BIG PERISHABLES MARKET OPENING IN MANHATTAN

NEW YORK -- A former slaughterhouse in New York City has been transformed into a new fresh format store with an upscale image that devotes 90% of its space to perishables, most at discounted prices.The store, By Choice Market, opening this week, has ambitious plans to introduce a new kind of marketing to New Yorkers. Shoppers will be able to place orders for prepared foods and meals cooked to order

NEW YORK -- A former slaughterhouse in New York City has been transformed into a new fresh format store with an upscale image that devotes 90% of its space to perishables, most at discounted prices.

The store, By Choice Market, opening this week, has ambitious plans to introduce a new kind of marketing to New Yorkers. Shoppers will be able to place orders for prepared foods and meals cooked to order at the store via 1,400 ATM-like machines scattered throughout Manhattan. By Choice plans to deliver to their doors, and for free if the purchase is $20 or more.

While the machines will not be in place until spring, By Choice will begin home delivery this week, taking orders by telephone.

Customers also will be able to go up to the 43,000-square-foot store, on the edge of Harlem along the Hudson River, to shop for the wide array of fresh foods themselves. The parking lot accommodates 240 cars, and the store is open 24 hours. Delivery, however, stops at midnight.

Joseph Fedele, a principal in the private venture, said the ATM-like system will be the first interactive home-delivery system in Manhattan.

The store itself has been transformed from its slaughterhouse roots into a "fun place," Fedele said in an interview just before the store's opening. "We describe our store as a combination of Stew Leonard's, Larry's Markets out in Seattle and Harry's of Atlanta." Fedele estimates that 25% of business will be the sale of food cooked in the store, and total store business will be about evenly split between service and self-service departments.

"Those products that aren't seasoned or value-added lend themselves to self-service, but we really want to make use of our service departments to get eye-to-eye with the customer and find

out what he or she wants to buy here," he said.

Fedele stressed that price as well as quality and freshness will be key. "We're aiming to offer customers the freshest product at the best price they can get it." This can be done, he said, because his company is bypassing most of the steps in the traditional food distribution chain.

Everything will be delivered direct to the store. "That makes it at least four days fresher and 30% to 40% less expensive for us," Fedele said.

"We can buy direct because we order product by the trailer-load," he added. One of the features of the building is a bank of 14 receiving docks, and 19,000 square feet of the store's total floor space is being used for storage and processing.

Why in a seemingly out-of-the-way neighborhood? "We chose this site because it gave us the space we need, but we're also located in an area that gives us access to a good cross-section of ethnic groups and income levels," Fedele said.

"There are Hispanic, African-American and Dominican populations nearby, and there's a city bus terminal right here that employs about 1,400 people." In addition, the store is just a few blocks north of Columbia University.

Fedele, who has been in the food business all his life as a trader, said this store, with its fresh approach, is the culmination of a dream for him.

And this won't be the last, he told SN. The business partners in By Popular Choice, the company that owns and operates the store, plan to open six others based on this prototype in New York City's suburbs in a year or so, Fedele said.

"And then, if everything is working like we want it to, we'll begin to spread west," he said.