PLAINVIEW, N.Y. -- Fairway sent the fresh message to Long Islanders in a big way when it opened the doors of its new-format store here this month.
Towering displays of vegetables and huge bouquets of fresh flowers enveloped customers as they entered the store's foyer.
Inside, a wide-open aisle that's bordered by piled-high tables of produce, contains a made-to-order sub sandwich station, an open grill, hot pizza right from a brick oven, an Asian stir-fry program and a grain salad/ fruit bar -- all new elements for Fairway. These help illustrate that offering products as fresh as they can be is a top priority for this privately owned retailer.
But that's not all. Fairway is making sure that Long Islanders -- as Manhattanites already do -- see the company as the price leader in fresh foods. Fairway has two other stores, one on the edge of Harlem and one on upper Broadway in Manhattan.
Here at this 55,000-square-foot store, an in-your-face, 8-foot-high wall of fresh corn was the first element customers saw right inside the foyer on opening day, May 2. The corn's retail price, printed on big, hand-made signs: 10 cents an ear.
"I feel as if I have just been dropped off at a great farmer's market, and I can't believe the prices," said one customer.
That's what it's all about, said Mark Leenhouts, president of RL & Associates -- Retail Food Design, the Rochester, N.Y., consulting firm that designed the store's interior and created some of the standout concepts here.
"Everywhere you look you see food. The displays are custom-designed so you see just the products. Lots of them. Our philosophy is to get the product out there and sell it and sell it, and we do it with these massive displays," Leenhouts said.
Even a fresh meat display reached toward the ceiling here on opening day. A tiered, refrigerated endcap standing more than 6 feet tall was filled to brimming with whole beef tenderloins. The price: $4.99 a pound.
Colorful vegetable and fruit displays provide a backdrop for activity at made-to-order food stations in the wide, first-traffic aisle. The aroma of freshly brewed lattes and capuccinos wafts toward the store's entrance from a coffee bar that sits smack in the middle of the aisle.
Across from the coffee bar, at an open grill, associates were flipping buckwheat pancakes. Omelets, Belgian waffles, blintzes and smoked salmon are also on the menu. At lunchtime, associates grilled steak sandwiches and tossed Caesar salad there. Nearby, a sushi chef was at work, and customers lined up at an Asian stir fry bar. There, they chose their vegetables and their protein from a salad-bar type counter and then associates stir fried their selections while they waited. The stir-fry took less than two minutes.
All production is out in the open.
"The impression is that everything is made from scratch in the store," said Leenhouts. Indeed, much of it is.
In the bakery, bagels are mixed from scratch, boiled and baked on site. Organic pastries and a large selection of artisan breads, too, are made from scratch.
"The combination of all the fresh items in the middle of that section creates a particular vibe, and it also makes things convenient for the customer," Leenhouts said.
A cafe seating area that accommodates 118 people backs up the grill. A wall separates it from the dry grocery section of the store.
Creating synergies between product displays and between service and self-service elements is a hallmark of the consulting firm Leenhouts founded with Jim Riesenburger, who's now a managing partner at this Fairway store.
Riesenburger and Leenhouts, both veterans of Wegmans Food Markets, Rochester, N.Y., launched the consulting firm in 1996. Riesenburger left the firm earlier this year to join Fairway. He will spearhead a rollout of the new Fairway format to additional locations. [ See "Fairway Launches Prototype on Long Island," SN 02/05/01, and "New RL Line-Up," SN 02/05/01].