PATHMARK OPENS NEW UNIT WITH AN IN-STORE SUSHI BAR

WOODBRIDGE, N.J. -- Pathmark Stores here has taken its Pathmark 2000 prototype up a notch or two with regard to marketing and product variety.At a new unit in Edgewater, N.J., the chain has moved prepared food offerings up front. It has also added a staffed sushi bar to the mix."This store is the next step in the evolution of our Pathmark 2000 series. It's the first to bring together programs that

WOODBRIDGE, N.J. -- Pathmark Stores here has taken its Pathmark 2000 prototype up a notch or two with regard to marketing and product variety.

At a new unit in Edgewater, N.J., the chain has moved prepared food offerings up front. It has also added a staffed sushi bar to the mix.

"This store is the next step in the evolution of our Pathmark 2000 series. It's the first to bring together programs that have been tested and have succeeded at other locations since we opened the first Pathmark 2000 store," said Stan Sorkin, vice president of public affairs, for the 140-unit chain.

It also brings at least one new element into play. The sushi bar makes its debut with Pathmark at the Edgewater store. Interestingly, the Pathmark unit is within walking distance of Yaohan, a Japanese supermarket, which also offers fresh-made sushi.

Sorkin declined to discuss Pathmark's reasons for placing its first sushi bar in this particular store. However, a local observer told SN that the demographics could be expected to support both sushi bars. The two major factors in the demographic profile are a dense Asian population and a high-income level for most residents in the area.

"There's the potential to satisfy Asian tastes and also to provide sushi for others who are apt to try gourmet-type items. I don't believe [Pathmark is] relying on the Asian population for the sushi bar's success," the observer said.

On one recent Sunday afternoon, several customers, none of them Asian, were seen putting packages of sushi in their grocery carts within a short time period.

"The variety is better than at Yaohan and so is the price," said one .... {the same one or another??} observer.

At Pathmark, some price points were $4.35 for 12 small pieces of tuna sushi; $3.95 for 18 vegetable sushi pieces; and $3.95 for nine regular-sized California rolls, which have avocado, cucumber and imitation crab meat as ingredients.

By comparison, at Yaohan, six California rolls of approximately the same size as those at Pathmark, were $4.03.

A store-level source at Pathmark said California rolls are the best selling items at the sushi bar. Over the bar, a sign reads, "Fresh sushi, made fresh every day."

In addition, the store promotes the program with a large blue and white banner hanging outside of the store. The banner also emphasizes that the product is "made fresh."

The four-foot sushi station features chefs creating sushi pieces and packing them up just behind a stair-stepped self-service case. The sushi bar, staffed all day, is run by Advanced Fresh Concepts, a Compton, Calif., a company that specializes in the operation of sushi bars in supermarkets.

The bar is situated as the third stop in the store's traffic pattern, adjacent to the traditional deli case and in close proximity to Pathmark's Chef Creations merchandising case

After the sushi bar comes the seafood department, featuring a variety of fish on a large expanse of ice tables.

According to Sorkin, the store is designed to immediately make a strong "fresh" statement, and similar layouts will mark all Pathmark's new stores and remodels.

Prepared foods are immediately apparent at the Edgewater unit, which was opened June 12.

The first impression is that food is being prepared on site, with the chain's Chef's Creations prepared food program, a sub sandwich and beverage station all brought to the forefront. Earlier Pathmark units had such program further back in the shopping pattern.

On one recent Sunday afternoon, activity in the prepared food area was brisk, as associates chopped ingredients for sandwiches and customers ordered from the large selection of prepared entrees and sides.

The first element seen in fresh aisle at Edgewater is a freestanding rotisserie chicken self-service station with a banner over it.

Just to the right, associates can be seen creating sub sandwiches, dishing up chicken dinners, and interacting with customers at the Chef's Creations prepared foods case. The Chef's Creations counter is a low-profile case with chilled entrees and main-dish salads attractively displayed on oval-shaped platters.

Starburst signs on the case call attention to two newly introduced entrees. One, meatloaf with gravy, would fall into the "comfort food" category; while the other, ravioli with peppers, would be defined as a more trendy menu item. Both had a retail of $3.99 a pound.

The new Edgewater store is the fourth of Pathmark's units to have Chef's Creations. The Chef's Creations program features a large repertoire of entrees and sides made in store under the direction of a staff chef. It was introduced almost a year ago at a remodeled unit in Greenvale, N.Y., on Long Island.

At that store, however, the program was located against the back wall, alongside the traditional deli case. Later, at another Long Island, N.Y., unit, Chef's Creations was brought up to the front. In its latest incarnation at the Edgewater store, the Chef's Creations program is obviously the star. It's the first element against the right wall.

The aisles in the Edgewater store are particularly wide, and the entrance opens onto the fresh food aisle, a configuration that works to set the tone for the whole store.

The fresh aisle, including the deli, bakery, meat, seafood and produce departments, occupies approximately 30% of the 64,000-square-foot store which is built on a prime spot in a newly constructed shopping center on the west shore of the Hudson River, across from New York City.

While the Edgewater unit's overall "fresh" look will characterize new Pathmark stores and remodels, the sushi bar and the Chef's Creations program will not necessarily be installed in all, Sorkin said.

"[The sushi bar] is a test. We've not decided on whether it will be added in other new stores or remodels. And the demographics of each area will determine whether we'll have a Chef's Creations program at that location," Sorkin said.

The chain will open its next store in the Flatbush Ave. area of Brooklyn, N.Y., before the end of the year, Sorkin said.