So, we checked out Fresh Market in Latham for the first time this weekend. I was extremely excited, as I'd heard wonderful things about it from my friends down South, and it's nice to have more competition and more choices for grocery stores in this area. We had to run some errands in Albany on Saturday morning and stopped there after a trip to Lowes up the road (off-topic: for a firepit! Yay to roasted marshmallows as soon as this rain clears up!).
The first thing that hit us was how nice everything looked. They're still doing construction on other stores in the plaza, but when we lived in the area everything was still under construction. The landscaping and main building were all done and absolutely beautiful. As soon as we entered the parking lot we were hit by the smell of something delicious on the grill, and we entered among a crowd of people.
The first stop was the produce department - one of the things I'd heard so much about. There was a ton of excitement in the store, and people were scooping up tons of produce into their carts. I put a couple of perfect-looking nectarines in my basket, and my next stop was the berries. Blackberries are a favorite of mine and they're only in season for a very short time. Examining the containers, I admired the big, plump berries, until I saw... fuzzy white mold.
Now, I know that berries get moldy very quickly and I always complain about this at Price Chopper. But, if you're a grocery store and it's your grand opening weekend, you should be on your A game and that's pretty inexcusable in my book.
I looked at some of the other produce, but I couldn't bring myself to spend money on it. $3.99/lb. for red peppers that are $1.99/lb. at Price Chopper (and bigger there!?) Now, I am all about shelling out for premium produce - I love the $6/lb. organic, hydroponically (and relatively locally) grown tomatoes that are just about perfection off-season. But I couldn't bring myself to spend that much per pound for peppers that I thought were better at a regular Price Chopper.
Next, onto the deli and butcher counters. They had some interesting cuts of meat, but there were so many people there that we didn't buy anything. We stayed around the perimeter of the store and saw a lot of the brands we liked, at a slight markup (example: Chobani yogurt for $1.59). The bakery smelled divine, but there were no gluten free baked goods (not that we were expecting any). The alcohol area was awesome - you could mix and match and create your own six pack! However, no Wood chuck or other gluten free options, so we passed on that. Still, it's nice for when we have company. My husband bought a bottle of Mexican Pepsi, but when we got home we realized that Mexican Pepsi is no longer like it was when we were on our honeymoon and is now made with HFCS just like American Pepsi.
When we made it into the aisles, we got a nice surprise: most of their gluten free items were labelled right on the shelves with a huge sign that said gluten free! Score! That got major points, right there. We picked up a couple of bags of Lundberg wild rice, and looked at some of the Thai and Indian sauces. Most of the stuff, though, we could find at Price Chopper, Hannaford, or natural food stores like the Green Grocer. There weren't a lot of NEW and INTERESTING items which I was a little disappointed by. If I'm going to pay a markup for these goods, I'll probably stick to buying locally.
The one interesting thing we saw was actually at the checkout. They had European sodas, 2/$6. My husband picked up a mandarin blood orange soda (he said it was OK, but he's more of an Orange Crush guy), and I bought a cranberry-lime soda. I'm planning on cracking it open when the girls are over for our monthly book club and adding some vodka - served with chocolate mice from Villa Italia. :-)
Overall? Mixed feelings about Fresh Market. I like that they bring more competition to the area, but I fear that after the novelty wears off they may not have what it takes to stick around. At least, not without upping their game.