The Supermarket Situation

The supermarket situation here is pretty dire.

Are we currently at the point where the supermarkets are so poorly run that the opening of a Whole Foods is major news?

Are we really living in a city where proximity to a “good” supermarket is a huge selling point for real estate?

Where even the rumor of a new supermarket opening can increase interest in a property?

Why are our supermarkets such an unpleasant shopping experience that Freshdirect, where you order your goods online, can come in and almost instantaneously dominate the market in many neighborhoods?

Are our supermarkets so bad that putting blind trust in a online company to pick out your produce virtually guarantees doing better than picking them out by hand yourself?

Why are some neighborhoods completely lacking any supermarket at all?

Are our supermarkets so bad that you will take the subway past probably 15 other supermarkets just to go to Whole Foods/Fairway/whatever?

Did you really just drive 20 minutes our of your way, past the projects in Red Hook/Harlem just for a supermarket?

How was that 30 minute subway ride to go to the greenmarket in Union Square?

Why are our supermarkets almost universally expensive, yet many restaurants are still cheap?

Why haven’t our supermarkets gotten better in any way since the increased competition in the market recently?

7 Comments so far

  1. eric (unregistered) on April 10th, 2007 @ 9:47 am

    I have a tiny grocery store in my neighborhood which unexpectedly closed this weekend. The nearest grocery store (not bodega) is now about 10 blocks from me, making it kind of unwieldy to buy a lot of things. Because of this, I just shop at Whole Foods, which is right by my subway as I leave work and lug the bags home. Because I can’t carry too much, especially during rush hour, I end up shopping two or three times a week. A minor annoyance at best, but it surely would be nice to have a decent local option.

  2. Ben K. (unregistered) on April 10th, 2007 @ 10:12 am

    It’s no different in other cities. Take DC or Philly for example. There are nearly no decent supermarkets within walking distance of the big population centers. And forget about 24-hour convenience stores. Philly has its WaWa’s but those are hardly the same as the Korean grocers that have fruit and veggies. It could be worse in New York!

  3. Charlie (unregistered) on April 10th, 2007 @ 10:23 am

    Two years ago we moved from the Midwest to the Upper East Side. One of the dramatic differences was the lack of grocery stores. Sure Gristedes was on the same block – but it was so disgusting I would only buy can goods there and only if I had to.

    So we organized a bi-weekly shopping trip to Queens or the Bronx with neighbors just to get groceries. It made one aspect of having a large SUV in the city a positive…

    I didn’t like the idea of a warehouse working picking out produce from god knows where either.

  4. Irina (unregistered) on April 10th, 2007 @ 11:04 am

    grosstedes is the worst supermarket in the world. It has foul, rotten fruits and vegetables, and a very, very limited variety of food. Oh and everything is really expensive. Wonderful combination. I travel to Queens, Trader Joes, and Fairway to get my groceries.

  5. Chris Trent (unregistered) on April 10th, 2007 @ 5:27 pm

    so many questions! ;)

    there are many answers of course, but suffice to say that the presence/absence of grocery stores (and the types of said stores) in any given neighborhood is a huge socio-economic/-political issue. a lot has been written on the subject, though i can’t recall a single title or author off the top of my head… google, here i come.

  6. Ray (unregistered) on April 11th, 2007 @ 12:48 am

    Chris-There was a study published last year (I think), about the lack of grocery stores in certain neighborhoods in Chicago. The gist was, the poorer the area, the fewer grocery stores there were. Of course, there were always plenty of fast food places to fill the void. IIRC, the researchers called it a “food desert”.

    I’ve got 4 grocery stores fairly close-a Dag’s, a Gristedes, a Food Emporium, and a natural market. Unfortunately, 3 of these places are on 8th Ave, and I live on 11th. These places are ok if I need to pick up just a couple of things (milk, bread, etc) but there’s just no comparision to the better prices and way better selections across the river. So I do my shopping in Jersey, every 6 weeks or so. It is so very worth it. I typically save 20-30% with coupons and store discounts. I don’t think NY groceries even take coupons.

    Also, the higher prices are due to the horribly expensive rents. Any grocery store needs a lot of space, so in the city, they sacrifice with narrower aisles, and less selection (less shelf space).

  7. Dhaval Mehta (unregistered) on April 11th, 2007 @ 9:54 am

    My personal favorite is this tiny grocery shop by where I live called “Potato Field.” They sell nothing but vegetables, milk, and even stock fresh tofu. It’s made daily and only 99 cents.

    For all other foods, I really miss Wegman’s. No other grocery store like it in variety and price both. Usually you can get one or another, Wegman’s has it all.

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