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My imagination, or is Stop&Shop getting good again?

For such a long time I just hated this chain. It represented everything I hated about grocery stores. But I have to say that I've had 6+ months of good experiences here. (The Swampscott location).

The deli section is very good, but pricey. They have a very good pork section. And chicken. And produce. And surprisingly good prices on these. This summer my kids are loving their bakery goods, especially the breads. Haven't bought from the seafood counter yet.

As much as I love MB, It's just not a shopping experience I can deal with on a daily basis. I can park and get in and out of S&S way faster.

My biggest complaint with them is that those self checkout things rarely work, and the lines can get longish. But they seem to be stepping up their game.

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  1. That's a good question I don't know the answer to.
    I will note, however, that improvements have been noted at the much-maligned Shaw's in Porter Sq. of late. Gone are the self checkout lanes - now, only living breathing cashiers and quick responses when the lines get long. And what's that? Classical music over the loudspeakers? And they ditched the rewards card a few months back as well. Someone over there is really using their head!

    14 Replies
    1. re: Bob Dobalina

      I *thought* there used to be self-checkout lanes.

      I actually prefer them, they're normally faster although it does make me shake my fist when people are being idiots in them.

      I noticed that the Shaws in Twin City Plaza recently converted to a Star Market, which is funny as I thought the Stars were all being converted to Shaws

      1. re: jgg13

        The Waltham Shaw's on Lexington St. just became a Star as well, so maybe they'll all turn over eventually.

        1. re: bear

          The Lexington St./Waltham Shaw's was recently bought and completely re-tooled. It was absolute chaos for a while, but now the store is cleaner, better organized and has all new signage throughout. They also dispensed with self-checkout...this I was angry about, but I think ALOT of theft goes on with these. So, although I miss the speed/convenience, I can understand why they took them out.

        2. re: jgg13

          No, the Stars were all converted to Shawses some years back, but then Shaw's discovered that there was strong local loyalty to the "Star" name/brand (as in, I think there were a lot of Boston-area people who never adopted the name "Shaw's" for the renamed locations) so now they're reverting a lot of those back to Stars.

          1. re: Allstonian

            Right - it was the latter part I wasn't aware of.

            I laughed when I saw all the "Grand Opening" banners in the parking lot - as if it's not all exactly the same people and such.

            1. re: Allstonian

              Yes, they're rebranding their "Upscale" locations as Stars...

          2. re: Bob Dobalina

            Porter Square Shaw's has reverted to being a Star Market. That might explain the changes, although I don't recall classical music there ever!

            1. re: Bob Dobalina

              The company that owns Star/Shaws, Supervalu, recently underwent a change in ownership, and the new owners have made a lot of smart decisions that have really improved the stores. My local, the Packards Corner store, has always been notably better than other stores in the chain, but even it's been elevated recently.

              And I'll give another plug to the store-made tortilla chips, which are superb.

              1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                Before the Star-to-Shaw's change, the instore bakery produced a luscious apple fritter that was heavy on apple, with minimal-but-crispy dough. Then they switched to a different recipe, more doughy, heavier on cinnamon, like Dunkin's version. Meh. If they ever go back to the apple-ier style, I hope someone posts about it. I'd become a regular customer again.

                1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                  After hearing many reports about Star -> Shaws (horrible) -> Star (improved from Shaws), I checked out my local (Waverly Square, Belmont) Star. Yes it is cleaner but the prices are still absurd. $1.99 for a pound of regular (loose, ordinary yellow) onions? Give me a break. It is still worth the time and gasoline to drive to the Burlington MB (or, if I am only looking for produce, Russo's or even Wilson's).

                  1. re: PinchOfSalt

                    LOL...at the Waltham Star yesterday they had individual lemons for (as the signage noted) the "everyday low price" of $0.79 each! I laughed so hard....then hunted around until I found the 10 pack lemons for $4.99!

                    1. re: Science Chick

                      I was very put off by the $1.99/pound onions but it was a cooking emergency with no time to go elsewhere. The bagged onions were $2.49 for 2 pounds - less exorbitant than the loose ones but still ridiculously priced. I gritted my teeth and bought a bag while promising myself that it would be a long, long time before I tried shopping at Shaws again regardless of the name on the sign.

                  2. re: Jenny Ondioline

                    I agree. I still wouldn't call Shaw's a great, or even very good, supermarket, but it has improved over the last year or so.

                    1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                      I went to the "new" Stars (nee Shaws) in the Twin City Plaza in Cambridge and was pleasantly surprised. Everyone was friendly, they had tons of samples, the produce was plentiful and fresh (I remember at times Shaws in Porter Square would be out of basics like garlic).

                  3. I thought this was about the restaurant :(

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: jgg13

                      Ha! So did I! One more example of why I truly wish folks would think twice about using abbreviations and/or initials. This kind of "shorthand" is not as clear as people think it is.

                      1. re: jgg13

                        Me too and I was very excited at the possibility.

                        1. re: owen_meany

                          Oh wow, I'm so sorry! Is there a way I can edit the title of the OP?

                          1. re: nrthshr

                            Once the 2-hr edit window has passed, report your own post and ask the mods to change the title, explaining why. They are very good about obliging.

                            1. re: greygarious

                              Ayep, what greygarious says is correct. We've edited this one, but you can always Flag these sorts of corrections for us.

                          2. re: owen_meany

                            Me too! I wish the S+S Deli was as good as it use to be!

                        2. OK, I like the rotisserie chickens and the deli at that location, but I can't agree with you on the produce at all - it reminds me of a bodega near my old apartment in Brooklyn. Unfortunately we live squarely in Swampscott and I can't justify driving all the way to Market Basket, which means that I almost inevitably make two stops (one at S&S for cereal and other staples, one at Whole Foods for produce and fish) if I'm doing a big shopping trip.

                          7 Replies
                          1. re: cjd260

                            Since you mentioned WF for fish, are you aware of Cape Ann Fresh Catch, the area CSF (fish equivalent of a CSA)? They have several pickup locations in your general area and the fish was swimming usually no more than 24 hours ago, never more than 48. http://www.capeannfreshcatch.org/ When the CSF
                            began 5 yrs ago, you had to commit to a LOT of fish but through a friend, I learned this spring that you can subscribe to as little as a pound of fillets every other week during an 8-wk "season". I did whole fish, the most economical choice, for the spring season but now do fillets, since my knives and knife skills are not as good as I thought. I just baked some excellent hake, topped with sliced lemon, shallot, and TJ's 21 Seasoning Salute, on a bed of fresh baby spinach and some leftover brown jasmine rice that had been cooked in mushroom broth.

                            1. re: greygarious

                              I'm not much into rotisserie chickens, but they seem to be hugely popular here. I've observed waiting lines on weekday afternoons.

                              For fish and seafood MB is my go-to place. It's always fantastic. The one place where a line is a good thing.

                              But for grocery store beef, pork and chicken S&S has nice cuts, and the prices are competitive with even MB. I don't think these are MB's strong points to begin with.

                              I cook 4-5 dinners at home per week. Very casual, although obviously I'm very into it, if I post here. Here in Mhead I have access to all kinds of markets. I'm just glad to report that this one is back in the rotation!

                              1. re: greygarious

                                Woah - was not aware at all. Thanks for the tip, I'll have to check it out!

                                1. re: cjd260

                                  I'm pretty new to Cape Ann Fresh Catch but everything we've had has been STELLAR. It's definitely converting my kid to a fish lover. One disadvantage is forgetting to do your pickup within the two hour window. You're pretty much out of luck when that happens. They DO let you pick and choose which weeks you want so if you know you'll be out of town, you don't have to pay for fish you'll never be able to get. I really appreciate that flexibility!

                                  1. re: Chris VR

                                    I have the gig distributing the fish at one of the sites, in exchange for which I am given a fillet share. Though not obligated to, I stay an additional 15 minutes to accommodate any late arrivals, as does the friend from whom I learned about the opportunity to do this. She took home someone's missed order and froze it, the customer coming to her house the next day to get it. I considered giving my cell phone number to the subscribers but decided against it. Anyone who was determined enough could call the pick-up venue and ask to speak to me. Sometimes people don't care for the particular variety that day, and decide to forfeit.

                                    1. re: greygarious

                                      Our share distributor was willing to give me her cell number, so I have it in case it happens again. It boggles my mind that people would just forfeit something they paid for!

                              2. re: cjd260

                                The Marblehead and Salem Farmers markets are great, and Swampscotts isn't too shabby either. For fish I usually drive up to Rowan's in Beverly.

                              3. I thought this was about the S&S deli in Cambridge. You got my hopes up for no reason.

                                1. IMO, it's still robbery but, getting better. I also hate those self check stations, I've never been able to get through without assistance. Even the S&S clerks shake their heads at these self check stations. I still find their deli items and fish to look tired.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: treb

                                    The Brighton self serve checkouts work 75% of the time for me, especially if I use the scanning gun as I walk through the store, and scan out. I see no huge difference in anything at Stop and Shop. I like that Shaw's/Star ditched the reward card, as I have to hit the Brighton Star every once in a while for stuff the S&S doesn't carry any longer.

                                    1. re: treb

                                      The ones in the North Quincy location work about 95% of the time. I rarely have a problem with them, and I find myself wishing all the other grocers in the area would introduce some form of self-checkout.

                                      Stop and Shop is the closest grocer, so I use them a lot for certain staples (yogurt, milk, etc.). While some items are outrageously overpriced (hello, $4 Pretzel Crisps?), they have fairly comparable prices on a lot of items too, and of course you can get good deals with their weekly sales.

                                    2. The Stop and Shop in North Quincy is my go-to. Years ago it was fabulous, with a huge variety of products, particularly ethnic and sorta upscale stuff (like cornichons from france)

                                      About 6 years ago they redid the store and the produce section went way downhill and it hasn't recovered. And they stopped carrying a lot of things I boutght but probably no one else did.

                                      And recently they added some aisles, making all of then narrower, and completely re-arranged the store in a very illogical and disorganized manner. Methinks in response to the "shop the perimeter of the grocery store" notion. They have hidden things in the middle that used to be on the side.

                                      So, I have to say mine has not gotten good.

                                      But I always use the self-check thingies and they just got new ones that are super fast.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: C. Hamster

                                        The main reason I like the self checkouts is that 99% of the time I have a # of items which would qualify me for the express lanes at stores, so that's what I use.

                                        However, a large portion of people in express lanes actually do *not* have a # of items which would qualify them for that lane, and this really makes me grumpy.

                                        1. re: C. Hamster

                                          I think they sent the old North Quincy self check thingies to the Swampscott store!

                                          I'm not kidding, it's like a Seinfeld episode every time I even try!

                                          I've used the self checkout lines at plenty of places around the country for like ten years now. I actually think it's kinda fun, because I always had a secret ambition to be a grocery store cashier. Just forget I wrote that.

                                          But those little scanning guns that you walk around with are just ridiculous! It's like the hassle involved when once or twice a year my kids decide to use the wii thingy on the main TV. Clearly nobody that works there wants to see this potential replacement system succeed. So there is no real tech support. Consequently, during moderately busy times, they have serious checkout line issues…..

                                        2. I too thought it was the deli.

                                          Self checkout = good. But yes, an error pops up for no reason a little too often.

                                          Some new reduced prices that make me happy: bananas for $.39/lb, deli chicken breast always $5.99/lb (although I got some nasty watery turkey breast recently), liters of S&S sparkling water often 2 for a $1, 4 pk of tomatoes for cheap.

                                          Cappucino chip muffins.

                                          1. Per today's Globe, shaws/ star is owned be Cerberus capital, which controls freedom group, which manufactures assault weapons. Makes stop and shop look better and better...

                                            4 Replies
                                              1. re: Allstonian

                                                When Cerberus purchased Shaws/Star in March 2013,they also purchased other stores in the Supervalu holdings including Albertson's on the west coast, Acme in the mid atlantic area and Jewel in the midwest. Then about three months ago, they also purchased Safeway. They are now probably the largest operator of supermarkets.

                                                At the time of Newtown, Cerberus made noises about divesting Freedom. To date, nothing has happened.

                                              2. re: LauraBear

                                                I live within walking distance of the Quincy Star Market. I've wished many times that they would sell the location to Market Basket, especially in the last couple of years when Supervalu was running the place into the ground. Since the BJ's has opened down the street, I only go into Star on occasion when I need a few quick staples.

                                                However, over the past few months since Cerberus bought Shaw's and decided to make the Star Market their "premium" brand, I've noticed a lot of welcome changes to the Quincy Star. Much better quality produce, a much improved cheese and deli selection and better quality fresh fish as well. Prices seem to be a bit better and they got rid of that hated "loyalty card".

                                                1. re: mwk

                                                  I used to shop in that Star market, I liked it.

                                                1. I go to the Arlington one, and it's improved lately, too. I'm not sure it's a new development, but they're white-labeling some really high quality products. About a year ago, I was very sad that they stopped carrying Chabaso breads, but it turns out that's who's providing many of their 'own' bakery breads now. The orange juice in the produce section (i.e., not with the regular cartons) is white-labeled Natalie's. I've usually avoided store brands as being lower quality, but these make we wonder what other hidden greats are at S&S.

                                                  In Arlington in particular, a Whole Foods moved in and made them step up their produce game somewhat, too.

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: fleenshop

                                                    What is While Labeling? When a store puts their own label on a different manufacturers product (not necessarily in a disingenuous way...) ? I am not familiar with that term...

                                                    1. re: kateeats

                                                      Yes, exactly. Wikipedia: "A white-label product is a product produced by one company that is then rebranded by other companies to make the product appear as if they created it."


                                                  2. It depends on the location, but overall I would say it is your imagination. I do go to a local stoppie, they often have whole chickens on sale for a great price.
                                                    Like you said, it is pricey. Those union bosses have to get paid. I think the meats and fish are better at Shaws, especially one which I love shopping at in Canton.

                                                    1. I've been shopping at S&S my whole life, mostly because of location as it's close and cheaper than Shaws/Star Market. They have been revamping the stores a bit late, probably because of the competition moving in such as Market Basket and Wegmans.

                                                      I hate when they discontinue their own products. When I was a kid they used to make something called Coffee Cake Bread. Like a cinnamon swirl bread with a coffee cake crumb on top. So delicious. A few years ago they discontinued the New Fangled Muffins. They were mini loaf size corn muffins (and bran I think) that were so good toasted.

                                                      1. In my limited experience, I'd say it is your imagination. High prices, low quality bad lighting and lousy selection. Other than that good locations.
                                                        Don't Enjoy,

                                                        1. My take is they're responding to market competition, notably the impression Wegmans makes on its customers. It isn't that Wegmans markets are in actual competition with many actual locations of S&S or Shaw's (except that yucky, poorly designed and lit new Star at Chestnut Hill) but that you walk into a Wegmans and the others feel dowdy and out of touch. And with the exception of Market Basket, providing little to no service whatsoever.

                                                          So the S&S (#1!) in Brookline puts out produce now in market looking boxes and has set up a series of carts with highlighted, fresher looking stuff. To me, it's more Walmart looking than Wegmans but it is a response.

                                                          1. When we lived in Brookline Village from the mid 70's until 2005 we hated the S&S. We called it the Stop and Rob. It was dirty and the staff was beyond rude but it was the only big store in walking distance for us. Again when we vacationed in Rhode Island and Truro we were unhappy to learn that S&S was the only big chain in town. So much to my surprise now that I am in the Pittsfield MA area it is our favorite grocery store and there are three big chains competing. It is so clean it sparkles and the selection, organization and stocking are superior to the other chains. Also, as this is often true in businesses out here, the staff is super helpful and seem to actually enjoy their jobs.

                                                            2 Replies
                                                            1. re: Berheenia

                                                              I've always felt the S+S in Brookline was one of their worst ones. I've often seen prepackaged bread past the sell by date and flys in the self serve roll and pastry case. Last winter, I got a rotisseried chicken that looked good but when I got it home and took it out of the container, the bottom was burnt black. I avoid going there.

                                                              1. re: catsmeow

                                                                I used to call that Stop and Shop the "Ghetto Stop and Shop". I felt that they could get away with their heinous behavior because it the only supermarket RIGHT on the Dudley bus line, and they could take advantage of the fact that the underserved in those neighborhoods (inner-city, on the bus line) would take the bus there and be grateful.

                                                            2. I stopped into the newish Stop and Shop on Rte. 16 in the old Johnnie's Foodmaster space on Friday instead of going to MB for hot peppers. It seemed sort of a sad, slightly depressing place considering it's so new.

                                                              Johnnie's wasn't exactly joyful, but at least it had some local flavor. I'll only head back there if I really need something.

                                                              1. The Winchester Stop & Shop meat department is terrible. It's never fully stocked. Very skimpy display. There's little to choose from. The other day there was no 80% hamburger out. They often don't have some relatively common cuts such as steak for bracciolle. Very inconsistent. Suddenly they'll have lots of something like veal chops, then they disappear. I will say, they are helpful when you ask for something.

                                                                The meat dept. at the S&S that used to be Johnnie's on Salem St. in Medford is always better stocked, nearly full with a biggger variety. This is how it was when it was Johnnie's, too. I guess the same people work there and the difference is because of the staffs.