New York State Assemblywoman Joan Millman, D-Brooklyn, is such a big fan of Fairway Market that she helps residents in her district get free transportation there.
Every two weeks, a bus stops at two senior citizen centers and travels to the out-of-the-way Red Hook section of Brooklyn where the store is located.
After a 30-minute ride to the store, passengers enjoy several hours at the store, which features a cafe and a water view.
Such steps help explain the growing expansion of the specialty retailer, which got its start in the 1930s as a fruit and vegetable stand on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Along with its West Side and Red Hook stores, the four-unit retailer has two other New York units, in Harlem and on Long Island.
Now, four more locations have been named, and at least three additional stores are being considered.
The next new store will be a 50,000-square-foot unit slated to open this month in Paramus, N.J.
Among other plans:
Fairway has signed a lease for a 75,000-square-foot store in Pelham Manor, N.Y., in Westchester County.
It just received approval to build its first store in Connecticut. The 55,000-square-foot unit is slated to open in Stamford as part of an 80-acre development to be known as Harbor Point.
It is eyeing a site in Douglaston, in the New York City borough of Queens.
Managing partner Steven Jenkins told SN that three or four other units could be in the works soon, although the locations have not been finalized.
With a Fairway opening in town, local residents are treated to what Fairway calls a “gastronomical field trip” consisting of fresh produce, beef, fish, prepared foods and cheeses — all at reasonable prices.
“Our growth has shown that the Fairway approach
can work not only on the West Side of Manhattan, but also in places like the most remote section of Brooklyn,” said Jenkins, author of two books, “Cheese Primer” and “The Food Life: Inside the World of Food with Fairway Market's Grocer Extraordinaire.”
Along with its fresh assortment, Fairway's imported and specialty dry grocery collection is a big reason why the retailer is, as its motto says, “like no other market,” and why 2,500 members of the National Association of the Specialty Food Trade named it one of six outstanding retailers in 2007.
“We've become the repository and recognized authority for imported dry goods,” he said.
That's because many items that Fairway imports can't be found anywhere else. Shelves are stocked with unique items like fleur de sel (sea salt) and French specialties like hand-filleted sardines from Brittany and steamed, peeled and vacuum-packed beets from Lorraine.
“We don't import fad foods,” Jenkins said. “We bring in artisanal food — food that makes shopping at Fairway the experience it is.”
Fairway offers such specialties because they are delicacies that its executives and employees often use as staples.
“These are items that we keep in our own pantries,” Jenkins said.
Fairway imports food from about 100 companies in Europe. To keep prices in check, it does most of the importing itself without the use of a distributor, broker or trucking company.
“There's no one between Fairway's shelves and the little artisan in Europe,” Jenkins said.
Since not all customers may be familiar with niche items, Fairway's aisles are packed with shelf signs explaining where a product is from and what makes it so unique. For instance, a sign above Ritter Sport chocolate from Germany, selling at $2.49 for 3.5 ounces, reads: “This item is the best of its kind in the world, so we saw it fit to import it directly from Germany.”
In the same section, there's Dolfin dark chocolate and Cocomas coconut candy, both from Belgium; and Bahlsen chocolate-dipped wafer cookies from Germany.
Shelf signs also explain the source of Fairway's true shelf-stable love: olive oil. Its Plainview, Long Island store boasts 8 feet of oils and 8 feet of vinegars.
“No one knows or cares about olive oil as much as we do,” Jenkins said.
Along with importing brands made by other companies, Fairway travels the world to produce imports under its own label. The result is a wide array of store-brand specialty oils from around the world, including Italy, Spain, Mexico and Australia. There's artisan vinegar made from muscat grapes, 32 ounces, $6.99; and olive oil from Italy made with biancolilla olives, $19.99 for 33 ounces.
The Plainview unit dedicates 4 feet to 1-liter bottles sold under the Fairway brand for $12. This area includes a tasting table, where shoppers can dip pieces of bread into oil samples.
The reason Fairway places so much emphasis on oil is because it's an ingredient that true foodies can't cook without, Jenkins noted.
“There's nothing more delicious in the universe than olive oil,” Jenkins said. “It brings out the flavor of everything it touches.”
To help shoppers decide which oil to choose, Fairway includes detailed information about the product on the label, including not only the country of origin, but also the sub-region and the variety of olives used.
Local Cost Comparisons
NEW YORK — Fairway bolstered its low-price positioning recently by comparing its prices with those of its competitors.
The retailer devoted an entire page of a recent circular to show how its prices for more than 50 national-brand items are lower than those at ShopRite, Waldbaum's and Stop & Shop.
The circular stated that consumers could save up to 20% on their grocery shopping thanks to Fairway's everyday low prices.
“We'll save you money and the task of comparing circulars on your kitchen table,” the circular read. “Now, how will you spend your extra time … and cash?”
Among the price comparisons: a 20-ounce box of Kellogg's Raisin Bran, $3.69 at Fairway, $4.59 at ShopRite and $4.89 at Waldbaum's; and a 24-ounce size of Heinz Tomato Ketchup, $2.29 at Fairway, $2.49 at ShopRite and $2.59 at Waldbaum's.
New Jersey Bound
PARAMUS, N.J. — Fairway's first store outside New York is slated to open here this month in a 50,000-square-foot building with a terra-cotta stucco facade. The store will operate in the Fashion Center Mall at the intersection of Route 17 and Winters Avenue — with plenty of parking.
“I cannot wait to bring our format to those in New Jersey who have never shopped with us before,” Dan Glickberg writes in an online column at www.discoverfairway.com. Glickberg, son of co-owner Howie Glickberg, handles many of Fairway's day-to-day operations.
Among the store's features: fresh pasta production, and a kosher butcher who will be available to speak with customers in a kosher cutting room.