NEW YORK — No longer dreaming of becoming a gourmet destination for New Yorkers, The Food Emporium just wants to be a better neighbor.
A&P's Manhattan-based chain this month unveiled renovations at two stores that officials said would better position them to be the preferred store in their respective neighborhoods. The effort involved employee training and new hires, expansion of offerings in perimeter and in Center Store, and long-awaited renovations to brighten and modernize the units.
“What this market is looking for is a convenient shopping experience where they can get the things they need everyday as well as the nicer things too,” Danny Wodzenski, a district manager for Food Emporium's Montvale, N.J.-based parent, told SN while touring The Food Emporium's renovated store at 86th Street and 2nd Avenue, on the Upper East Side. “They want a clean, bright store with good service and a knowledgeable staff. This is a well-educated customer base. They deserve a well-educated staff.”
According to Wodzenski, each employee at the store received 20 hours of training in concert with the renovations, which were unveiled Nov. 17 after about eight weeks of construction. Around 35 new employees were added between the 86th Street store and the other new renovated location 14 blocks away at 72nd Street and 1st Avenue. The comprehensive program schooled cashiers on the new offerings at the deli, and produce clerks on the bakery, in an effort to create a “selling culture” the store, Wodzenski said.
The renovations also address changes in the market. The 86th Street store earlier this year witnessed the arrival of a Fairway Market just around the corner. Fairway in many ways has assumed the “gourmet destination” position that Food Emporium sought at some locations, including its 59th Street “Bridge Market” store.
Wodzenski acknowledges a healthy respect for Fairway and acknowledges its influence in pricing and in selection. But he said Food Emporium would be distinct for a more comprehensive selection without giving up many of the specialty items and reputation for product quality its neighboring store possesses.
Physical renovations at the store — the first since 1992 — help to accomplish this, Wodzenski said. For example, renovations to the produce section highlight the store's selection of organic fruits and vegetables. Elsewhere, renovated specialty departments showcase new items and offerings including a wing bar, an olive bar and more prepared foods. A wall of offerings from the bakery department now faces the front of the store.
Selection was addressed by lengthening aisles in Center Store and installing taller frozen cases.