HAUPPAUGE, N.Y. -- A newly opened ShopRite supermarket here is smoking its own meats, cheeses and seafood -- a rarity on densely populated Long Island -- using an in-store smokehouse oven located in the meat department.
"The products that we will be smoking are fresh salmon, fresh whitefish, fresh turkeys, fresh hams, sausages, mozzarella and turkey breast in our appetizing department, and others as we go along," said Harry Janson, the owner of ShopRite of Hauppauge.
The smoke oven, manufactured by Kemetec, Charlotte, N.C., is 5 feet high, 4 feet wide and 3 feet long. According to Ed Rimsky, company vice president, the types of units typically found in supermarkets use liquid smoke to flavor their foods, and sell for upwards of $35,000.
Here, it is located in the meat-department cutting room. Customers can see the device through the glass-front service area, though the wood-fired scent from the smoking process causes the real excitement, said store officials.
"The aroma through the store, that is what drives the customers to the appetizing department," said Harvey Leiberman, assistant store director in charge of perishables. Smoking is done as needed, during store hours.
The operation is named Liz's Smoke House, after Janson's wife Elizabeth, who is co-owner and vice president in charge of all food-service programs for the store.
All department managers from seafood, meat and deli were trained for five days by a manufacturer's representative on the proper use of the smoke oven, including use of the device's microprocessor controls.
"We tried all different types of smoke, mellow to heavy. Each product is tested, and once the formula is set, it is programmed into the [smoke oven's] computer. When the department manager needs it, all he or she has to do is push a button," Leiberman said. "It was installed because we want to have signature items in the store," he continued. "It's a unique item. We want to do things differently in this store, different from the average supermarket."
Sampling is done at the deli counter, and the smoked products are advertised in the store circular, which is mailed to 55,000 homes.
The grand-opening circular introduced shoppers to Liz's Smoke House by calling it "one of a kind." Turkey breast, smoked in-store, was on special at $3.99 a pound for the bone-in breast. The price two weeks later was $6.99. Mozzarella, smoked in loaves, was the store's featured item during the second week.
Janson said he followed the example of Bill Glaser, owner of four ShopRite units near Philadelphia. Glaser's smoke oven is located in his Cheltenham store, in a separate refrigerated room, and is used strictly for meats.
"It's been very, very successful," said Glaser, who installed it three and a half years ago. It is one of only two currently operating in Philadelphia supermarkets; the other is in a Pathmark unit that opened near the Cheltenham store, Glaser said. The Janson's ShopRite is a member of Wakefern Food Corp., Elizabeth, N.J., a cooperative whose membership independently owns and operates 190 ShopRite supermarkets in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Delaware.