Seasons Supermarket in Flushing
They opened today and I walked around and got take-out lunch. Initial reactions:
It is a well laid out, beautiful store with modern, well designed graphics and all new fixtures. It looks more like a Whole Foods Market than an A&P.
Prices seemed comparable to major supermarkets, though I did not do a formal survey. They have a meat take out dept (deli & sushi). Sushi ranges from $5-16 for a tray. The meat and vegetable items were, for the most part, standard items, with a few barely more creative. All were, however, presented attractively rather than just piled into a metal tray. Similar to Sammy's Deli in Teaneck. the deli is branded as Mechy's. They used too much plastic packaging but that is pretty common in these operations.
They had a small fresh fish dept, large meat dept with what appeared to be nicely cut, high quality meat, both grass and grain fed. Produce was all fresh. All the shelves were neat and packed (this IS the first day.
The merchandise was, with a few exceptions, unexceptional. That is, the same thing you would find at Stop and Shop or any kosher grocery. Fairway has more upscale kosher foods. Despite the appearance, this is not Whole Foods Kosher. There was little evidence of an emphasis on locally-grown produce, organic, international cuisine or hard to find products (though there was a few of the latter). Yes, you can get Udon noodles from Australia, but you are more likely to buy Miller's Cheese and Fruit Loops than artisanal cheese or French pastry.
Baked goods were standard fare, nothing like what you'd find at Fairway (though they had a lot of cheesecake, perhaps the bakery made too much for Shavuot. They did have fresh bread, but I did not try it.
No salad bar. There is valet parking (parking was always a problem in peak hours in the old store.
The place seemed way over-staffed, though some may be from their other stores to see how it goes. The register software looks like it was state of the art in 1995 -- my clerk had a lot of trouble using it.
In sum, they are moving the kosher market up a notch, but not to a new category. They know that Kew Gardens Hills is not the Upper West Side and the locals want kishke, not pate. It is, in sum a supermarket, not a specialty store. Still, it is a far nicer place to shop than the old Supersol and that certainly makes a big difference.
Fairway? The obvious point of reference for most kosher KGH shoppers will be Aron's Kissena Farms so let's contrast those 2 stores. Kissena is a much larger store with tons of parking and space yet it is very crowded and very unorganized. For example, there is a huge bottleneck just to get into the store. You want to go check out the store but there's always one person in front of you who just has to check out some of the cans. Seasons is like a fresh air. It was actually designed for a nice experience and you don't get that busy shuk feeling.
As far as the actual food, i agree that it's not very creative. The butcher didn't have things like spare ribs, let alone fun things such as hangar steaks or the pepper crusted ribeyes that we got last week from Aron's. The bakery items didn't look any different from those offered in the bakery on the same block.
Takeout; now this is Kissena's biggest weakness. I don't like many of their standard items and they don't even have fried chicken. I bought some from Seasons today and it was pretty good. Much better than any of the other stores on main street. KGH is missing good fried chicken ever since Burger Nosh closed down.
I've actually never been to Aron's (I work near Seasons and while I used to live in jhillcrest and shop at SuperSol, I am a transient here). I compared it to Fairway because the latter has a bakery that is innovative (for kosher, anyway) with items that one does not see in places like G&I. Season's bakery seemed to have little beyond what one is used to from standard kosher bakeries. I agree with you that Seasons is designed to make the shopping experience a pleasure. Whether that alone will attract customers or not remains to be seen. I am told that Pomegranate (which I have not been to either) similarly does not offer much in the way of product differentiation, with take out that is little different from anywhere else. What it does offer is very expensive meat. Will Seasons do the same? Will customers pay? We'll see...