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Feb 21, 2007 07:45 PM

Nob Hill Foods open in Alameda

The new Nob Hill Foods opened today in Alameda, at the newly christened "Bridgeport Center" at the foot of the Fruitvale Bridge (two blocks along Blanding from the Park St. Bridge and four blocks from my house). When I went by around 6 pm to check it out, it was jammed: not a single space in the whole parking lot and miles long lines at the checkstands. Yesterday Alameda residents got coupons in the mail for $10 off a $40 purchase that are good only for a week, so people really turned out in force. They were also handing out coupon books and store maps at the door -- very thoughtful! Despite the crowds, the mood was festive, especially since there was some kind of lottery going on: periodically they would spin a wheel to pick a checkstand, and someone (the first in line at that checkstand, presumably) would get their order free.

I'm not familiar with Nob Hill's product mix (there aren't any in the East Bay), so I took some time to walk the aisles to see what they have.

I'm pleased to say that this store did not provoke the same hatred that the new Alameda Safeway did. Probably the best thing about it was that the aisles are wide enough for two carts to pass comfortably, and the aisles are broken in half in the middle, which makes it easy to navigate. The product mix is mid-scale supermarket: not Draeger's or Andronico's but not Albertson's either. It has a cafe with a view of the estuary, a post office branch (desperately needed), a bank and a pharmacy. Hours are 6 am to 11 pm every day. I probably won't shop there often -- I'll stick to specialty stores/TJ's for most things -- but it's nice to know it's there for the few things I still need a supermarket for and for late night emergencies.

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  1. Sounds like a "spot on" description of Nob Hill. It used to be a bit better, but that was before Raley's took it over. Still good though -- but, as you say, it's no Draeger's or Andronico's.

    1. I'm a big fan of Raley's and was a regular at one time at Nob Hill. That is a spot on description of these stores. My local Raley's, while not a drop dead produce section, always has some interesting little thing at least once a month ... fresh New Mexican green chiles, baby pineapples, baby yams ... ok, those last weren't worth it.

      The local Raley's also has one of the most caring staffs I have ever seen in any market anywhere. Too many good stories on how they treat the customers.

      Anyway, on that cafe ... is it a real cafe or just tables where you sit after picking up deli items?

      1 Reply
      1. re: rworange

        It's called Java, and they have the typical coffeehouse beverages and fruit smoothies, plus of course you can eat stuff from the deli or bakery.

        There were some interesting things in the produce section, including rambutans. Generally, though, I wasn't that impressed by the produce section, since I usually buy my produce at the natural grocery and farmers' markets.

      2. I always pegged NH as the place old ladies shop...well laid out, better quality then Safeway or Albertson's but not "gourmet" like Whole Foods or what not...and the baggers automatically help people out with a full kart. I'd say old fashion in a good way.

        5 Replies
        1. re: ML8000

          You know, its funny you mention that ... ok mine's a Raley's ... but same thing ... BTW, they have a really decent free recipe magazine each month. Also available on line.

          Anyway, a recent staff story ... this older gentleman ... perhaps 200 or 300 years old ... was being helped by the manager and a few clerks. He was having trouble walking and dealing with the cart.

          So, I offer to get one of those electric carts for him and the manager says ... "Thank you but Mr. Methusala is very independant and doesn't want to use the cart."

          So I grab a nearby chair so the guy can sit for a few minutes ... there are two people holding him up he is so frail. Turns out they are trying to get him to his car ... my God !!! ... his car ... he can't negotiate the grocery cart.

          Anyway, they had called the police who took over the situation once the guy left the store and called someone to drive him home. The deal is that not only were they familiar with this customer and knew his name, but through this whole thing, the old guy is handled with respect so that no one injures his dignity without endangering the world by putting the guy on the road.

          I was impressed. It wasn't the first time at that store that something extrodinary like that happened. It is nice when a big store is ... well, human.

          1. re: rworange

            That's a funny and scary story...and true about the service. I use to go to a NH on the pennisula when I dated someone there and they'd offer to help w/ the groceries even for a couple of 30-somethings. NH/Raley's always struck me as having a slow charm even on days you'd guess to be really busy like Sat. afternoon. At first I didn't like it but over time I found it much more calm then big national chains. When I go to national chains my objective is get through ASAP, get everything I need and leave. The funny thing is RH is really designed for a slow stroll through there and looking at an old lady. Funny the first descriptions of the madness at the new Alameda store didn't sound right to be...but if I had a $40 buck coupon, I'd be there too. I go to Alameda a few times a month, I might have to check it out.

            1. re: ML8000

              A new supermarket is definitely a big deal in Alameda -- it's the first new one we've had since Marina Village was built, and in the meantime, we lost two Albertson's (not much of a loss, but still). And people are curious to check out the new center as a whole: it's a lot more appealing than South Shore, and you don't have to fight your way down Park Street to get there, especially from the Fernside area. And of course, it's the only Nob Hill in the East Bay, which makes it a bit of a curiosity -- I wouldn't have been so quick to check it out if it were just another Safeway.

              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                A few months ago, I discovered the Nob Hill Foods in Concord (close to Ygnacio, off of Oak Grove Road), and now I divide my grocery dollars between that and Trader Joes. I love their meat selection - they have things more difficult to find elsewhere, and at very reasonable prices. Last Saturday, I got a package of pork riblets to supplement a package of baby back ribs, and it was a great value - 1 1/2 pounds of meat for 4 bucks. They have lamb tongue, veal liver, and other organ meats. They have a lot of space at this store, and their meat department is pretty extensive. If you like bacon, you'll find a wonderful assortment there, from cheapo stuff to more high-end product. It is the source for the Figaro tuna one of my cats craves.

                You'll find items there that will surprise you - remember those packaged pizza mixes, with all the ingredients in one box? Yeah, it's not as good as what you all or I make now, but if one wants a trip down memory lane, there ya go. A good Mexican foods section, a bakery that turns out wheat ciabbata rolls, and an extensive housewares section make this store more attractive to me than other stores in the area. They have an instore brand for many staples, and the prices are very competitive.

                Their carts are regular size, and the aisles wide. Service has been excellent - friendly clerks who bag well. The extra bags never bother me - I use them for kitty litterpan cleanup and don't feel they're wasted. It's a pleasurable shopping trip every time.

                1. re: Seldomsated

                  Oh, yeah. I was pretty pleased with the meat selection -- it looks small, but there's really a lot there. I prefer to buy my meat from my butcher, but he only has a limited variety of cuts, especially of non-beef cuts. My dog was really happy when I came home from the store with a couple of packages of beef feet!

        2. I stoped in last night, it was heaving, I was hoping to pick up a few things but seeing the queue's quickly changed my mind. I was praying for weeks that I wouldn't hate it and I could finally never ever to set foot in that Safeway from hell at South Shore! at least I got the satisfaction of knowing that last night!

          I'll wait a week till it calms and go take a proper look, but I can tell already that it can't replace TJ's or Dan's (for produce). I was kind of unimpressed with the produce and meat sections - thought they would have more space (the butcher counter was almost easy to miss it was so small).

          However two stand out items that will get me back where thin cut lamb steaks, like the kind I haven't seen since I left England, that these cool looking Abalone (sp) mushrooms.

          1. I can't quite picture what you mean by aisles being broken in half in the middle: are you saying there are lanes like a road? Anyway, easy to navigate sounds good to me....

            8 Replies
            1. re: susancinsf

              There's a long center lane in the middle of the store. So lanes don't run all the way from the front of the store to the back with no break.

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              1. re: rworange

                Right. Some stores trap you in their aisles, making you walk all the way to the front or back before you can move to another aisle. It's actually a marketing strategy to force you to be exposed to a larger number of products to get where you want to go. Safeway practices this with a vengeance! The shelving at the Nob Hills was also not as high and there was less overhead clutter than Safeway, leading to much less claustrophobia and sensory overload.

                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                  Actually the Nob Hill / Raley stragegy is better marketing. If give them more of the valuable end aisle display to push products ... uh, feature selected products and specials.

                  1. re: rworange

                    I agree, especially since a lot of manufacturers pay stores to display their products on "end caps" -- but clearly Safeway doesn't buy into that philosophy.

                    Nob Hill's end caps seem to be oriented toward "impulse" purchases: lots of candy (both high-end and low-end -- there must have been Valrhona in half a dozen different locations, and there were two or three displays of bagged Easter candy) -- and not so much to featured sale items.

                  2. re: Ruth Lafler

                    Thanks for the clarification. Actually, the Potrero Hill Safeway, which I go to occaisonally, has the same 'broken' is much easier to deal with, especially in a larger store.

                    1. re: susancinsf

                      I forgot to mention Susan, they have some sort of salad dressing that you were looking for once. You mentioned if you were ever in El Sobrante you'd pick it up. The Alameda Nob Hill might be better.

                      Speaking of candy, Raley/Nob Hill has a nice selection of chocolate bars. My Raley's have them all over the place. So they are on the end of ailes, near the deli, in the candy section, in the organic section.

                      My favorite so far is the Dagoba lavender. They just got in the Hersey single origin chocolate bars too.

                      1. re: rworange

                        oh yeah, might swing by after work some day....thanks! (of course now I forget the name of the stuff, but I will remember when I see it. My sister turned me on to it on a camping trip: waayyyyy waaayyyy better than your average bottled dressing.....)

                        1. re: susancinsf

                          Margitza's (or is it Marritza's?) balsamic vineagrette......Comes in a small plastic bottle.