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May 30, 2006 01:35 PM

A few Fairway Observations

  • p

Too busy to give a properly structured opinion, so here goes:

-- Generally, a thumbs up.

-- Insane layout! They had a giant empty rectangle within which to work. Why did they feel the need to lay the aisles out in such a crazy pattern that they literally had to lay big yellow arrows on the floor to lead you through?

-- Good prices, good selection.

-- Produce section seemed a little lacking compared to the UWS store. I expected a bit more variety -- a few more wacky items I've never seen.

-- Bakery seemed a little paltry

-- Fish counter seemed to have a good selection though the whole fish on display/for sale were none to fresh -- milky eyes. granted, it was late Monday on a 3-day weekend, but still.

-- Meat counter and overall meat selection looked great.

-- The parking lot was only 2/3rds full (main lot in front almost full, side lot empty) and the store was CROWDED. Had to say "excuse me" to get by at least 10 times. I worry that it will be unnavigably crowded at times.

-- Despite crowd, very little wait at cashier. Maybe 2 people ahead of me, each with only a dozen items or so.

-- The crowd looked to be overwhelmingly yuppie/gentrified Brooklyn (like me) who were doing their Sunday night shopping for the week (on Monday because of the Holiday weekend). I expect that on weeknights around 8pm it'll be pretty quiet in there.

Overall, it's a great addition to Brooklyn. I see myself going there once every few months when I want a few different odd items or am throwing a big BBQ and want to eye my meat before buying it (otherwise I'd use FreshDirect.) If FreshDirect were not around, I imagine I'd be there every other week.


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  1. p

    Peter, I agree with your generally-positive observations. On the layout problem: I actually e-mailed Fairway today to ask them to make a map of the store, so customers can find their way around better. Maybe if enough people ask, they will do it!

    I may not be able to get my favorite political candidates elected to office but, damn it, I can stand up for my rights as a spoiled, yuppy consumer! ;)

    1. A couple observations on your observations:

      I suspect the wacky layout had to do with a few factors
      -- working within the existing architectural elements, with storage access for each section
      -- trying to direct 'flow' so that everyone is going in one direction and end up at the registers (sheep-like)
      -- trying to keep the cold area (the seafood and meat island) cold. Unlike the Harlem branch, there is no 'cold room'. The meat area is all open refrigeration and must cost an arm and a leg in electricity. Once you get to the grocery aisles it's not as cold.

      I was surprised that they didn't take the opportunity to expand both the cheese and the bakery sections. That said, I have already been back several times to get the 8 grain pullman loaf. Love it. And all the bread is baked on premises, which is an improvement from the 74 St branch.

      18 Replies
      1. re: Pupster
        Peter in the Heights


        A comment on your comment on my comment about the layout... ;)

        While I'm all for building a better mousetrap, I think America has pretty much nailed the whole supermarket layout thing:

        -- Produce along one side wall
        -- Meat along the back wall
        -- Freezer/cold cases along the other side wall or down the middle
        -- Bakery usually in a corner at the end of the produce
        -- Everything else in plain' ol' aisles up and down. If the aisles are too long (as they are in some massive exurban markets, then an aisle that cuts across the middle to allow for shortcuts.

        As far as your comment about access/storage, every other market in America seems to be able to store things behind the back wall and then distribute from there.

        All that said, Fairway may have had a very good reason for doing things the way they did.

        Maybe they think people will get lost and buy more.

        Maybe they felt the space would be overwhelming if the sightlines were too long.

        Maybe there are constraints we can't see like massive pillars to hold up the building or some such.

        Maybe they wanted to keep the wacky "feeling" of their 2 Manhattan store (has anyone been to their suburban store? Does it have a wacky layout too?)

        Someday we'll know. For now? We follow the yellow arrows. ;)


        1. re: Peter in the Heights

          why in the world should they conform? You are going to go back again, right? why not create a different experience.

          1. re: jen kalb
            Peter in the Heights

            I'm not suggesting the conform. If they can come up with a better way of doing things, great!

            But from what I can tell they just did it different, not better. And different for different's sake, to me at least, is a bit lame and confusing.


            1. re: Peter in the Heights

              I think that, like the stu leonard's in westchester, the fairway people have figured out that if you make the market maze-like and people have to wander through a lot of it each time they shop, they will buy more. I suspect good old-fashioned money making drove that layout, nothing more.

              1. re: missmasala

                The layout, according to their press kit, was determined by the physical structure. The building, built before the Civil War, was an open warehouse space,held up by huge columns.

                I was informed today that they are indeed opening a restaurant in the next few months. Most likely a steak house . With that fabulous view and all that parkinking, I am sure it will be a huge success.

                1. re: Fleur

                  Honesly, I'm gonna go WAY out on my own here. That place was a nightmare. First off, things are organized by BRAND rather than type, some salsa is on one aisle, some more on another. Seriuosly, test my theory if you don't believe me. My theory: If you pass salsa once, eh, twice, um maybe I need that, the third time, yup i'll grab some already.

                  Second, and my biggest gripe, why the hell get space in Red Hook if you're still not going to be able to push 2 carts down an aisle at a time. It was cheaper by 5 bucks or so total, but I won't be heading down again.

                  1. re: Cobbler

                    I love to shop and have been happily trolling the UWS Fairway for years, but RedHook was flat-out gruelling. I had a short list, and being familiar with the Fairway filing system, found what I wanted pretty easily (try the Dijon mustard w/ Roquefort the next time you make a vinaigrette!). And yes, the food is absolutely unbeatable. But lord--the swarming of the carts, the aimless milling of the shoppers, the lack of number tapes! Think Zabar's Fish Counter at Christmastime... wound through the entire store. I dread the thought of going back. Though I will, of course. Maybe they'll put a liquor bar in next to the restaurant...

                    1. re: jmj

                      The thing that bothers me most is that they haven't put prices on many items. They say they haven't gotten their system fully operational yet.

                      I am willing to give them time , considering the fact they just opened. I am sure they are paying attention to comments and trying to work out the glitches as fast as they can

                      1. re: Fleur


                        1. re: food lover

                          no need to scream! and there are more than a few quality supermarkets in brooklyn...none as large as this but that doesn't mean they don't have quality. i love the little ctown on 9th street - lovely produce, great selection and very nice. bigger doesn't always mean better.
                          or best.

                          1. re: redgirl

                            my main gripe, which i plan on communicating to fairway, is the handling of produce by cashiers. i love fairway, live near and and go there all the time already, but every time i go to the check out, a: no one knows what the item is, which is due to new workers and b: possibly in frustration, the fruit is forcefully put in bags or rolled down the bagging "chute", resulting in bruised peaches and pears, etc. its annoying + a waste of money for me. that said i am totally totally stoked to have them in the neighborhood, they are just definitely working out some major kinks at this point. other than that it should also be noted that most of the counter workers could not be more helpful and positive, which is definitely a different experience from say, the harlem fairway's cheese counter.

                            1. re: maya
                              Bob Martinez

                              The Donovan's branch in Woodside is actually closer to Shea.

                              Parkside in Corona is very convenient to Shea and offers up good quality red sauce Italian. Not cheap but worth it.

                              Best to make a reservation. You can always cancel if the weather turns good.


                    2. re: Cobbler

                      I'm with you on this, though I like the store in many ways. I was looking for dry beans, and found them in three different locations -- and that doesn't include bulk items, where I was told to look. I didn't look there because I could never find it. So I find the place hard to navigate. For that matter, I was looking for navy beans, not a particularly obscure item, and never found them.

                      1. re: Cobbler

                        The main reason is that there is no other even barely decent supermarket in the area. FAIRWAY is much cheaper than KEY FOOD and GRISTEDES in the Heights, $1-$2 on individual items, and they carry products not found at the others like SILVER PALATE products, like Honey Mustard.

                2. re: jen kalb

                  "why in the world should they conform?"

                  Because people could navigate more easily?

                  But maybe they *are* conforming. Ikea has been pulling the same game for years and even led the way with the yellow arrows on the floor.

                3. re: Peter in the Heights

                  I frequently shop in their Plainview store (parents live in the area).

                  The layout is very simple. Produce when you walk in, then the Deli, Appetizing counter (smoked fish, etc) & Seafood , Butcher/meat cases, bakery and dairy along the perimeter (back wall). Everything else is pretty much in regular grocery aisles with the freezer section in the middle.

                  The fresh pasta aisle is across from the Deli counter. On the other side is the olive bar. The first aisle after that is the cheese. On the other side is the coffee.

                  Also there's a sushi bar and cafe on the other side of the produce department (front wall before the registers).

                  Like with any market it takes a little time to get used to. I've been to the Plainview store a hundred times and know where everything is. And yet I still end up spending a ton of time and end up with items not on my list ;)

                  Have you tried any of the baked goods besides the bread? I always find them completely lacking at the Plainview location. The bread is great though.

                  I hit the Brooklyn location last weekend and found it to be like a maze. Plus I was in a rush and didn't have the time I would have like to really get the lay of the land.

                  I'm sure once people get the layout down it will be fine.

                  1. re: CornflakeGirl
                    Peter in the Heights

                    Yeah, I guess the bottom line is that even with little variations as to where they keep stuff, I could sketch a map of pretty much any grocery store I've used more than 5 times.

                    Having a uniform layout, even if it's not the industry norm, means that people can form a mental map and know where things are, how to dash in and out with an item or two, etc.

                    Honestly? This Fairway is an absolute maze. I bet I could get 20 times and still not be able to draw an accurate representation as to the layout of the store.

                    I'm not saying it's an especially bad thing -- just an odd thing.


                  2. re: Peter in the Heights

                    next time you're in the store notice that there are 3 solid brick walls that run the length of the building making it actually 4 buildings side by side... we had to cut passageways to get from one building to the other and still keep enough wall to support the entire addition there are pillars every 12 feet..i was involved in the layout of the store and considering what we had to work with when the site was empty i think we did the best we could with an impossible building

                4. Bummer that they're so incredibly far from the nearest subway station.

                  1. We have been there quite a few times since the opening. At different times of day. Each time the parking lot has been full up. We saw many minority shoppers, and many non-Yuppie Brooklynites. People seem to like the quality and the prices, which are lower than most neighborhood markets.

                    I find it to be an excellent supermarket, far better than anything else in the city. The place is really huge, and requires some navigating, but all in all, it is easy to find things.It is very clean, the products are new and fresh, the help is available and accomodating, everything a supermarket should be . Unless one shops at Balducci or Dean & de Luca at much much higher prices, this is as good as it gets.

                    I will still buy most meat at STAUBITZ, most fish at FISH TALES, and bread at CAPUTO, but for everyday shopping, Fairway scores big. My feeling is that trendy or alternate lifestyle places like Whole Foods, Park Slope Coop , and Trader Joe will lose business. The neighborhood dedication of the Fairway family, as opposed to a nation-wide corporate megachain ; they are in it for the long haul. Fresh Direct is OK in a pinch, but the spotty quality and higher prices, and the fact that you don't pick yourself, and can't see what you are getting are major drawbacks, as are the much higher prices.

                    7 Replies
                    1. re: Fleur

                      I was there on Sunday and decided to walk back to the Slope. The Fine Faire supermarket a little way aways was open but the parking lot was almost entirely empty. They've had a captive market for so long -- I'm sure they don't know what hit them.

                      1. re: Peter Cuce

                        Re: Fine Fare

                        FYI--I live down the street. Fine Fare has only been open for about a year--maybe a bit more. When I moved to the hood two years ago, the store that was there was out of business. I would argue that they have never had a captive market, and the parking lot has never been even half full--not even on the weekends.

                        And if they even wanted to try to compete for business, they need stop selling brown meat and moldy yogurt. (Yick.)

                      2. re: Fleur

                        I think STAUBITZ, FISH TALES, and CAPUTO are the ones who should be weary of Fairway and will lose business, NOT the corporate megachains. Whole Foods and Trader Joes, w/ almost 400 locations between them, can absorb a hit if one or two of their stores have sales that are down. However, the three former are neighborhood stores and for years had a captive audience and they have a lot more to lose. Most people would say why go to three separate places for meat, fish and bread when I can get everything, and more, @ one location?

                        1. re: MShapiro

                          The reason for me is that I still prefer shopping for many things at individual purveyors for choice, freshness,quality, and service. I should add SAHADI to that list.

                          FAIRWAY's prices on meat is not much lower than STAUBITZ, actually higher on many items, and the service one gets at a full service butcher is not replaced by a supermarket. Same for fish. Certainly for bread. No one beats CAPUTO quality or prices.

                          FAIRWAY is a great supermarket. I will probably shop there twice a week for staples and household goods, and continue patronizing the others for specialty items.

                          1. re: Fleur

                            I agree, but IMO most people won’t bother shopping @ three different stores to get their meat, fish & bread when one stop supermarket will do the trick. You and I probably will, but we're definitely in the minority. To save a dollar here and a dollar there is not much of an incentive. I’d hate to see Fairway ruin, or dare I say close, so many of the specialty neighborhood grocers because that doesn’t seem to be their mission.

                            1. re: Fleur

                              What's so great about caputo's bread. Italian loaves are icky...wonderbread with a hardcrust..french bagettes much better...yummie...fairway produce needs to get better...4 visits and produce has yet to shine...not like on 125th

                              1. re: jmalik

                                CAPUTO has some outstanding breads that are baked fresh every day. The Golden Raisin and the large Tuscan Loaf are served at HENRY'S END and are superb. The Brioche Loaf is outstanding, as is the Pullman Loaf which needs to be special ordered. The Prosciuto/Lard Bread is great.

                        2. here's my additional fairway observation - that was pulled down earlier by the powers that be even tho it's completely relevant...why are they saying that they are located in redhook, ny?? brooklynites everywhere should be up in arms. they are in brooklyn, ny in the neighborhood of redhook. redhook, ny is upstate.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: redgirl

                            As I previously mentioned...Fairway needs a geography lesson.