New 'Neighborhood Store'
To some degree, the decline of those conventional stores — along with the rise of rivals for the upscale customer — is paving a path for The Food Emporium, A&P’s Manhattan-based banner, to claim a “neighborhood store” positioning. That chain this winter unveiled renovations at two Manhattan sites showcasing a brand based on knowledgeable sales staff and products relevant to their location, stepping away somewhat from the “gourmet store” image it courted in previous years.
“What this market is looking for is a convenient shopping experience where they can get the things they need every day as well as the nicer things too,” Danny Wodzenski, a district manager for A&P, told SN during a tour of a newly redesigned Food Emporium store on New York’s Upper East Side.
A new Upper East Side neighbor, Fairway Market, was putting some pressure on The Food Emporium as well. Founded as a produce market on the Upper West Side, Fairway has emerged as a kind of feisty urban Wegmans in recent years. An investment from private equity firm Sterling Investment Partners five years ago has more than doubled the size of the chain to nine stores, with its most recent openings on the Upper East Side in July and in Douglaston, Queens, in November.
Fairway officials were not available for comment. But Flickinger described business as “phenomenal” at the company’s newest stores. “The only problem they’re having is that shoppers need to decide which hours to go to avoid the crowds there,” he said.
The new competition has also meant trouble for Pathmark, a pioneer in finding lucrative volume in low-income communities. According to Flickinger, some city Pathmarks were doing $1 million in weekly sales but have seen deterioration as its parent company A&P struggled into Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Pathmark’s landmark Harlem location will get additional competition when Aldi makes its debut at the nearby East River Plaza — a center that already counts food sellers Costco and Target as tenants. The Harlem Aldi store — officials declined to provide an opening date — would be its third in city since debuting a location in Rego Park, Queens, a year ago. A Bronx location opened late last year.
“We approached the NYC market similarly to our other new markets, with a special regard for higher customer traffic,” Bruce Persohn, vice president of the Aldi’s South Windsor, Conn., division, said in a written response to SN’s questions. “Our development in the boroughs has progressed according to plan. We continue to see new customers every day and have been very pleased with their feedback thus far. As our store count continues to increase throughout the city, New Yorkers will become even more familiar with the Aldi brand, discovering our high-value and high-quality products, just as all of our customers throughout the country have done.”