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Brooklynites are well known for their blasé — some might say downright cynical — attitude, but the newest Fairway store, which opened its doors this past January in the borough’s diverse Georgetown neighborhood, boasts enough standout features to make the most jaded resident look on in awe.
“The idea of this store was to take the best of what Fairway had to offer and then also to modernize the brand for a new shop,” explains Dorothy Carlow, Fairway Group Holdings Corp.’s chief merchandising officer, of the New York-based company’s second location in Brooklyn (the first opened back in 2006 in Red Hook).
That modernizing influence is apparent as soon as shoppers enter the store and are greeted by an abundant array of produce, flanked on one side by a brand-new juice bar concept and framed by urban-inspired artwork and accents, including a sign mimicking the big board announcing arrivals and departures at Manhattan’s Grand Central Station, which Carlow points to as a particular favorite.
“When you see the cityscapes across the top, instead of focusing on putting pictures of fresh produce there, we said, we are a New York brand,” she says. “That’s why we picked the cityscapes and really tried to bring in elements of the New York subways and the brick and just making you feel like you’re actually in a New York food store.”
The Georgetown store’s produce department features a ratio of about 70 percent conventional product to 30 percent organic. During the week of Progressive Grocer’s visit, its flier boasted 178 organically grown items. “We pride ourselves on the fact [that] if you want organic, you will have the same exact item as an organic item at this store,” asserts Carlow, “The variety and selection we carry is probably more than anybody else, especially in the apple category.”
Additionally, as they come into season, the store offers a whole section dedicated to local fruits and veggies, she makes sure to mention.
“What made Fairway special was the variety, the selection in … produce, plus the quality piece,” notes Carlow, adding that for the Georgetown store’s produce department, “we brought down the height of the displays so that you could see from the front of the store all the way into our … coffee [department] in the back of the store, and you could see all the way into our cheese department, so this really opens it up.”
As in any Fairway store, observes Carlow, “Produce always flows into dried fruits and nuts,” much of it imported from France. Along with these high-quality store-brand items — packaged at Fairway’s Bronx, N.Y., warehouse — are bulk foods. “This is the first time we’ve ever done this type of bulk,” she says. “We expanded it because it’s something that the customer wants, and it’s a convenience item.”
Next up is the imported olive oil section, home to a large variety oils and vinegars. “We import direct from Italy … in gigantic barrels, and we bottle it at our Bronx warehouse facility,” notes Carlow. “For the most part, all of this section, with the exception of the top, is all imported directly from Italy and then barreled by us, and some of the vinegars are done the same way for us. Then this is all of your unique items that are imported or domestic. … This was historically the No. 1 destination category for the business, and it’s still very strong. ... We ship this olive oil all over the world.”
As for the oil selection, she points out, “We try and run the gamut of very, very aromatic, all the way down to your basic household [product].” The lighting in the area is intentionally dim, she explains, because if olive oil is exposed to light, it turns rancid more quickly. “It’s a living thing,” asserts Carlow. “That’s why we don’t have lights on it.”
The coffee department features on-site roasting, which imparts an irresistible aroma to the area. “All of our coffee that is loose is done by us,” notes Carlow. “One hundred percent of this selection is roasted either here or in our facility in Brooklyn.”
The store additionally offers a curated assortment of conventional and specialty teas. “This has done really well for us here, so we’re actually going to build custom cases for our next store, because tea has to be vacuum-sealed to keep its flavor,” she says, “so we’re going to build custom cases that you can actually see through to the tea, but they’re still vacuum-sealed.”
Cheese to Please
For the Georgetown store’s cheese department — a standout at the chain’s other locations — Fairway decided to depart from its usual practice in an effort to add even more excitement. “Normally, we’ll make the fresh-handmade- daily mozzarella in the back and then bring it out to the front, but this particular location is the first store in which we have the fresh handmade mozzarella [being made] on the floor,” notes Carlow. “It is a destination item for us. People come just for that item, and we wanted to feature it.”
Another departure was to bring down the height of the cheese case so that shoppers can “see what [associates] were doing or see what they were cutting,” as well as lean right in and take whatever items they want, even at the back, she adds. “We made the shopping experience more conducive to a person of any height.”
In regard to the product offering, Carlow boasts that “we have the largest selection of imports, probably in the New York area,” along with an enticing array of domestic specialty and commodity cheeses, all of them hand-cut. One standout is a Kerrygold whiskey cheddar that tastes exactly how it sounds.
As well as creating a cheese department, rather than just a counter, with shelves of packaged commodity items, the store offers some complementary items in the section. “Our private-brand ravioli are actually part of our cheese department, because … we believe good ravioli is made with exceptional cheeses,” says Carlow. “This is the first time where we’ve had the capability to merchandise our fresh pastas with our cheeses.” There’s sauce there, too, so shoppers can pick up the makings of a convenient meal all in one place.
Nearby is a big olive and pickle bar that Fairway “actually completely redesigned … for this store to make it more user-friendly for the customer and to give them more variety and selection,” she says. “This is one of our growing categories, something people love, Fairway is famous for it, but it wasn’t working as just one long island, so we totally redesigned it and put more specialty product and imported product in the more premium bins, and they’re doing really well for us.”