MOUNT LAUREL, N.J. -- With the creation of the produce department within its new unit here, Zagara's Specialty and Natural Foods has only enhanced its 25-year reputation as a purveyor of fresh, high-quality produce. The 2,800-square-foot area is home to more than 300 varieties of fruits and vegetables, from traditional to exotic to organic.
aesthetic standpoint, the more senses that I can win over, the more I can bring the outside in, the more successful I can be," said company president John Zagara. "That's why we've gone with the rough, weathered concrete flooring, the high-windowed ceilings. It all lends to the mood of a fresh outdoor market."
The displays are stocked with old standbys like brown potatoes, red apples and navel oranges, and more unique items like cocktail avocados, golden kiwi, icicle radishes, fresh water chestnuts and eight-ball squash.
"We've established strong relationships with the growers, which is so important," said Zagara. "We even bought out an orchard for an entire growing season, gaining exclusive heirloom crops that weren't available anywhere else."
Zagara's also features hard-to-find items like pluots, which are a cross between a plum and an apricot, a dozen varieties of hot peppers and fresh summer truffles imported from France. The rare truffles sell for $199 per pound.
Seasonal and promotional items occupy 200 to 300 square feet within the department and Zagara said about 30% to 40% of the produce is organic, though quality and price points determine the amount carried at any given time.
According to Zagara, the reasoning behind the devotion to organics is two-fold: customer demand and the company's belief in the education of its clientele.
"We are firm believers in the educational process," he said. "It's necessary to stay ahead of the game and simplify our customers' lives. We bring the information to them."
Contiguous to the produce department is a full-service floral shop that carries an average of 65 varieties of plants and flowers. Designed to resemble a hut, with weathered wood and creeping ivy, the shop specializes in exotic cut flowers.
While this is a manned station, customers can also select from premade arrangements available in a self-serve refrigerated case. The shop can also cater arrangements for any size event, from a small banquet to elaborate weddings. Zagara said the shop has been very successful.
"We're doing high-caliber business with the exotics," he said. "And the arrangements work very well in conjunction with our catering facility. There are few places that offer the convenience of the two services under one roof."