ALPHARETTA, Ga. -- Harry's Farmers Market here has started stocking McIntosh apples from New York state in response to the petitions of a single customer, a transplanted New Yorker.
The retailer, which specializes in fresh food merchandising and has a particular emphasis on produce, has also made a commitment to identifying the McIntosh and other New York apple varieties it carries under the Apple Country brand logo used by the New York State Apple Commission, said officials with Harry's and the grower commission.
Harry Blazer, president of the chain, publicized the two developments at a media event held Oct. 11 in one of the company's stores.
"Half of the department was full of apples," said Amrish Patel, head buyer at Harry's. "It was a great success."
In the weeks that have followed, Harry's has continued to promote the New York apples.
Patel said that while most retailers will offer cut fruit to shoppers for in-store sampling during a promotion, "we're telling them you can use apples for different things, like make apple sauce." Employees also cooked apple sauce on site, and offered cheese and ham snacks with the apples as well.
Since opening his first store nearly nine years ago, Blazer has offered a wide variety of apples from the Empire State, including Cortlands, Jonagolds, Macouns, Romes, Empires and a few Fujis, but he acquired New York Macs only recently, at the behest of one of his shoppers.
The longtime customer, Susan Martin, a native of New York, asked him why he did not sell McIntosh varieties. Martin, as it turned out, is part of the Forrence family, one of the top apple-growing clans in New York.
"Over time, she kept having conversations with the produce managers, and finally the produce buyer, and she said, 'Here's my dad's number; call him,' " said Shelley Page, spokeswoman for the association.
One produce buyer at Harry's told SN he'd been discussing the issue with Martin for the past five years. Then Blazer and the Forrences finally put the deal together, and Harry's put another New York apple in its basket.
Blazer's fixation with New York apples apparently stems from his childhood, said the apple commission spokeswoman. His family operated a discount store, which, according to Page, was a forerunner of stores such as Wal-Mart and Kmart.
"One of the things that they offered was New York apples," Page said. "They would go in the fall, make trips over to the Hudson Valley and Champlain Valley, pick out great apples and bring them back and sell them in the store."
Blazer's use of the Apple Country brand for the products coincides with the commission's effort to more aggressively market the name. The Apple Country logo has been around for several years but before this year, the association had promoted it sparingly.
"In terms of it getting out to a lot of stores, this fall is the first major push," Page said.
Officials at Harry's said the Apple Country design and point-of-sale material give shoppers a feeling of being out in the field picking their own apples. The logo appears on bins, price look-up stickers and price cards.
"It's appealing to the customer," Patel said, adding it is especially attractive to those from the New York area, who he said account for a good amount of the population in Atlanta.
"They see those orchards and bins and they feel like they're back in New York."
The octagon-shaped Apple Country bins hold about 180 3-pound bags, and fit on a 4-foot pallet.
"We have had some buyers tell us that they have turned that bin in one day, and refilled it and refilled it," Page said. "It really moves the apples."
A number of the association's packers will ship the bins directly out on pallets to the stores, offering convenience to retailers, Page said.
Harry's, meanwhile, will continue to carry apples from several apple-growing markets, including Pennsylvania and Washington State.
Tops, based in Buffalo, N.Y.; Wegmans, Rochester, N.Y., and several chains in New York City are among the other retailers supporting the Apple Country theme, Page said.