“Everybody’s gotta eat.” So grocery stores are one of the most recession-proof businesses- but also one of the most competitive.
Here in CNY, the Wegmans chain has upped the ante by leaving the competition in the dust when it comes to dazzling shoppers (see the current build-out of the already massive DeWitt/Fayetteville store on Route 5), and selling them things they didn’t know they needed or wanted. Asian stir-fry dinners? Buy their ingredients and invest your time to do it on the relative cheap, or open your wallet and pay them $7 a pound to buy the dish as a takeout item. They’ve got your business, either way.
The nearest competition- and it’s not all that near- is P&C, still struggling back from its second recent bankruptcy. Storefront columnist Bob Niedt, who’s made a career of looking over shoppers’ and merchants’ shoulders, writes in today’s Post Standard that P&C is beginning a second iteration of its Fresh Market concept with a makeover of its Cazenovia store. Maybe that’s a good place to start, since it’s a good economic cross-section: Owners of luxurious lakeshore homes shopping cheek-by-jowl with rural types of more modest income.
What will a do-over of “Fresh” get P&C? It’s hard to say. In marketing terms, it’s about the most appealing word you can apply to all foods. But will P&C’s food really be “fresher” than Wegmans, or Price Chopper, or whoever? From personal observation, all the regional stores could stand to have some fresher produce items. When you reach for a bag of salad greens and see that they’re “Best If Sold By” tomorrow’s date, that’s a problem. Or, if the store simply doesn’t have what you want.
Quick story: a couple of weeks ago, we had an urge to whip up a time-tested recipe for Pizza Margherita, which calls for fresh basil. Two P&C stores were “on the way home” from errands and a Sunday drive, including one of the company’s biggest markets, at Fayetteville Towne Center. Neither had any fresh basil, and so we were off to Wegmans. Moral: it doesn’t help you to be “fresh,” if you’re found to be fresh out.
Sunday Bonus: That Pizza Margherita recipe, originated and still being served by Vincent Scotto at his restaurant in New York City. Tip: Give the crusts a quick blast on a grill pan indoors first, if you decide to cook them on an outdoor grill- much less messy. The results are really tasty.