the Targets in Colonie and Wilton opened what they call "PFresh departments," an expanded grocery section with produce, meat and baked goods. Targets in Latham and East Greenbush will get PFresh departments this summer.
I went over to the Northway Mall Target to check it out.
It's Supermarket Week on AOA -- a whole week of posts about shopping for food. Because we all have to eat.
For years I've been shopping at the Asian Food Market on Colvin Ave in Albany, but in the last year, the Asian Supermarket -- the newbie Asian market in the Capital Region -- has become a part of my regular rotation.
The Asian Supermarket is similar to the Asian markets you'd see in major metro areas -- bright lights, clean floors, tall shelves, and a ton of selection. It's one-stop shopping for all of your Asian grocery needs.
I find myself there at least once a week. Here are a few of the reasons why...
It's Supermarket Week -- all this week AOA will have posts about grocery shopping. Because we all have to eat.
If you want to understand how Greulich's, an independent market, has made it since 1953 at its current location in Guilderland -- start with the people:
+ Edna Greulich, now 84, opened the market with her husband Arthur -- and is still at the store on a daily basis.
+ Eddie Lysiak, a butcher, recently received a thank you note and package of chocolate drumsticks from a customer thanking him for serving her family for 50 years.
+ And manager Robert Van Allen takes only three days off a year.
Greulich's can't offer gas cards or the absolute lowest prices on most items, so they offer service. And after six decades in business, it's still working for them.
It's Supermarket Week on AOA -- a whole week of stuff about grocery shopping. Because we all have to eat.
AOA's annual comparison of local supermarket chain prices is back. Walmart is the three-time defending champ.
Can Hannaford or Price Chopper close the gap this year?
Feeling the drag of winter, ChuckD emails:
Something that would really help me make it through would be access to a nice assortment of fresh fruit (and not apples, pears, oranges of any kind, or bananas please. They're played out).
In this the Golden Age of Shipping, is it possible to find some peaches or apricots, or other tasty summery tidbits that don't taste like, well, my unsweetened oatmeal, cuz that's getting played out too!
Schenectady area would be great but at this point we'll travel (within reason).
This could be a tough one. And while we sympathize with Chuck's desire for tasty produce, on some level this may be a case where we all just have to learn to deal -- this is the Northeast and it is winter. A little winter longing for fruit will make that first strawberry of the season taste even better.
So... any suggestions for Chuck? Please share!
The recently-opened Troy Food Co-op, which apparently has been on shaky financial ground, announced late last week that it's gotten a $270k loan from the Empire State Development Corporation. From the email sent out to members:
We have good news to share with you! The Empire State Development Corporation's loan for $270,000 has been released to the Pioneer Food Market. This planned-for capital is the culmination of hundreds of hours of work by your Finance Committee, beginning in early 2009. The best part of this news is that this is a "convertible loan", meaning that if the market reaches employment goals in its next five years of operations, the loan is fully converted into a grant...and we will owe nothing!
The full email is after the jump. It reports the co-op is getting some outside consulting help, and will be focusing on marketing and outreach. It also says sales to member owners have increased (the co-op had been pushing for owners to shop more at the market).
The head of the market's board of directors tells the TU that the co-op still needs to secure more funding, but "We're cautiously optimistic."
Also: In a nod to 1/11/11, Troy Food Co-op is offering 11 percent off on purchases today.
(Thanks, person who sent this to us)
Earlier on AOA: A first look at the new Troy Food Co-op
Reading between the lines, the takeaways are:
* Sales to members were over-projected by quite a lot. Members are now asked to actively adapt their shopping habits and "Buy co-op first." That's fine, and I'll do it, but this wasn't acknowledged as a [bad and predictable] misjudgment. Of course many members join only to register support, probably more than half. A simple Zip Code analysis would have revealed the subset of "member-owners" capable of being reliable patrons. Member affluence is also seemingly over-estimated, as if each represents a suburban multi-person household. Blue skies and granola, baby.
* There are boons in the pipeline. Certain loans and grants are in play, as is assistance from regional co-ops. This is good, cuz it's all about getting over the fiscal sustainability hump before the clock runs out. Outreach to lower-income and hyper-local populations hasn't gotten off the ground yet, so the true sweet spot is still out there to capture.
* Short revenue currently eats payroll. This tells two tales: exuberant staffing in correction, and some room for additional cost cutting. Sounds like there are still some bucks to carve out of payroll if the road to equilibrium demands it. Probably will.
So, much as I dislike the Kool-aid management model, Buy Co-op First. Sounds like the hump can maybe be cleared, but it'll take immediate membership purchasing support, starting now.
Also from the meeting: the co-op says about half of the market's 900 members have been shopping there. But the board's president says the recent media attention had led to the three best shopping days ever at the market this past weekend. [WNYT] [Troy Record]
(Thanks to Lou for the update)
Problems at the Troy Food Co-op?
From a recent email sent out to Troy food co-op members:
The cold hard fact is that in October, only 38% of sales came from you. When we began this journey in September 2005, we knew our business success depended on sales from the Co-op's owners who invested dollars and volunteer time. As our financial situation continues to worsen, we're wondering where YOUR shopping dollars are. We need all of you, the owners, to spend a minimum of $30.00/week (or more!) to meet our weekly sales requirement to remain viable.
It's sad to hear the co-op might be having problems. The market just opened in October -- pretty much everything we've heard about it has been generally positive. And downtown Troy really needed a supermarket.
Update December 10: the head of the co-op's board of directors tells Chris Churchill: "We're laden with debt, and we knew we would be ... But we thought we could depend on our members to help us make our sales figures and that has not happened." She also said the co-op was planning on getting a loan that hasn't come about. [TU]
Earlier on AOA: A first look at the new Troy Food Co-op
(Thanks, person who forwarded us this)
The ShopRite supermarket chain is reportedly looking to build a store on Central Ave in Albany, according to Carol DeMare's story in the TU this morning about plans for the Capital OTB tele-theater site. "Sources" say as many as three ShopRites could be built in the area.
This is an interesting development because ShopRite would be the first full-scale supermarket alternative to the Price Chopper/Hannaford/Walmart trio since Grand Union dissolved. And competition is rarely a bad thing for consumers.
Also, for all the people pining for a Wegmans -- it would seem that adding yet another full-scale chain to this market wouldn't exactly make the Capttal Region a more attractive place for the W.
ShopRite ranked #22 in Consumer Reports' 2009 survey of supermarket chains, right behind Hannaford. Price Chopper was #27 -- though all three chains had roughly the same score.
We can't remember ever being in a ShopRite, though we've seen a bunch of them in New Jersey. Has anyone shopped there? What's the scoop? Would a Capital Region ShopRite prompt you to switch?
Earlier on AOA:
+ More Wegmans speculation
+ A first look at thew new Fresh Market in Latham
+ A first look at the new Troy Food Co-op
+ Supermarket Showdown III (our ongoing price comparison of local supermarkets)
Updated Monday evening
Chris Churchill points to speculation by the Syracuse Post-Standard's Bob Niedt that a Wegmans store in the Albany area will be "likely announced and possibly under construction" by the fall of 2011. Niedt's reasoning is this: Wegmans is setting up in the Boston area, and as a result, its trucks will be coming through this area -- so it's likely they'll open stores here and in Western Mass, too.
A Capital Region Wegmans would send supermarket obsessives here into a tizzy. It seems like whenever we talk about local supermarkets on AOA, there's always someone who pops in with a "yeah, but it's not Wegmans" comment. The chain is often ranked highly. And more competition is rarely a bad thing for consumers.
But... we're still skeptical about this latest speculation.
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.
Via Fred comes this pic of a Mexican Coca-Cola display at the Slingerlands Price Chopper this afternoon:
Made with Real Sugar
Product of Mexico 355 ml
The price for one of the glass bottles: $1.39.
Soda snobs have long touted the superiority of Mexican Coke -- made with sugar from sugar cane -- over the domestic swill, made with high-fructose corn syrup. It was once hard to find in the US (you could often score it at places like taquerias in the Southwest and California), but a Costco started carrying it a few years back. And recently it's spread to more big box stores and supermarkets (apparently with Coca-Cola's blessing).
This is the first time we've heard of it being carried in a Price Chopper or Hannaford. (Daniel spotted some during the opening of the new Fresh Market in Latham.) Until now, Coke drinkers looking for the good stuff had to wait for the kosher-for-Passover version.
Earlier on AOA: We enjoyed a Mexican coke with our taco from Tortillaville in Hudson.
A man in the Syracuse area has alleged that a Price Chopper rep contacted his friend's employer and requested "disciplinary action be taken" against his friend because of a negative comment the friend made about the supermarket chain on Twitter.
This story is so odd -- and outrageous -- that we met it with great skepticism when we encountered it late Monday afternoon. But as the story quickly spread across the web Monday night, large parts of it appear to be true.
Shadi and Jason:
"Where can we find fresh, whole sardines?"
Our first thought was to check with The Original Two Cousins fish market. So we called up the Newton Plaza location in Latham this morning. The helpful people there said they don't have fresh sardines -- but they do have frozen. A two pound bag is $7.95.
Anyone have other suggestions for Shadi and Jason? Maybe you've seen whole sardines in one of the supermarket seafood sections. Please share!
photo: Flickr user FotoosVonRobin
Local Ocean is an interesting operation. It's a huge warehouse space filled with tanks for raising fish. The setup is a mostly closed system that recycles its water supply with a filtration system that uses bacteria. The plant/farm/fish bowls reportedly cost more than $10 million to build. The company says the system should be flexible enough to raise a range of fish, both saltwater and fresh water. (There's a short video clip of Local Ocean officials talking about the concept embedded after the jump.)
Seafood stocks all around the world are under pressure from overfishing. Traditional fish farms have stepped up production to meet demand, but they've come under criticism for their environmental impact. That has some people hoping that indoor fish farms will provide a viable -- and more sustainable -- alternative.
Price Chopper says the Local Ocean fish will be available in six stores Hudson, Shoppers World in Clifton Park, Loudon Plaza in Latham, Bethlehem, Niskayuna and Saratoga Springs (Route 50). It'll be $9.99 a pound.
Earlier on AOA: Hannaford to sell only sustainably-sourced seafood
photo: Price Chopper
The Pioneer Food Market co-op reports that it's nearing completion on construction and is aiming for a soft opening in late September.
If you want to check out how things are coming along at the new market in downtown Troy, there's a public preview Friday at 10 am, and then later on during Troy Night Out from 5-9 pm.
The co-op reports that 760 people have invested in the project -- and it's continuing to look for more loans from individuals.
Hannaford's parent company announced today that all of the seafood carried in its supermarkets will be "coming from sources managed for sustainability" by the end of next March.
The chain has worked with a nonprofit org, the Gulf of Maine Research Institute, to develop the guidelines for the program, which also cover farmed seafood. It'll be interesting to see if the switch to sustainable sources has an effect on price.
Fish stocks around the world failing due in large part to the fact that people are catching the fish faster than they can reproduce. Climate change also seems to be putting pressure on the stocks. By one estimate, cited in the recent book Four Fish, we would need "four or five oceans" to keep up with the current demand from the world's population.
Hannaford's parent company isn't the only one to take to notice. The corporations behind McDonald's, Long John Silver's and Red Lobster recently announced they're looking to buy more sustainable seafood (it seems the Filet of Fish had quite the impact on cod stocks).
The Monterey Bay Aquarium has a well established "pocket guide" for buying "ocean-friendly seafood" -- it's even broken down by region.
AOA's annual comparison of local supermarket chain prices is back. Walmart is the two-time defending champ -- and it hasn't even been close.
Can Hannaford or Price Chopper close the gap this year?
First, outdoor ice cream stand openings -- now kosher for Passover Coke? It really must be spring.
We've gotten reports of sightings of the HFCS-free soda at the both the Slingerlands and Madison Ave (Albany) Price Choppers. Chances are it'll be in a store near you soon, if it isn't already (Hannaford usually carries it, too). Look in the special Passover section. Check for the tell-tale yellow cap.
So, what's the big deal? Well, normal Coke is made with high fructose corn syrup, which makes it not kosher for Passover (among other things). It also, according to soda snobs, makes Coke taste not quite right. Kosher for Passover Coke, on the other hand, is made with cane sugar (like Mexican Coke, which goes for about $1.80/bottle on Amazon) and is said to be smoother and have a cleaner finish. (Pepsi has been trying to capitalize on this with its "throwback" line.)
(Thanks, Fred and Amanda)
So, you know that proposed Troy food co-op there's been so much buzz about?
Well if everything goes according to plan, it looks like you'll be able to shop there by this summer.
Here's the scoop.
We noticed this sign and cart when we walked into Hannaford on Central Ave in Albany the other day. It touts how much you could have saved if you bought the cart of items at Hannaford instead of Price Chopper. The items in the cart included stuff like macaroni and cheese, Nutrigrain bars and peanut butter.
Of course, Hannaford is going to set this up so it can come out on top. It proclaimed that the Chopper's "cart" was 14 percent more expensive. Price Chopper could probably pick its own cart and come out cheaper than Hannaford.
When we did our annual price check of 40 items last year, we found that Price Chopper was about three percent more expensive than Hannaford. They were both more expensive than Walmart.
Also: Here's another bit to stoke the rumors about Wegmans and the Capital Region.
This week my continuing tour of the area's ethnic markets has brought me to India Bazaar in Colonie. Think curries and chutneys galore. Think at least a dozen of varieties of naan bread. Think fun snacks. Think "gripe water."
Seriously, the selection here is pretty impressive.
Paterson threatens state Senate, landfill expansion needs another permit, Troy dog park controversy, another pizza person mugged, gourmet market coming to Latham
The state Senate was in session for all of five minutes yesterday -- and the Republicans weren't even there. [Daily Politics]
David Paterson has called another "extraordinary" session for today. If senators don't show, he says he'll move to withhold their pay. He's also threatening to send the State Police after missing senators. A Brooklyn senator responded to Paterson's threats by calling him a "coward" who "will not be returning as governor." Leaders of both caucuses say their memberships will be at the Capitol today. [TU] [Daily Politics] [NYT] [Buffalo News]
A business run by Pedro Espada, one of the senators who set this whole circus in motion, owes almost $350k in back taxes. In 2007, Espada made almost $460k at the org, which gets funding from the state. [TU]
Even if the DEC approves the Albany landfill expansion, the project will still have to get the OK from the Army Corps of Engineers (though it won't stop the landfill from being piled higher). [TU]
- Every time you spend $50 at the Chopper, you become eligible for a 10 cent/gallon discount at Sunoco
- Those 10 cent discounts build on each other -- so if you spend $150 at the Chopper, you get a 30 cent/gallon discount on gas.
- The grocery totals add up over the course of 90 days -- tracked by your AdvantEdge account.
- You can "spend" your accumulated discount on a single gas purchase of up to 20 gallons.
- Go back to step 1.
At least, that's how we think this works.
It's pretty easy to spend $200 at the Chopper over the course of a month. That would lead to a 40 cent/gallon gas discount. Depending on the size of your car, that could mean a discount of $4 or more on a fill-up.
So this could be a good deal with you're already a Chopper regular. But if you're not, you'd probably save more money overall by shopping at Hannaford or Walmart.
The new "green" Price Chopper officially opened today in Colonie. The Golub Corporation is touting the location as "the most advanced Green Store in the entire Capital Region."
OK, consider us interested. So we checked it out.
Consumer Reports has released supermarket rankings based on a survey of thousands of its readers (you need to be a CR subscriber to see the whole list). And the results are going to cause people in the Capital Region with already-established supermarket envy turn even a few more shades green.
(Paging Bruce Roter!)
Soda snobs rejoice! Kosher for Passover Coke has started arriving in local supermarkets.
What's the big deal? Well, normal Coke is made with high fructose corn syrup, which makes it not kosher for Passover. It also, according to soda snobs, makes Coke taste not quite right. Kosher for Passover Coke, on the other hand, is made with cane sugar (like Mexican Coke) and is said to be smoother and have a cleaner finish. (Pepsi is reportedly trying to capitalize on the soda snob market by launching a product made with cane sugar.)
Here's where we've found Kosher for Passover Coke so far...
A year ago we price-checked a "basket" of 40 items in an attempt to figure out which local supermarket chain has the lowest prices. Walmart came out on top -- it wasn't even close -- followed by Hannaford and then Price Chopper.
But, things change: prices go up, prices go down, economies go into recession.
So, this past weekend we checked the same basket again. Here's what we found...
One of the best things about working on AOA this past year is that we've had the chance to meet a lot of interesting people. We'll be highlighting a handful of them between now and the start of 2009.
People in the Capital Region are passionate about their supermarkets. And maybe none more so than Bruce Roter.
We got an email from Meagan last week:
Every holiday season, I find myself in an egg nog debate with a friend/coworker/stranger about who makes the best egg nog. My family and I are loyal fans of Stewart's egg nog (the premium one, not that "light" crap). I've always immediately dismissed anyone else's rebuttal. I have given a couple other egg nogs a try, and in my opinion, they were nowheres near as delish as Stewart's.
So you know what this means? Yeah, that's right: egg nog taste test!
Updated Tuesday at 2:45
Jess gave us the heads-up this afternoon that David Paterson's proposed budget would also open the way for supermarkets in New York State to sell wine. From a story in the Poughkeepsie Journal:
"We will create a spike in the sale of wine," especially New York wine, Patrick Hooker, the state's agriculture commissioner, said in an interview with Gannett News Service.
Wegmans, a leading upstate supermarket chain, applauded Paterson's plan Monday, saying the law is long overdue.
"We love the idea of supermarkets being allowed to sell wine," said spokeswoman Jeanne Colleluori. "We have supported this idea for decades because we believe it's a great service to the customers."
But liquor stores were quick to criticize the proposal, saying it would lead stores to close and therefore damage the local economy.
And as Jess points out, this could also open the way for more Trader Joe's in New York because the chain does a lot of business selling its discount wines.
But there's a bit of a catch, too: the budget would also more than double the tax on wine.
One more thing: in a little bit of an odd twist, the Paterson admin is sort of now telling people to stop drinking soda and start drinking wine. Sort of.
photo: Flickr user woolennium
Paterson proposes $1 billion in cuts, more flooding, track season all wet, principal arrested, permits for off-leash dogs, Giants coming back
David Paterson has proposed a plan to cut $1 billion in spending from the state budget. Half of that would come from Medicaid funding, $250 million from aid to local governments, and $100 million from legislative pork projects. As you might expect, legislators and lobbyists are already protesting. Local governments are also worried -- for example, Schenectady figures Paterson's plan could cut $700,000 in funding for the city. [TU] [Daily Gazette]
North Greenbush and Rensselaer were the latest parts of the Capital Region to get swamped by rain. The Amtrak line between Hudson and Rensselaer had to be closed for a while because the tracks were underwater. The 74-year-old mayor of Rensselaer said yesterday's flooding was the worst he'd ever seen in the city. A Rensselaer County legislator says the drainage systems there just haven't been able to keep up with the pace of development. [TU] [Troy Record]
Both attendance and the amount bet at the Track are down from last year at the season's midpoint. Attendance is down more than 16 percent and the "handle" is down 8 percent. [Saratogian]
The almost-finished makeover of the Price Chopper on Central in Albany includes a new international aisle -- or to be more exact, two aisles that form a whole section. And it's fun! Really, it is. It's like the EPCOT of supermarket aisles. Here are a few things that caught our eye as we were browsing recently...
Bruce Roter tells the TU that a local TJ's store is now "no longer a question of if, but when." The evidence? An email from the Trader Joe's vice president of real estate, in which the VP states, "Albany does seem to have a lot of potential for Trader Joe's."
Earlier AOA coverage of the Trader Joe's campaign.
Our last supermarket price check was so popular, we decided to give it another go. But to shake things up a bit this time around, we decided to find out which store has the best bargains.
So we picked a "basket" of 20 items that come in both name brand and store brand so we could find out how much we could save by going generic. And to make things a little more interesting, we tossed discount market Aldi into the mix. Here are the results...
It seems there will be many chapters in the Capital Region Trader Joe's story. And in the latest installment, Rensselaer County legislator Brian Zweig (or someone claiming to be him) reports in a comment on the TU's business blog that he's been in touch with the somewhat secretive supermarket -- and an Albany TJ's is "likely." Eventually. Maybe.
Zweig also reports that "other high-end food retailers are also exploring entry into the Albany region." Hmm. Anyone want to venture a guess?
Earlier AOA items about Trader Joe's.
We'd heard about these yard signs, but almost didn't believe it until we saw this one planted in the grassy median at the corner of Manning and New Scotland in Albany.
If the mysterious Trader Joe's ever does land in the Capital Region, Bruce Roter is gonna have to turn that campaign infrastructure toward something else. Like the Senate. Or maybe the White House. We hear the Democrats are having some trouble settling on a candidate.
What do Trader Joe's and the National Security Agency have in common? On the surface not much, but try asking them a few questions. With all the buzz about getting Trader Joe's to come to A-Town, we thought we'd just give them a call and ask, once and for all: are they coming or not?
You hear something once, you dismiss it. You hear it twice, you think, eh. But when you hear it five or six different places from people who are in no way connected to each other, you start to wonder. So, when we heard lots of folks repeating the rumor that Wegmans and Price Chopper had a sort of "gentlemen's agreement" to stay out of each others backyards, it definitely caught our interest.
And then we heard rumors that Wegmans might be making it's move on the Capital Region.
So, is there any truth to either of these rumors?
You asked and we found it! Price Chopper is carrying it in the special Passover sections at their larger stores. We scored our supply at the Chopper in Slingerlands.
What's the big deal? Well, normal Coke is made with high fructose corn syrup, which makes it not kosher for Passover. It also, according to soda snobs, makes Coke taste not quite right. Kosher for Passover Coke, on the other hand, is made with cane sugar (like Mexican Coke) and is said to be smoother and have a cleaner finish. It also has notes of cinnamon and caramel and pairs nicely with pretzel twists.
How do you know if you're getting the good stuff? Look for the tell-tale yellow cap (see right). And check the ingredients, which will list "sucrose" instead of high-fructose corn syrup.
CB: There are a lot of causes out there to get involved in. Why Trader Joe's?
BR: I see it as a need, perhaps it was a personal need, but I just love shopping at Trader Joe's. And much to my delight, I've been joined by hundreds of other residents of the capital region who share that passion.
But to dispel any notion that this is what I do ever single moment of the day, that's not the case at all. I do have a real career and my real avocation is that of a composer. I compose orchestral music. I've written music which emulates the Middle East peace process, which celebrates first responders, so I'd like to think that I'm multi-dimensional....I've been commissioned by orchestras around the country including right here at home by the Albany Symphony Orchestra.
CB: So when did this Trader Joe's thing start for you?
BR: It began this past summer in mid-August when I was in the park talking to a friend. I was toying with starting a little club like this, and when I mentioned Trader Joe's there was this wonderful reaction on this friend's face. I knew that instantly that there were other kindred spirits in the Capital Region who would also be interested in this campaign.
And I seem to have simply given voice to all these other hundreds of other people including many professionals from our region. I've been emailed by doctors, lawyers, architects, business people, politicians, homemakers. The people who are part of this campaign really run the gamut of the fabric of this society in the Capital District.
As we recently found out, there's quite a clamor to bring a TJ's here.
The first time we thought that it might have been a mirage. Then we saw it again, but no... it couldn't be. By the third trip, we believed it: you can buy Dinosaur Bar-B-Que pulled pork at Price Chopper.
Having stuffed ourselves many a time at the famed Syracuse barbecue joint, we had to give it a try.
Thousands of new cards because of Hannaford, Paterson says no more, libraries are popular places, dog story a fish story, Mangia closing
Local banks say they're in the process of replacing tens of thousands of debit and credit cards because of the Hannaford security breach. [Daily Gazette] (AOA item from yesterday about this)
David Paterson bristled yesterday when reporters continued to ask him about his private life. "I think that more than any elected official on this planet, and probably in outer space, I have discussed my personal situation over the last week," Paterson said. [AP/Troy Record]
Yet another Democrat has tossed his hat into the ring for the 21st Congressional District (McNulty's seat). This time it's Arthur Welser, a real estate broker from Latham. There are now eight candidates for that seat, six Democrats and two Republicans. [Daily Gazette] (AOA's Local Congressional Race Scorecard)
Local libraries report that circulation numbers are up and librarians attribute the higher volume to people seeking cheaper entertainment as the economy slows. [TU]
That story about the dog left in the trash seems like it might be garbage. But the dog is still actually up for adoption and people are lining up for her. [TU]
The leader of the Northway Church says attendance keeps rising and it might already be outgrowing its newly opened third location. The minister, Buddy Cremeans, is described as having "awesome administrative abilities and a clear plan for growth." [Daily Gazette] (AOA item about the church's direct mail)
The Mangia in Clifton Park has closed and its parent company is planning to close the Stuyvesant Plaza location, too. The company says it will knock down the Stuyvesant building in order to build a new restaurant based on a different theme. An executive attributes the Stuyvesant location's failure partly to the opening of the Cheesecake Factory. [Business Review]
A guy named Jason stumbled upon this message in an area parking lot and passed it along to AOA. The site wwtj.org is part of a movement to bring this awesome alternative grocery store to the Capital Region.
We might need one of those bumper stickers.
Class action against Hannaford, more Great Escape gastrointestinal distress, a Republican for the 21st, attempt to attract young professionals
A Philadelphia law firm says it's filing a class action lawsuit against Hannaford over the company's security breach that exposed millions of customers' credit cards. [AP/Boston Globe]
The number of people reporting illness after visiting the Great Escape water park this past weekend keeps growing, according to the NY State Department of Health. More than 90 people have now reported suffering gastrointestinal distress. Many of the affected are diabetic kids who were visiting the park as part of program to learn how to control their diabetes. [Daily Gazette] [TU]
A federal judge has ruled that a former Wal-Mart security guard can go ahead with her gender discrimination suit against the company. Shannon Kennedy says she was fired after she chased an alleged purse snatcher in her car. [TU]
The Averill Park school district has agreed to settle a lawsuit filed by a former athletic director for $567,000. Lou Cioffi says he was fired after blowing the whistle on hazing in the district's football program. [Troy Record]
Republican Jim Buhrmaster officially announced that he will run in the 21st Congressional District (Democrat Mike McNulty's seat). Buhrmaster is the first Republican to officially declare. [Daily Gazette] (AOA's Local Congressional Race Scorecard)
Local business leaders are hoping to lure young professionals back to the Capital Region with advertising, a new website, and a kiosk at the airport. [TU]
Hannaford has reported that its credit and debit card transaction system has been breached and millions of shoppers' card numbers have potentially been exposed for the last three months. The company says every one of its stores has had a card compromised, which means: If you've used your credit or debit card at a Hannaford any time since December 2007, your number may have been leaked.
So, what now?
Paterson applauded, Paterson admits to affair, Hannaford credit card breach, another tech park plan, raw sewage is smelly
David Paterson took the oath of office for governor to much applause. Legislators say they're looking forward to working with the new governor. [TU]
Shortly after the swearing-in, Paterson admitted to having an affair earlier this decade. He and his wife say they've dealt with it an moved on. [NYDN]
A security breach has potentially exposed more than 4 million credit cards used at Hannaford stores across the Northeast. The company says every one of its stores has had a compromised card. (Hannaford statement) [Boston Globe]
Chuck Schumer and Mike McNulty are pushing for the Watervliet Arsenal to become... wait for it... a tech park. [TU]
A Democratic challenger is lining up to take on Republican George Amedore for Paul Tonko's old state assembly seat. [Daily Gazette]
A backed up sewer led to raw sewage spilling out into a street in Mechanicville and extreme smelliness ensued. "This is not sanitary," noted one astute resident to the Record. [Troy Record]
Skidmore is moving to close its University Without Walls program. The college says the distance learning program is losing hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. [Saratogian]
If you've ever bought milk at Hannaford, you might have noticed the person's name printed on the upper right part of the carton. It changes from week to week -- the last carton we bought said "CARL."
So, what's that about? Is the cow taking credit? (Unlikely. What sort of female cow would be named Carl?)
Well, we've finally gotten to the bottom of this mystery.
We were curious, so we decided to find out. AOA put together a "basket" of 40 items that we thought could reasonably end up in most shopping carts in any given week. Then we checked the prices of these items at Price Chopper, Wal-Mart and Hannaford. Here are the results:
New Price Chopper HQ, makeover for Pizza Block, Saratoga mayor asks what's the big deal, Skidmore scored big in 2007
The Golub Corporation got approval to move ahead with its plan to build a new headquarters for Price Chopper across the street from Union College in Schenectady. The $22 million project includes a number of design elements aimed at making it environmentally friendly. [TU] [Daily Gazette]
The infamous "Pizza Block" in Schenectady (just down the street from Proctor's) is getting knocked down in order to build a new string of store fronts. The Pizza King had been the block's only tenant -- The Metroplex authority bought the owner out for $110,000. [Daily Gazette]
An Albany cop injured on the job in 2001 was awarded $3.1 million in a civil suit against the guy who hit his police cruiser and the guy's former employer. [TU]
The mayor of Saratoga Springs questioned why his choice to post bail for a local luxury home builder accused of fraud got so much attention. Scott Johnson told the Saratogian that bailing his family's friend out was "the most decent and compassionate thing to do." [Saratogian]
It looks like the developer behind Harmony Mills condos in Cohoes will get a shot to redevelop the Victory Mills building outside Saratoga. Fun fact about the Victory Mills building: they used to make the wrappers for the old Listerine glass bottles there. [Saratogian]
Skidmore scored almost $57 million in charitable contributions last year. That's tops among colleges and universities in the Capital Region and good for 8th in the nation. The bulk of the money came from a donation by Arthur Zankel. [Business Review]