DALLAS -- H.E. Butt opened its sixth Central Market with a brand-new Jewish deli, featuring freshly prepared items commonly found in delis in the Northeast. It's a first for the upscale, fresh-foods banner.
Inside the 76,000-square-foot store in suburban Plano, a prominent sign draws consumers to this new, non-Kosher section that features potato latkes ($3.99 a pound), stuffed cabbage rolls ($2.99 each), matzo balls (99 cents apiece) and other Jewish favorites. The specialty deli-within-a-deli is proving to be a winner -- sales have been strong to date, Michael Cox, general manager of the store, told SN during a recent store tour.
With transplants from the Northeast and other areas making up a fair share of residents here, it made sense to create a specialty deli, he said.
"This has been very successful for us," Cox said. "There's a large Jewish population in this market. We came in and filled a void."
The local Jewish population is part of a larger multicultural community in North Texas. More than 30% of the area's residents are first- or second-generation immigrants. That diversity is reflected in the store's 500 employees, who represent 24 countries and speak 20 languages among them.
Open since Feb. 27, the Plano unit aims to please foodies with its large assortment of unique specialty items and array of fresh foods.
"We want to focus on the great variety of food you can't find elsewhere," said Cox, a former restaurateur.
In the store's well-stocked deli, consumers are encouraged to sample the goods, and they're faced with a multitude of choices. It features the Karl Ehmer brand of traditional cold cuts, the Piller brand of salamis, as well as a handful of specialty meats from small producers, displayed in a service case that takes up 28 linear feet.
This department offers 200 types of meats, including 100 different salamis -- from a "fabulously spicy" Gypsy salami to Old Forest, a smoked salami from Canada ($10.99 a pound). Though the store sells a lot of salami, according to one store associate, the tried-and-true sandwich fillers are the best-sellers.
"We sell more of our in-house roast turkey and roast beef than anything else," said Cox.
The front of the store includes a casual dining area with seating for 28, plus four separate tables for children. This section has its own entrance.
Nearby, takeout food is the focal point of Cafe on the Run, the store's prepared-foods section. An octagonal, 100-foot service case is filled with up to 90 hot and cold cooked foods, prepared daily by store chefs. SN observed chicken pot pie, creamed spinach, green bean almondine, bacon cheddar au gratin potatoes and a large assortment of salads. Next to the case is a salsa bar featuring more than 90 sauces, olives, spreads, dressings, dips, marinades and salsas -- all made in-house.
A sandwich bar lets shoppers choose their own bread, spread and toppings, along with two meats or cheese, for $5.49.
A sandwich featuring three meats or cheeses is available for an extra dollar.
Prepackaged cooked foods are available here, as are dinners for two packed in a bag ready to go home. New to this store, a Paciugo fresh gelato bar tempts consumers with 32 assorted flavors.
This department gets busy at around 4:30 in the afternoon, Cox said. To make it easy for consumers in a hurry, Cafe on the Run has separate checkout lanes.
Central Market long ago earned a reputation for the exceptional quality of its fruits and vegetables, and the produce department at this store keeps up that tradition. When shoppers enter the store, the floral and produce departments are the first areas they see.
The sprawling section occupies close to one-third of the store's space, with roughly 800 items, including a large organic section, numerous varieties of common items and heirloom varieties, as well as many obscure products.
On any given day, consumers will find 15 to 20 types of apples, and that number goes up to 45 during apple season, a produce department associate told SN.
Most products are sold in bulk to encourage consumers to try unfamiliar items. One item available today is wasabi, the Japanese version of horseradish that's derived from an Asian plant. Wasabi has to grow in freshwater streams, and, consequently, is hard to come by, said Cox.
It's also pricey; wasabi was selling for $149.99 a pound. SN observed lots of other exotic items, including lime leaves ($59.99 a pound), curry leaves ($33.99 a pound) and fiddlehead ferns ($14.99 a pound).
"We try to find a balance between having new items and not scaring people," Cox said.
At the entrance to the department, a sign on a blackboard explains the color code. Organic vegetables are identified by yellow price signs, while purple signs identify advertised specials. Blue signs inform consumers that the product was grown in the region. Another sign tells shoppers there are 120 varieties of certified organic produce available today. The merchandise is displayed on unusual, eye-catching metal tables and in metal tubs on wheels.
Consumers weigh their own produce, punching in a price lookup code on scales that produce labels with the price, as well as cooking, nutrition and storage information.
Similarly, shoppers bag their own artisan breads and use scales the same way in the bakery. This department offers more than 40 varieties of breads -- from French baguettes to specialty loaves like Southern Burgundy Walnut and Pepper Cheese. There's also a tortilleria producing the local bread favorite.
The pastry department offers creme brulee, raspberry truffle cake, Anthony's chocolate mousse, an Italian cream cake topped with edible flowers and other specialties, displayed in 24 feet of service case. Central Market outsources the truffles, but just about everything else is made from scratch in-house, a bakery associate told SN.
Staffed with six experienced meat cutters, the service meat department offers "every imaginable butchering service available," Cox said.
The open-view department features a 52-foot service case stocked with an assortment of meats, including Bradley Third Generation Ranch beef, certified aged Angus and 20 varieties of sausage. The top seller here is the "Cowboy Burger," a seasoned, uncooked patty weighing 10 to 12 ounces. "People love them," an associate from the meat department said. A 20-foot, self-service case adjoins the service case.
Nearby, the service seafood department is also a big draw, carrying 35 varieties of fish, delivered to the store six times a week and displayed on ice. Most fish arrive whole and fileted by staff in-store, a department associate told SN.