NEW BALDUCCI'S SITE TO OFFER MORE THEATER, OPEN PRODUCTION

BETHESDA, Md. -- Sutton Place Gourmet, the specialty retailer/wholesaler that owns Balducci's in New York, will add theater with a grill and carving station on the sales floor at the next Balducci's, officials said.A bolstered cheese selection in a dramatic mass display and a coffee bar will have important roles, too.In the wake of closing the Greenwich Village Balducci's earlier this year, Sutton

BETHESDA, Md. -- Sutton Place Gourmet, the specialty retailer/wholesaler that owns Balducci's in New York, will add theater with a grill and carving station on the sales floor at the next Balducci's, officials said.

A bolstered cheese selection in a dramatic mass display and a coffee bar will have important roles, too.

In the wake of closing the Greenwich Village Balducci's earlier this year, Sutton Place's Chief Executive Officer Clifford Smith told SN shutting down the 5,000-square-foot store was just the beginning of better things to come.

The company, which owns Hay Day Markets, Westport, Conn., another Balducci's site on Manhattan's Upper West Side, and six Sutton Place Gourmet stores in the Washington, D.C., area, is seeking space in lower Manhattan for a bigger Balducci's.

"We're looking for a minimum of 15,000 square feet," he said.

"We want to have an open kitchen, and we'll take some of the production that's usually behind the scenes and put it out on the sales floor.

"People will be able to buy chicken straight from the grill on the sales floor.

" We didn't have room to do that at the other store. In fact, all the food preparation at Greenwich Village was done in the basement," Smith said.

Furthermore, the company will add to its menu of foods prepared in-store.

"We have a strong sandwich program now, but so far it's only cold sandwiches," Smith said. "We'll add hot ones.

"We've been experimenting with a Santa Fe grilled chicken sandwich that's become a signature for us," he continued. "It's the No. 1 sandwich now in all our stores. The chicken is marinated in chili and lime and different spices.

"It's served on a baguette with lots of things on it. Right now, we're grilling the chicken ahead and heating it in the microwave."

Sutton Place has added products and re-set fresh departments over the past year at Sutton Place banner stores -- notably at the remodeled Reston, Va., site. There, it increased the size of the produce department by 15% and expanded its cheese display by 20%.

That type of thing will be reflected in future remodels and new stores, including the new Balducci's, which Smith hopes to have under way by summer.

The inability to expand the Greenwich Village Balducci's prohibited doing anything differently with displays there, he said.

"In the food business, you need to re-outfit a store every seven or eight years and update equipment," he said.

"When we looked at the costs to remodel that small space, we saw it would be more advantageous to move to a larger footprint."