ORGANICS HIT NEW HEIGHTS AT FAIRWAY'S SECOND FLOOR

NEW YORK -- Fairway Market, based here, is showing a strong commitment to organic produce, and is creating a destination point for its shoppers, with the recently opened second floor of its 74th Street and Broadway unit.According to Harold Seybert, president of the urban independent, nearly 20% of the 7,000-square-foot second floor is dedicated to organic produce. He said the expanded department contains

NEW YORK -- Fairway Market, based here, is showing a strong commitment to organic produce, and is creating a destination point for its shoppers, with the recently opened second floor of its 74th Street and Broadway unit.

According to Harold Seybert, president of the urban independent, nearly 20% of the 7,000-square-foot second floor is dedicated to organic produce. He said the expanded department contains a more complete line of organics than before the change, from garlic to all grades of fruit.

"We had the space available to us," he said, regarding the addition of organic produce. "In the city, there aren't that many full-service health-food supermarkets. We felt [there was a] need for it."

Seybert said that the addition of the organic-produce department, which opened to customers in August, is a reflection of the success of Fairway's uptown unit -- Fairway Wholesale Market, located on 132nd Street and 12th Avenue. The flagship unit of the chain spans more than 30,000 square feet, and positive customer response there prompted the expansion of the 74th Street unit.

"We tested [organics] in the market uptown and we got excellent responses from the faculty of Columbia [University], and from the [customers] in general," he said.

Another factor that Seybert said fueled the expansion was the growing popularity of organic products in the area and, more importantly, expansion of the industry in general.

"It's not a cottage industry any more, the organic business," he said. "It's not like the 60s where a bunch of kids from Woodstock wanted to be natural. It's a thriving industry."

The second floor, where the organic-produce department is situated, was formerly a unit of Bally Total Fitness before Fairway took it over. It has now been restored to its original look when it was a catering hall in the 1950s, right down to the authentic brick walls and period flooring, said Seybert [see "Fairway Nearly Doubling Size of New York's Broadway Unit," SN, June 14, 1999].

He said that when Fairway was considering opening the organic market, the second-floor location was a definite concern. In addition to staircases that join the first and second floors, an elevator has been installed. "We had hesitancy about the second floor, whether [customers would] come up," he said. "But, now we are finding that they are coming up. You would be amazed at how many people are walking up rather than taking the elevator. The volume is there."

Prior to the second-floor expansion, organic produce shared approximately 5,000 square feet of space with non-organic offerings on the store's first floor. In the new location, the organic produce now is paired with other organic products like vitamins, cosmetics, groceries, frozen fruits, nuts and grains.

According to Seybert, the organic produce is merchandised in the same manner as non-organic counterparts on the first floor. The vegetables are sold out of standard refrigerated cases and the fruits are displayed in plain wooden stands.

However, descriptive yellow signage denoting organic, designed by Fairway's in-house graphics department, has followed the produce items upstairs. The bright signs feature the chain's logo for organics -- "Fairway Naturally" -- and provide price, nutritional information, origin of each item and whether the item is organic or "transitional," the industry term used if organic certification is pending.

While all organic products here are destined to reside on the new second level, Seybert said one popular organic item will be sold on both floors.

"Before we opened up an organic market, our best-selling tomato sauce was organic," he said. "It was our best-selling product even though we weren't organic people. So, we are going to keep that downstairs and upstairs, at the same price."

With price in mind, Seybert pointed out that while Fairway shoppers might not be accustomed to paying higher prices, they understand that organic items demand a higher sticker price.

"People who are organic customers [are willing to] pay more," he said. "What they want is quality."