QUEENSBURY, N.Y. -- Using a new blueprint that highlights fresh departments, Price Chopper Supermarkets has pulled its bakery further front and has anchored it with an artisan bread operation at a new store that opened here this summer.
In fact, customers are surrounded by bakery products as they enter the 85,000-square-foot unit that officials are calling "the store for the new millennium." The chain's largest yet, the from-the-ground-up store opened the last week in June.
The bakery at this store has been made part of the food court. At most other Price Choppers stores, the bakery is situated at the end of the food court, and in some cases, hugs the store's back wall.
Here, upon entering, customers see the chain's Bagel Factory fresh, boiled bagel operation immediately to their right. The bagel operation, paired with a new espresso bar, starts off the food court which curves into an alcove to the right. Straight ahead is the bakery department, forming the left perimeter of the fresh food power aisle. Capping it on its end nearest the front is the open-production bread operation.
A large, steam-injection, brick-faced oven, with a copper hood, can be seen just beyond loaves of artisan breads displayed on slanted, wood tables. Behind the row of tables, associates can be seen loading the oven and taking hot loaves out.
The bread display fixtures, which offer both service and self-service, are unusual in their
design. The slatted, slant tables, side-by-side, form a low-profile barrier between the customer and the production area. The tables, no more than 4-feet wide, look like small versions of the type one sees most often in produce departments.
But the slant of the tables is very steep and a sneeze guard that comes within a few inches of the loaves, covers almost the entire tableful of bread. Bakery associates behind the tables, reach in from the top, almost as if they're reaching into a pocket, to serve the customer the loaf or loaves he wants.
The bottom two rows of bread on the slant table are wrapped, and customers can serve themselves from those two rows. The sneeze guard does not come down that far.
"The artisan bread program features made-from-scratch breads that have all-natural ingredients," said Joanne Gage, vice president, consumer affairs and marketing, for the 96-unit, Schenectady, N.Y.-based chain.
She also noted that the artisan bread operation, a first for the chain, is a big attention-getter.
"It's the first thing you see when you come into the store. You can't miss the oven either. It's massive," Gage said.
A bakery associate at the store here told SN that 18 to 20 varieties of the artisan breads are offered each day. They include such interesting flavors as garlic and cheddar, black pepper parmesan and harvest apple which has apples, raisins and pecans in it. There is also a whole range of ryes and pumpernickels, seeded and unseeded, and sourdough.
The store-level source said the prices range from $1.99 to $2.99 a loaf and the loaves differ in weight according to the variety. The weights range from 1-pound to nearly 2-pounds. Tuscan bread, which is a large Italian variety that weighs nearly 2-pounds, is particularly popular, the source said.
European-style breads are not new to the chain. They're offered in the bakeries at other selected Price Chopper stores, at $1.99 for all varieties. They include varieties such as pesto and sun-dried tomato and Alpine seven grain as well as the ryes, pumpernickels and sourdoughs.
The big difference from the other stores' bread programs is that the artisan breads are made with all-natural ingredients, the bakery associate at the store here said. Unbleached, unbromated flour is used and honey, not sugar, is used in the only two varieties that have a sweetener as an ingredient.
The artisan bread program is scheduled to go into a remodeled unit in this same area later this year, a source close to the chain said.
Promoting the fact that the bread is made from scratch, with all-natural ingredients, and displaying it naked, adds to the marketplace ambiance of the food court here.
In a departure from other Price Chopper units, the whole fresh food power aisle here has been set off from the rest of the store with design elements that give it the feel of an open air market. For example, the floor in the fresh aisle has terra cotta colored Italian tiles and seating is at wood tables and chairs. And the seating area -- which accommodates about 80 people -- and the bagel operation and the espresso bar are bunched together and bannered, "The Bagel Factory Cafe."