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Food Shopping in Philly


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There used to be a really nice Genaurdi's near where I live (in Bear, DE) that was by far my favorite grocery store until the safeway buyout. I understand that in PA they are still called Genaurdi's? Down here they renamed most of them Safeway, and while Safeway seems a bit better than Acme, the quality of produce, number of options, fresh cooked/baked goods, and etc all went way down hill.

I haven't noticed your neighborhood class/supermarket connection though. If anything, in the poorer neighborhoods I see that the prices are better and less inflated than in ritzy shopping districts. Two I can think of off the top of my head down here are a Metro Food Market and a Murray's Grocer in a somewhat poorer area of Dover, DE. Both have better produce selections, better ethnic food choices, and overall lower prices than other markets (well, Murray's doesn't have produce, but it stands on the other points).

He don't mix meat and dairy,

He don't eat humble pie,

So sing a miserere

And hang the bastard high!

- Richard Wilbur and John LaTouche from Candide

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No one's mentioned the Weavers Way coop in Mount Airy. It carries a decent amount of organic foods at very good prices. I particularly like shopping there because of its grocery store size scale that yet manages to have most of what one wants most of the time. I find I never buy food in the supermarket anymore (just things like Cascade, ziplock baggies, etc.)

Otherwise, I use the RTM, farmers markets (esp HHSq), TJ, 9th St Market with its Asian outposts. Fish, Ippolito's. Meat Ochs, Sonny or Canuli on 9th. I bought some already cooked ribs at 11th & Washington. When I went to look for them, my son informed me they were the best he'd ever tasted and he just couldn't stop eating them to leave some for me. :angry:

I hate Whole Foods, and only go there because it's an easy stop on the way home from somewhere when I'm too tired to go anywhere else, because I have to shop at night, or because I want chemical free meat. Their fish? One whiff and I keep walking. Their produce? obscenely overpriced and often not very good quality, all eye little taste. Tired and hungry I bought a 70cent navel orange to munch on the way home the other day. - 1/3 skin and 2/3 tasteless :rolleyes::rolleyes::rolleyes:

Oh, and a seasonal stop at an Acme/superfresh market for Ivins gingerbread cookies.

"Half of cooking is thinking about cooking." ---Michael Roberts

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Supermarkets in the A&P family (Super Fresh is a sibling), I'm afraid, have long enjoyed reputations for dinginess--I recall that being as distinctive a feature of the A&P nearest my home in Kansas City as the ground-to-order coffee (no longer a distinctive feature of A&P stores, thanks to a more educated public; A&P has even capitalized on this by turning its former private label, Eight O'Clock, into a national brand).

A&P sold Eight O'Clock coffee in 2003:

A&P Completes Sale of Coffee Business

 

MONTVALE, NJ – November 21, 2003 – The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company, Inc. (A&P) said today that it has completed the previously announced sale of its Eight O’Clock Coffee division to Gryphon Investors, a San Francisco based private equity firm, for cash and a note.

The Company realized proceeds of $107.5 million and received a contingent Note for up to $20 million, the value and payment of which is based on certain elements of the future performance of the Eight O’Clock business

Eight O'Clock® Coffee is Reborn

In November of 2003, Eight O'Clock® Coffee was acquired by Gryphon Investors from the The Great A&P Tea Co., marking the end of the coffee brand's relationship with the nearly 150-year old grocery chain. The relationship's end also sparks a new beginning for Eight O'Clock® Coffee and its incorporation as The Eight O'Clock® Coffee Company. While Eight O'Clock® emerges to do business as a stand-alone company, it nonetheless enjoys the the benefits of leveraging the business insights and acumen of its investor-owner. Recharged and revitalized, we will continue the company's mission of providing consumers coffee of distinctive quality and outstanding value worthy of the Eight O'Clock® name and heritage.
Gustatory illiterati in an illuminati land.
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I grew up in upstate NY surrounded by Wegmans, so it's kind-of comforting that they've invaded Downingtown, Allentown, Princeton -- don't blink, there might be one around the corner from you by next thursday.

As huge, commercial, big parking lot, mainstream supermarkets go, they're pretty great.

Yea, there's threads on the Wegmans lovefest all over the boards.

At least one of them is in the NJ forum.

As far as I know, the next area Wegmans will be either in 2005 or 06 in Cherry Hill, right around where 295 and 70 meet. There'll be a Costco there too, making it that much easier for those in CC and South Jersey.

There used to be a really nice Genaurdi's near where I live (in Bear, DE) that was by far my favorite grocery store until the safeway buyout. I understand that in PA they are still called Genaurdi's? Down here they renamed most of them Safeway, and while Safeway seems a bit better than Acme, the quality of produce, number of options, fresh cooked/baked goods, and etc all went way down hill.

From what I remember, Genuardi's had more of a local connection in the suburban Philadelphia counties so there was more need to attempt to keep that local feel there. Considering the quality dropoff, I think the overall transition failed to keep that quality dropoff from happening and causing significant dissatisfaction among their customers, although I don't know how many were dissatisfied enough to stop shopping there.

Actually, Freshgrocer deserves kudos for demonstrating that it is possible to operate a really good, high-quality supermarket in the very areas I referred to in my last post.

Food for thought: Would the independent operator of the Freshgrocer stores (which did business in Delaware County under the name Drexeline before opening the first Freshgrocer about four years ago) have done this had Penn not twisted his arm real hard to open a supermarket at 40th and Walnut? Sometimes our preconceptions hamstring us, I guess.

Yes, I agree that Freshgrocer definitely deserves kudos.

I don't believe it's Penn twisting their arm, although I don't doubt they applied some pressure. I imagine it was the combined pressure of the city, developers, and Penn. And truth to tell the 40th and Walnut site has a better chance at profitability than any of the other sites, either the proposed one somewhere on North Broad (the oft-delayed Progress Plaza perhaps) or the one in the 50s on Market (I thought it was Chestnut because I thought I remeber passing it on my way into the city from Upper Darby.) Overall they just don't make enough money. I don't believe the volume nor the margins on the products are there. But they might be there for the 40th site.

But I do recall an Inquirer article about how committed Freshgrocer was to urban supermarkets. Whether that was PR fluff or an actual commitment (backed by subsidies here and there) is something else.

Herb aka "herbacidal"

Tom is not my friend.

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I'm a year out of Philly. I don't know how much it has changed since that time, but food shopping in West Philly was a giant pain in the ass before that Freshgrocer opened. What's the one on 43rd? Bleh. Fresh Grocer was always nice and clean and for the most part the employees were even fairly nice by Philly standards. (I've since moved to the midwest where everyone is unfailingly nice but completely baffled by all vegetables other than carrots.

Plus freshgrocer is a mere couple of blocks away from the Indian grocer, so you can kill two birds in one stone. If only there were a good liquor store nearby. (By good I mean one where you don't just walk up to the counter and ask for "red", "white", or a shot-size bottle of gin. ) Also, great view from the roof of the freshgrocer parking lot.

I used to hitch a ride with a friend to "Psycho-Pathmark" once a month or so before fresh grocer opened. Always an interesting cultural experience at 2am. (We kept weird hours..)

Other than that, RTM & Italian Market, and the occasional foray to the giant south philly asian marts.

There was never a great middle eastern grocer though. And don't say Bitars.

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I'm a year out of Philly. I don't know how much it has changed since that time, but food shopping in West Philly was a giant pain in the ass before that Freshgrocer opened. What's the one on 43rd? Bleh.

that would be the theftway. i'll always remember it from about 12 years ago when i went there, for such handwritten produce signs as 'zisty watercress' and 'plumpy eggplant.'

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From what I remember, Genuardi's had more of a local connection in the suburban Philadelphia counties so there was more need to attempt to keep that local feel there.  Considering the quality dropoff, I think the overall transition failed to keep that quality dropoff from happening and causing significant dissatisfaction among their customers, although I don't know how many were dissatisfied enough to stop shopping there. 

There's that Philly preference for the familiar again--Don't go mucking around with our names! (Relevant but non-foood aside: Strawbridge's is actually Hecht's, at least from an operational standpoint. Same thing.)

Yes, I agree that Freshgrocer definitely deserves kudos. 

I don't believe it's Penn twisting their arm, although I don't doubt they applied some pressure. I imagine it was the combined pressure of the city, developers, and Penn.  And truth to tell the 40th and Walnut site has a better chance at profitability than any of the other sites, either the proposed one somewhere on North Broad (the oft-delayed Progress Plaza perhaps) or the one in the 50s on Market (I thought it was Chestnut because I thought I remeber passing it on my way into the city from Upper Darby.) Overall they just don't make enough money.  I don't believe the volume nor the margins on the products are there.  But they might be there for the 40th site.

But I do recall an Inquirer article about how committed Freshgrocer was to urban supermarkets.  Whether that was PR fluff or an actual commitment (backed by subsidies here and there) is something else.

1) Actually, I believe the address is 56th and Chestnut, but the store is sited so that you could enter the lot from Chestnut or Market. The new 56th Street El station entrance will occupy the site's northeast corner.

2) I would say that even if subsidies or incentives are involved, building a brand-new supermarket from the ground up shows actual commitment. Wouldn't you?

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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I'm a year out of Philly. I don't know how much it has changed since that time, but food shopping in West Philly was a giant pain in the ass before that Freshgrocer opened. What's the one on 43rd? Bleh. Fresh Grocer was always nice and clean and for the most part the employees were even fairly nice by Philly standards. (I've since moved to the midwest where everyone is unfailingly nice but completely baffled by all vegetables other than carrots.

Where in the Midwest? (Midwesterners are exceptionally nice and friendly--excessively so by East Coast standards.)

As for veggies: Somehow, I don't recall cabbage, spinach, onions or potatoes stumping people around Kansas City. (Hey, my grandfather grew those last two.)

I used to hitch a ride with a friend to "Psycho-Pathmark" once a month or so before fresh grocer opened. Always an interesting cultural experience at 2am. (We kept weird hours..)

I had heard the term "Theftway" before, but never this one for the Grays Ferry Avenue Pathmark. (Prior to the opening of the Freshgrocer, this was the closest halfway decent supermarket to the Penn campus. Penn Transit used to run shopping shuttles to it.)

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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Where in the Midwest?  (Midwesterners are exceptionally nice and friendly--excessively so by East Coast standards.)

As for veggies:  Somehow, I don't recall cabbage, spinach, onions or potatoes stumping people around Kansas City.  (Hey, my grandfather grew those last two.)

Okay, you gotta give me some poetic license here :smile:. I'm in central Illinois. The veg situation is not bad when the farmers market is running, but right now it is not, and the weather is cold & bleak. The local krogers recently yuppified their produce section, so it is a little better than last winter. I don't have high hopes of ever getting a fish with a head on it though. I must admit that Urbana-Champaign (where I work) has great food stores.

As for the politeness, I was REALLY weirded out by it at first. Our landlord looked and spoke like Macey's character from Fargo so I was sure he was going to have someone kidnap us for ransom money. But now I don't notice so much (and the landlord is a total sweetie). I dunno, I don't think people in philly were less friendly to me, it was just more of a gruff friendly. I kinda miss it: "Hey hun, youse want some cheese wid dat?"

I used to hitch a ride with a friend to "Psycho-Pathmark" once a month or so before fresh grocer opened. Always an interesting cultural experience at 2am. (We kept weird hours..)

I had heard the term "Theftway" before, but never this one for the Grays Ferry Avenue Pathmark. (Prior to the opening of the Freshgrocer, this was the closest halfway decent supermarket to the Penn campus. Penn Transit used to run shopping shuttles to it.)

I believe my friend coined the term, I always thought it was funny. Well, especially at 3am. Maybe more like socio-pathmark...

edited 'cause when I'm tired I use the word "actually" entirely too much.

Edited by Behemoth (log)
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that would be the theftway.  i'll always remember it from about 12 years ago when i went there, for such handwritten produce signs as 'zisty watercress' and 'plumpy eggplant.'

I just wanted you to know the term "plumpy eggplant" will now forever dwell in my brain, alongside "look is good, taste is hi-excellent" from a chinese takeout menu from...golden dragon? No, I think it was that place on 18th & walnut maybe. Dammit, I knew I should have saved that menu...

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As far as I know, the next area Wegmans will be either in 2005 or 06 in Cherry Hill, right around where 295 and 70 meet.  There'll be a Costco there too, making it that much easier for those in CC and South Jersey. 

It's actually in Mount Laurel/Moorestown - there's a new shopping center on Route 38 West just after 295 with a sign up for Target (which is open), Wegmans, Costco, and a bunch of the usual big-box suspects.

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Must avoid: Shopping at Pathmark.  I will be forever scarred by a trek to the Whitman Plaza store a few summers back to take advantage of a really great ground beef special (I was planning a cookout).  The store was the size of two football fields, but they used all this space to carry 60 different sizes of the same four brands rather than four different sizes of 60 brands like they should have.  The decor was one step up from industrial -- which I wouldn't mind if I was specifically headed for a warehouse store (I buy frozen veggies at Save-A-Lot, fer Chrissakes), but I wasn't -- and the entire store staff seemed overworked.  And their private label stinks.

Just to give Pathmark a little credit, the Whitman Plaza store was completely renovated in the past two years. It's no deluxo-yuppie mart by any means but it's lost its warehouse patina; is relatively clean, well-stocked, and logically laid out; and has self-checkout which is always a plus.

Pathmark has also been a trailblazer in the past decade in opening inner-city supermarkets where others felt there was no opportunity (e.g., Newark, Brooklyn). While they don't have the highest-quality food, it's certainly a quantum leap from the overpriced groceries (of sometimes questionable quality) to be found in many inner-city corner grocery stores. Unfortunately, due to corporate financial difficulties brought on in part by a 1990s leveraged buyout (they've since gone public again), Pathmark didn't invest a lot in the upkeep and renovation of their stores which exacerbated their already somewhat low-end reputation.

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I remember the Genuardi's thing. The commercials were like "we hear your comments, and we're gonna bring back your favorite brands..." Safeway also ran Zagara's into the ground. It was a really ritzy supermarket, and Safeway stopped the daily, local deliveries of produce, and insisted on carrying the "top 100 products" even though they totally didn't go w/ the gourmet feel of Zagara's.

I'm related to the Genuardis, btw. The Norristown ones, anyway.

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I'm related to the Genuardis, btw. The Norristown ones, anyway.

1) There's another branch of the Genuardi family?

2) Any of them regret having sold to Safeway, given what they've done with the business? (At least Safeway did have the decency to take the words "Family Markets" out of the name, leaving them there for the Clemenses to pick up.)

I've shopped at a Genuardi's exactly twice--both times pre-Safeway, at the store in Huntingdon Valley (helping a friend's elderly mother who lived in Mayfair). I remember being majorly impressed not only with the quality of merchandise and level of service, but also with the prices--which, despite the chain's reputation, were actually very competitive with other area stores. Oh, well. Live and learn.

One Genuardi family tradition Safeway will probably continue to honor, though: not opening any stores within the Philadelphia city limits (the Huntingdon Valley store is just over the city line). Not while they've got UFCW Local 1776 on their case.

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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(re: Freshgrocer) I don't believe it's Penn twisting their arm, although I don't doubt they applied some pressure. I imagine it was the combined pressure of the city, developers, and Penn.

Belated followup: In the case of the first store at 40th and Walnut, the developer was Penn. That's a University parking garage atop the store. I was in the Office of University Relations while plans were being drawn up for the transformation of 40th Street, and I know that Penn's real estate honchos envisioned having what was then Fresh Fields open a store in the structure. They passed, and Penn went to Drexeline with a proposal.

Given the nature of the surrounding communities, what Penn got in the end was far better for the neighborhood than Fresh Fields/Whole Paycheck would have been. The Freshgrocer has a good mix of higher-end specialty stuff and all the basics that everyday people actually buy. (And their deli stocks Boar's Head--always a plus.) I don't have enough experience with their private label supplier (Richfood, now a unit of Minnesota-based SuperValu) to comment on its quality.

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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Given the nature of the surrounding communities, what Penn got in the end was far better for the neighborhood than Fresh Fields/Whole Paycheck would have been.  The Freshgrocer has a good mix of higher-end specialty stuff and all the basics that everyday people actually buy.  (And their deli stocks Boar's Head--always a plus.)  I don't have enough experience with their private label supplier (Richfood, now a unit of Minnesota-based SuperValu) to comment on its quality.

I remember Richfood from my days in DC as the house brand of the decidedly down-market Shoppers Food Warehouse (in fact Richfood bought SFW only to be swallowed up by SuperValu) and the local IGAs. Unless they've changed under the new ownership, I always found Richfood items to be pretty basic fare.

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I remember Richfood from my days in DC as the house brand of the decidedly down-market Shoppers Food Warehouse (in fact Richfood bought SFW only to be swallowed up by SuperValu) and the local IGAs. Unless they've changed under the new ownership, I always found Richfood items to be pretty basic fare.

"Richfood, Poor Food?"

Free associating: Oddly enough, my experience with the brands-you've-never-heard-of that the Save-a-Lot carries has been that they're not half bad. Especially the frozen veggies. And you won't get much more downmarket than this no-frills chain -- which is also now owned by SuperValu. They acquired it when they purchased St. Louis-based Wetterau Foods, which also used to be an IGA supplier, in the late 1990s.

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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(re: Freshgrocer) I don't believe it's Penn twisting their arm, although I don't doubt they applied some pressure. I imagine it was the combined pressure of the city, developers, and Penn.

Belated followup: In the case of the first store at 40th and Walnut, the developer was Penn. That's a University parking garage atop the store. I was in the Office of University Relations while plans were being drawn up for the transformation of 40th Street, and I know that Penn's real estate honchos envisioned having what was then Fresh Fields open a store in the structure. They passed, and Penn went to Drexeline with a proposal.

Given the nature of the surrounding communities, what Penn got in the end was far better for the neighborhood than Fresh Fields/Whole Paycheck would have been. The Freshgrocer has a good mix of higher-end specialty stuff and all the basics that everyday people actually buy. (And their deli stocks Boar's Head--always a plus.) I don't have enough experience with their private label supplier (Richfood, now a unit of Minnesota-based SuperValu) to comment on its quality.

You're right. I forgot Penn was the developer. They've since turned to Studley (I think to manage their real estate holdings and probably manage development of new buildings and such, but the 40th complex happened first.

I also agree about Freshgrocer being a better choice for the neighborhood.

Truthfully, I think Freshgrocer is a better choice overall for any area.

I daresay they would bring better value ovreall than Whole Foods anywhere.

Speaking about what originally was planned, has Sundance done a theater anywhere?

Thanks Sfuffy, I realized while I was driving tonight that I put down 70 instead of 38.

I should know that's Mount Laurel, I've been in that Borders down the road often.

I think I was thinking of the time I looked at the Wegmans website and it said Cherry Hill.

Quick update though, I just talked to someone who said the Wegmans is going to open January 2005. I didn't know construction was that far along, but I haven't been that way in a while.

Can anyone confirm the progress of construction?

Herb aka "herbacidal"

Tom is not my friend.

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You're right.  I forgot Penn was the developer. [...]

Speaking about what originally was planned, has Sundance done a theater anywhere?

Nope. The whole Sundance Cinemas project collapsed along with its corporate bankroller, General Cinema Corporation.

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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Thanks Sfuffy, I realized while I was driving tonight that I put down 70 instead of 38.

I should know that's Mount Laurel, I've been in that Borders down the road often.

I think I was thinking of the time I looked at the Wegmans website and it said Cherry Hill.

Quick update though, I just talked to someone who said the Wegmans is going to open January 2005.  I didn't know construction was that far along, but I haven't been that way in a while.

Can anyone confirm the progress of construction?

The Wegmans website notes coming locations in both Mount Laurel and Cherry Hill, though without any details.

I just passed by the Mount Laurel location on Thanksgiving weekend. The shopping center is set back from 38 so you really can't see it from the highway but it looks fairly built-out. They just finished widening the intersection at Marter Rd. to handle the traffic going in and out (though it's going to be a hassle making the left turn out of the center's drive to get back to 38). As I posted earlier, the Target is open and the shopping center's sign is up with both Wegmans and Costco signage so it's entirely possible that Wegmans will open in January.

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