Peter D. Kramer

In more than 75 interviews over the past two months, Peter D. Kramer has learned a bit about supermarkets: how they’re designed and, most important, the key role they play in their customers’ lives. His own supermarket journey has been peripatetic, taking him from Waldbaum’s in Tappan to New Hampshire to New Mexico and now to New Jersey, where the father of four has learned to bring his own bags and scan his own groceries.

Business, Venues

Local chains cultivate customer loyalty

A woman tends the blueberries at Stew Leonard’s in Yonkers. Photo by Tania Savayan/lohud

A look at three regional supermarket success stories: Turco’s, Stew Leonard’s, DeCicco’s

Michael Powell has a simple rule: Every store needs a story.

Powell works at the Los Angeles-based research and design firm Shook Kelley, helping markets sharpen their skills and define themselves: to tell their story.

“I think, in the past, it had become acceptable to say ‘We’re just running a grocery store. This is a big business operation and we happen to be selling food,’” Powell says. “I don’t think that’s acceptable, anymore. I think people want to believe that you have some kind of passion for food.”

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Business, Culture

After A&P: You are where you shop

Two-year-old Alexandra Chang holds on to blueberry waffles, her favorite breakfast choice, as her babysitter Taeko Reilly of Chappaqua, shops for bread at DeCicco & Sons in Armonk. Photo by Tania Savayan/lohud

These changes are more than real-estate transactions. They highlight the relationship shoppers have with their supermarkets

Chestnut Ridge’s Cathy Murphy thought she was in her supermarket, but she was wrong.

“I knew something was happening with A&P, but I didn’t even realize when I walked in that it was a different store,” she said. “Then I saw they didn’t have the self-checkout and I was like, ‘What is going on?’”

What was going on was that Murphy’s A&P, just across the New Jersey line in Woodcliff Lake, had become an Acme supermarket last month without her noticing. And Acme doesn’t use self-checkout aisles.

Gone was her A&P’s growing selection of organic food to which Murphy had become accustomed, in aisles she had navigated for nearly a decade. Things weren’t where they used to be.

What is going on across the Lower Hudson Valley is a dizzying and seismic shift in the local supermarket landscape, as dozens of bankrupt A&P stores have changed hands seemingly overnight to become Key Foods or Acmes or, in at least one high-profile case in Yonkers, a grocery-selling CVS.

These changes are more than real-estate transactions. They bring to light the primal and personal relationship shoppers have with their supermarkets.

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Business, Culture

Cult followings


Wegmans’ floral department in Rochester. Photo by Jamie Germano/Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

Rabid fans of Trader Joe’s and Wegmans flock to their favorite stores

Mention their name in the right company and you’ll trigger wistful, faraway looks or breathless salivation: Wegmans and Trader Joe’s.

“I love Wegmans!” says Karen Parish of Pound Ridge. “My daughter goes to Cornell and she’s bringing me something back from Wegmans when she comes back from school. They have a stir-fry sauce that is unbelievable! I told her to bring me back three bottles. I called her and said, ‘Don’t forget to go to Wegmans!’”

When Parish heard the A&P in Mount Kisco was closing, she hoped it would become a Wegmans. (Turns out, it was sold to the highest bidder, Stop&Shop, for $25 million, the most lucrative sale in the bankrupty liquidation.)

“Their food is unbelievable, so fresh. I sometimes shop at Fairway in Stamford because I live on the border. But it’s no Wegmans.”

Meanwhile, Trader Joe’s inspires people to drive long distances to stock up on supplies of frozen and packaged goods.

While Wegmans stores are huge and Trader Joe’s are deliberately smaller, both supermarket chains have avid, some might say rabid, fan bases who crave a store in their neighborhood.

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Demographics, Future

Why is milk in the back?

Mount Kisco resident Gabriella Zamora at the new Stop & Shop, formerly an A&P, in Mount Kisco. Photo by Tania Savayan/lohud

The science, psychology, economics and, yes, showmanship, at work when you shop

Showtime at the Supermarket
Click on the window above for an infographic demystifying supermarket design.

From the edge of the parking lot all the way to the dairy section in the far corner of the store, Paco Underhill explains that science, psychology and economics are at work in our grocery stores.

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Culture, Demographics

How chicken inspired an industry

Roasting rotisserie chicken. Photo by Peter Carr/lohud

Rotisserie sales will top $3.5 billion this year

As you stroll your supermarket’s prepared-food section, where you’ll find dozens of hot offerings ready to take home, tip your hat to the humble rotisserie chicken — and Blockbuster Video.

Rotisserie chicken was relatively big in the 1950s and into the ’60s in mom-and-pop delis and with home chefs, said Tom Super of the National Chicken Council.

“Consumers were reluctant to pay $2 plus for a cooked bird when they could buy a 29-cent-a-pound chicken for less than a dollar and spin it on a mechanism on their backyard grill or even in their kitchen ovens,” he said. “But fried chicken from KFC and others pushed rotisserie off the menu.”

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Future

What’s next for local markets?

Roberta Alpert, of Somers, scans produce at the new Stop & Shop, formerly an A&P, in Mount Kisco. Photo by Tania Savayan/lohud

Charting a supermarket future in a dizzying present

It used to be you knew who your competition was.

“We have gone from 20th century wars where Gimbel’s fought with Macy’s and Coke fought with Pepsi to what is a 21st-century bar fight where everybody’s fighting with everybody else,” says supermarket expert Paco Underhill.

Nowhere is the competition fiercer than it is over the spending habits of millennials, and supermarkets are paying attention, and are prepared to make some changes.

Whole Foods, the store famous for fresh food and sticker shock, recognized that it was pricing itself out of a key segment of shoppers. In May, the chain announced it will create “new hip-cool technology oriented” stores geared to 18- to 34-year-olds.

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Multimedia

Audio: Shop along with Dawna Dennis

Dawna Dennis. Photo by Tania Savayan/lohud

Dawna Dennis knows who she is. She’s a 39-year-old married mother of three girls. They have a dog.

What they don’t have, yet, is one steady grocery store they can call their own. The family moved to Yorktown from Seattle in August but they’ve yet to settle on the store that gives them everything they’re looking for.

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