Fresh and Easy, Manhattan Beach et al..
- Foodandwine Jul 8, 2008 05:04 PM
Went there today and walked around a bit. Bought a few things. What do you Hounds think is worth purchasing the next time around. Overall, nice, clean and very friendly. The coffee and 1/4 muffin I had received at the little give a way station was a nice treat...
More like a Trader Joe's. I always hunt for the items w/the sale stickers. Bought some scallops at half price, nice sweet and fresh. Marked down because the 'expired' date was the next day. I like that they mark down their food versus just throwing it away as some other places do.
I visited the store in Hollywood not too long ago and was seriously disappointed. I went in hoping I'd see a nice version of Marks & Spencer Simply Food, as they have in London and as my friends at Fresh & Easy proclaim their store to be. But it wasn't anything close. The food was haphazardly presented, the merchandising defied logic, and things were generally messy. It's the merchandising that confuses me more than anything -- they sell decent cheese, smoked fish, etc., but they also sell industrial sized cans of hominy, menudo, etc. It was just weird and I could not wrap my head around the idea behind the merchandising.
I do not go to TJ's every week, but I like the experience of walking around TJ's, not knowing what I'm going to find. This is especially true in the dried fruit and nuts area -- you never know what you'll run into. It's one of life's simple pleasures for me and Fresh & Easy could not duplicate that experience.
The Hominy and Menudo etc... is because they did their homework and realized that within that zipcode alone was 42% Hispanic. They were NOT trying to replicate the offerings of their UK stores. They were smarter, did their homework and went SPECIFICALLY into under served areas first. (The MB store is probably because their HQ is in El Segundo and they needed a store closer to home)
Now that they have more stores in the LA than Trader Joe's, it's hard for me to really think that there are that many underserved areas in LA. But there is always an insatiable demand for more convenient retail locations, so that's probably what they shot for initially.
However, I am still not sure I get the merchandising decisions, at least in the Hollywood store. It seems schizophrenic, as if they're trying to make everyone happy by offering a "greatest hits" selection for each demographic. And I seriously doubt that they are going to compete with Super King, Costco, etc. when they're selling the 128 oz. can of hominy. When you're buying cans that big, you're not shopping for them at a store like F&E.
Without going into to much detail, their initial launch stores (Including the hollywood one) were in areas such as Compton, West Covina, Lakewood, etc... They were 'near' TJs, but not exactly in the nieghborhood of them, so it would be more convenient for people in the neighborhood to shop there (especially the escalating gas prices). These neighborhoods were also not near whole foods or upscale markets and the supermarkets that were in the area were aging...
I'm not sure how sophisticated they are with the deep planograms use that is typical in the US business (And since they are just launching don't know what their relationships are with the companies who offer those things) but as for giant cans of Hominy... obviously... you've never made Pozole with a Mexican Abuelita... ;) Mine uses about of those two cans... ;)
I completely disagree that it's messy and haphazard. I think you just don't understand the concept. It's a small everyday grocery store, the way they used to be before supermarkets tripled in size.
TJ's started as a wine and specialty foods store. They only added fresh meats and produce later on. If you're mostly interested in browsing for new and interesting snacks, then TJ's is your man. If you're looking for groceries, then F&E has marginally better pricing and much better meat and seafood.
Who knows how long F&Easy will be around. They do seem to be scaring the bejeezus out of the unions though.
We walked around the Manhattan Beach location a few days ago, but didn't buy anything. We thought it was kind of like an upscale Trader Joe's, with more fresh food. Agree that is looked nice and clean, and prices seemed pretty good (even my super-value $1 strawberries I had just bought at Ralphs were 95 cents there!). But my husband found the smell of paint (or industrial cleaner or whatever that was) completely overwhelming and was itching to get out as quickly as possible. The smell bothered him so much that he doesn't want to ever go back. I assume this is just "new" smell and it will dissipate soon...I will have to go back without him to check, though.
I've been shopping at the Long Beach stores since the beginning of the year. I agree with justathing, I like to hunt for the 50% price stickers as a way to try new things (they're mostly on the fresh foods). And yes, those scallops are wonderful.
Starting in the veg section,
Salad mixes, especially the watercress/rocket one
Sugar snap peas
Refrigerated section--butternut squash soup, wild mushroom soup
Deli section--smoked trout filets, uncured deli meats (maple ham, pastrami)
The fresh meat is very high quality, hence the price may seem high, but look for the 50% stickers
Their own brand greek style yogurt (I think they also sell a name brand)
Grocery section...their own brand flavored tortilla chips.
Frozen--their own brand pom blueberry sorbet. Other hounds have professed love for the banana gelato.
Their fresh ranch dressing is delicious.
They've started adding loss-leaders at extra low prices, and their every day prices on milk are better than most.
Mini Samosa-bought them on the 4th and ate them last night. Very good and the perfect size (although I ate 4). I thought I heard they were going to stock more Ennglish food so I was very disappointed. I do not eat meat so can't say but my SIL says they have real English bacon (thick and meaty) that she loves.
The store is small and hard to get around with a cart and people. I like the self checkout although it can get a bit stressful when the person behind is watching and judging. Perhaps I am projecting....
I bought the 99c strawberries and thought they were delicious. I still had to go to TJ's to get stuff they did not have like limes. I bought peaches and was a little dubious as I like to choose fruit individually (yes, I am a fruit handler and smeller) but they were quite good and cheap. I stuck em in a paper bag and just finished the last one today.
Bough the tortilla chips and liked them a lot until 2/3 through they became unbearably salty. Next time, unsalted will be way to go I think.
I am going back to try the hummus.
I was there today and found some great deals.
- 16 oz strawberries for $.39!
- 16oz frozen shelled and deveined shrimp for $3.65
- Emmi yogurt for $1.29
Don't quite understand the previous poster's comments regarding the width of the aisles as I found them to be normal size. They also had plently of bags of limes in stock.
I've patronized the Hollywood Fresh & Easy fairly regularly since it opened, and it's become my favorite place to buy beef and poultry -- much better than TJ's in this department and comparably priced. I've also enjoyed their fresh pastas quite a bit. F&E's own whole-bean coffees have also been a pleasant surprise and nicely priced.
The one in Whittier is clean and well organized. I like the alrwady-to-go pizza shells. They're thin like NYC or Neoploitan pizza and I have the option to put whatever topping I want on. They're 2 for $2.99, that's a deal to me! I also tried the Indian frozen dinners they have and they are very tasty and authentic for frozen. They prepackage their fresh produce to keep costs down. That and no cashiers (with the self-check-out) keeps the costs down and lower prices are passed to the customers. If you go on the website you'll find they are very community oriented and if you have a community organization looking for funds you might find help there.
I"ve been shopping at the ones near my in Phoenix since they opened. My first visit I was likewise underwhelmed but picked up some Voskos yogurt...the yogurt was enough to keep me going back and the more I shopped the more I liked it. As mentioned the half price markdowns are quite a deal.(all the half price meat I've picked up has been good quality and it's been a great way to stock the freezer)..and the $5 coupons. They let you use more than one coupon per visit so my $60 shopping trip ended up costing $45 yesterday.
I don't buy any of their prepared products but have been happy with staples and fresh items. Things I buy regularly:
unsalted butter($1.89/lb! Everyday price!)
flour - whole wheat, bread and all purpose
olive oil(their basic extra virgin is good for cooking with at $6.98/liter)
most of my produce
proscuitto di parma
racks of lamb
I don't buy it regularly but the banana and the pistachio gelato are both the bomb.
I haven't been to TJ's since F&E opened. I was already shopping htere less anyhow and the TJ's isn't as convenient to me. I love that I can get in and out of F&E so quickly. I don't mind hte self check since they have conveyors for it.
I went back to the Manhattan Beach Fresh & Easy and the terrible paint smell was gone, thankfully. I picked up a few items and have been trying them out over the last week.
The following store brand products were very good:
Greek style yogurt
Tea (got a couple of varieties, both were good)
I was less impressed by:
Mocha cookies (coffee flavor was little too strong)
Soymilk (vanilla and plain were both way too sweet...will try the unsweetened though)
Lowfat cottage cheese (weird texture, not as good as Knudsen)
The prices for some non store-brand items were also lower than elsewhere (e.g., I think I paid $2.99 for nutella and usually pay $4.29).
All in all, it's a nice addition to the neighborhood.
Haven't tried those three items so thanks for the warning. I'm hard to please on cottage cheese, I only like Knudsen and the Von's brand. The fig and apricot bars are pretty good but very sweet.
I stopped into the Manhattan Beach store over the weekend on the way to a friend's house and it was mobbed, with lots of out of stocks. The strawberries were still on special and were awesome. Should have picked up two.
Another item that's good (and cheap) is the Good Life brand wheat pitas. They are made with a finer grind of wheat flour than the TJ's brand. They toast up really nicely for pita chips.