NEW YORK -- Fairway Markets here is expanding, starting with the March launch of a new-format prototype on Long Island.
In a related move, the retailer has brought industry veteran Jim Riesenburger in as a managing partner.
The privately owned Fairway, known in the industry for the quality of its fresh foods and innovative merchandising, currently has two units in Manhattan -- one uptown on the edge of Harlem and a smaller one on upper Broadway. This third unit, in Plainview, N.Y., will accentuate the company's already tight focus on fresh foods, and feature all the attributes of the present Fairway stores. In addition, it will have an expanded prepared foods operation, and new products and programs, officials said.
Riesenburger will oversee the launch and operation of the new store, and he'll also spearhead a rollout of the new format to additional locations.
"The new store will be my primary responsibility, but I'll also have input into the operation of the other two Fairway stores," Riesenburger told SN.
A former deli/prepared foods executive at the trendsetting Wegmans Food Markets, Rochester, N.Y., Riesenburger was most recently a managing partner at RL & Associates, Riesenburger Leenhouts & Associates LLC, also in Rochester, a consulting firm that works with supermarkets in the United States and abroad. As a managing partner in the consulting firm, Riesenburger helped design the new Fairway store, and is now one of four co-owners of the prototype store.
In earlier interviews, Riesenburger has often stressed how important the synergies between a supermarket's fresh departments and programs are to their success, and that strongly held belief is reflected in the layout of this new Fairway unit.
Indeed, in that regard, one Fairway partner commented on how well Riesenburger's talents and experience complement those of the other three partners.
"His strength is in store design and in being organized. As far as the building and design of stores, that has probably been our weakness. In the past, we'd get an architect to draw up plans and then we'd take a pencil and change everything. Sometimes we were trying to put a square peg in a round hole," said Howard Glickberg, one of the company's co-owners.
"Coming from Wegmans, one of Jim's strengths also is a corporate type of mentality. That's something we really need," Glickberg said, adding that Riesenburger's prepared foods background, too, will be a big plus.
The 56,000-square-foot store, a former Grand Union location, sits in a very densely populated area, and the Fairway partners feel the store is ideally situated in the town. It's in a shopping plaza near exits to two major parkways that traverse Long Island and that's important in making it accessible for people further afield, Riesenburger noted. There is easy access into the plaza, too, and parking for almost 500 cars.
"We think the catchment area we'll draw from will be far greater than that of a normal supermarket by virtue of the uniqueness of our offerings. It's an absolutely different concept that I think will be a destination point on Long Island," Riesenburger said.
While he declined to offer details on the new store's offerings, he said, "a number of unique items will be brought to the table in the perishables arena."
The store also will have a kosher bakery, and kosher seafood, meat and prepared foods departments, all under rabbinical supervision. That makes kosher offerings more extensive than they are at the other two Fairway units. A number of new programs fitted to the community also will be spotlighted and curried as destinations, Riesenburger said.
"We've done a considerable amount of research with regard to demographics and we're very excited about welcoming customers with so many new products and new programs."
Competition is everywhere. Quite close by are units of ShopRite, King Kullen, Pathmark and Sutton Place Gourmet, but Fairway will stand out because it will have such a strong presence, he said.
Riesenburger's son, Grant, like his father a veteran of Wegmans where he was an assistant store manager, will oversee the new Fairway. Another son, Alan, a chef who has worked for Wegmans and, more recently, for some of Rochester's top hotels, will run the kitchen and the prepared foods program at the new store.
At Fairway's upper Broadway location, another of Riesenburger's sons, Brian, is store manager.
Asked about working so closely with his sons at the new store, Riesenburger said it isn't the first time the three have been in a work environment together. In fact, they were at Wegmans at the same time.
"They've been exposed to me and the industry and food for a long time, and we share a common passion for what we do. That should set the stage very favorably for a great working relationship," he said.
Riesenburger stressed that his return to the retail world was spurred entirely by the opportunity to be part of Fairway.
"I've been friends of the other three partners at Fairway for years and I've always admired what they've done. I think the four of us together have experience and talents that complement each other."
Riesenburger ran his own stores in Capetown, South Africa, for 25 years. Then, after coming to the United States, he served as chief executive officer at Zabar's, New York's renowned gourmet deli. In 1987, he joined Wegmans Food Markets as director of deli operations. He left Wegmans in 1996, to co-found the consulting firm.