Grocery Store Settles Into Midtown Neighborhood

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Last week, shoppers milled about the cases and the aisles of the newly opened Gordon Food Service Store. They scanned prices and filled their carts with fresh produce, meats, cheeses and even made-to-order guacamole.

The new Gordon Food Service Store, which is a division of Gordon Food Service, opened on Monday, Oct. 1 at the corner of Michigan Street and Diamond Avenue in the Midtown neighborhood.

The 16,000 square foot grocery store has been a hotly anticipated addition to the neighborhood, which, aside from the Fulton Street Farmers Market that is open seasonally and located down the road, had become a food desert.

“I’ve been waiting for it to open,” said Wilma Booker, a resident in the area who was visiting the store for the first time. Booker said she often drives to the Gordon Food Service Store on Alpine and is glad to have a closer option.

Booker had not made her way through all of the aisles yet but said so far the store was meeting and exceeding her expectations. She noted there are a greater variety of options compared to the Alpine store.

Booker was also impressed with how quickly her feedback was taken into account. She approached a manager to suggest the store consider providing samples of the pre-packaged guacamole at the guacamole-to-go bar, and he obliged immediately.

“I wanted to try the guacamole, a lot of times they have samples, I’d already asked the lady and she said no. I said it would be great if you had samples, so he had her open it and I appreciated that.”

Mark Dempsey, marketing manager for Gordon Food Service Stores, said customer feedback is important to the location. He noted another piece of customer feedback the store has received is a request for more organic produce, which the store plans to accommodate.

“The community has asked for more organics so we are going to add an organics case,” he said.

The Michigan Street store was built with the shopper in mind and a lot of thought went into the neighborhood’s needs.

One thing that might come as a surprise is that there are no self-checkout lanes.

“In today’s world, when you look at other retailers, they are building stores with less and less people in them, less and less service. we believe that isn’t what the consumer wants,” Dempsey said.

While the customer wants to be in and out quickly, Dempsey said Gordon Food Service believes they also want customer service while they’re shopping.

“We went to Manhattan to study urban grocery stores, or community grocery stores, that make the most out of small spaces, and what we saw is delis with people behind them, the ice cream scooper, people squeezing orange juice and baking bread,” Dempsey said. “People want interactions with people. They want to be served–quickly and efficiently. I don’t think the world is ready for self-service everything.

“We’ve kind of gone the other direction, where we’ve built more service areas into our store and more personal touch into our store, as opposed to trying to take it out.”

Dempsey said the size of the store makes it easy to be in and out in 15 to 20 minutes anyway and in that time shoppers can easily grab what they need for that night’s meal.

That’s another avenue Gordon’s focused on. Dempsey said families are no longer meal planning for the entire week like they once did. Instead, many people stop in on the way home from work for that night’s dinner and then they might be back for another quick shop a few days later.

“We looked at the neighborhood and said we have a lot of people in homes and apartments without a lot of storage space and they want fresh and fast. And we’ve got a tremendous amount coming from the Medical Mile who need a quick place to stop in. And that is what drove our decisions about how to organize this and what do we carry.”

The store has an impressive array of ready-made meals that can be thrown in the microwave before hitting the dinner plate. Stop by the rotisserie chicken display and grab one for $5, add a couple of sides from the adjacent counter and you could have a meal for the whole family for less than $15.

There is also a deli counter with Dietz and Watson slices and a meat counter stocked with fresh cuts of beef, pork, chicken and seafood, as well as a bakery with freshly made bread, a chocolate case, candy corner and even a craft ice cream bar.

For shoppers accustomed to stocking up on frozen options for larger gatherings or parties, the new store still carries bulk items like Gordon’s popular mac & cheese.

While the store is meant to accommodate quick stop shopping, the interior is inviting and may have you lingering a bit more than you’d have expected. Near floor to ceiling windows on the south side of the store brings in lots of natural light and the overall design of the store gives it a more inviting feel than the Gordon Food Service Stores of the past (most of which were built in the ’90s), which were more industrial in design.

Dempsey said rather than seeing customers once a month or only when they are stocking up on bulk items for a large party, he hopes the new store attracts customers multiple nights a week.

“We wanted to create a store where they could shop with us every week; that we could be their grocery store,” he said.

The store is part of the Diamond Place project, which also includes 155 apartments.

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