Saturday, April 21, 2012

First Look At The New Shop Rite

Earlier in the week I was invited to a media preview of the new Shop Rite opening up on Central Avenue. I went expecting it to be a large event - mainstream media and a bunch of local bloggers. Seriously, without a lot of local bloggers there, how would I make the guest list? This manifesto of mine carries the marketing power of 9 followers (and I love each and every one of you by the way) plus my mother stops by the site regularly. If I'm on the guest list, this place is going to be packed, right?

I'd say there were 6 of us. A few came and went. We were very outnumbered by the store's management. For the last portion of the tour, there were three of us. I was greeted at the door by name. The only other male guest was Steve Barnes who is slightly out of my blogging league with Table Hopping and his food columns at the Times Union. Steve (I didn't introduce myself to him but I did sit next to him for a few minutes so obviously we use first names when we name drop each other) wrote about the visit here. One thing I will say about my new bestie is that he takes copious notes. I looked at his pad and couldn't decipher the short hand/chicken scratch, but he wrote down a lot. When I first saw him writing, I was kicking myself for not even thinking about bringing a pen a paper. I took a lot of engineering classes, never took a journalism one.

But enough about Steve. I took a VIP tour of a store that hasn't opened yet.

When you come in the main door, you are in the produce department. But it isn't set up yet. Well all the tables and displays are there, but no produce yet. Which makes sense. Who wants to open a store with week old lettuce? It was weird looking at the shell of the produce department.

Also next to the entrance is a pharmacy and wellness center. The pharmacy has a lot of generic medications that are $3.99 for a 30 day supply. And if I am understanding the presentation and the flyer I am looking at, there are several generic prescriptions that can be filled for free. I can't speak for you, but free is less than my current copay. The wellness center sounds like a good idea too. You can meet with a nutritionist that will help you meet a dietary goal or restriction. They also sound to be very open to suggestions. This was the beginning of the "if we don't have it, we'll get it for you" theme of the day began. 

Next up was the prepared food. There are several Culinary Institute Graduates working for the store and we met some here. As reported by Steve, the chef in charge of the prepared foods section said, "If you don't see something ask. If you can find it in the store, we'll make it for you."

They had a grill going and a flat top too. They are going to have breakfast sandwiches in the morning.  They had a lot of food lined up for us to try. I had some grilled vegetables, mashed potatoes, some braised brisket and sliced London broil. The potatoes, brisket and vegetables were very good. I had the first slices of the London broil. Maybe it's because it was near the edge or maybe it's because it is a London was well seasoned, but a little dry and tough.


The also had an Asian section and sushi. I had a few pieces of sushi. They were alright. You're not going to close your eyes and think you are in a high end sushi restaurant, but it was certainly passable.  I didn't eat in the Asian section.  It was getting a little difficult to eat, take pictures and pay attention at the same time. We were encouraged to return to eat more after the tour, but I had a meeting to attend at work.

If you like cold cuts, you'll like shopping here. Lots of Boars Head products and they have that little digital ordering kiosk so you can shop while you order is prepared. There will also be prepared sandwiches, sandwiches to order and panini.  As someone that is always on the lookout for gluten free things (my mother-in-law has Celiac's), this deli counter has something I have never seen before. They have a dedicated gluten free slicer.

A lot of cheeses to try here. The sample plate they had out was really good. I regret not writing down what was being served. I remember the blue cheese was Salemville. The brie was excellent too.

Another CIA grad is heading up the cheese department.  They will be making fresh mozzarella there regularly. But what's this? Bufala mozzarella in the case. I have always wanted to try it.

There is also going to be a pretty extensive olive bar next to the cheeses. I also noticed this walking by a cooler - pickles from Guss'

One of the managers excitedly went and got these opened for us to try. They are like hummus, just not made with chickpeas. I tried the black bean and the wasabi/edamame versions. Both were very tasty.

The bakery looked ready to get cooking. There will be in-house products as well as some from local places. There will also be a bunch or organic breads.

One of the local products featured in the bakery is halal baked goods from Neighborhood Bakery.

I tried the carrot cake. It was pretty good. Not the best you've ever had, but certainly better than average. And a loaf of it was priced at $2.19. I didn't pick up everything on the table to look, but I think everything was priced below $3.

This whole cooler is gluten free bakery products.

The fresh meat and seafood areas were also bare bones, but again it would be crazy to have them stocked now. ShopRite has US Department of Commerce fish inspector. Who knew? They are also willing to order anything. More of that "please ask and we'll get it to you" attitude. Apparently the Niskyuna store has already supplied eel and sea urchin among other things to customers.

This was an impressive aisle. Organic on one side, mostly gluten free on the other. Things with nuts were clearly labeled.  And if you have issues, I would encourage you to talk to the dietician. She was very familiar with the products here. My guess is that she picked most of them. Gluten free products run from here to the end of the aisle.

The store will also have a delivery service. Free delivery within a certain radius if your order is over $100. They said if you are between the two stores, you can get delivery. They will also shop for you and have it ready to be picked up. That service is free if you are buying $50 worth of stuff.

This looks like a very promising store. I'm looking forward to filling a shopping cart while wandering around it.

Call me, Steve. We'll hang out.

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