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Photo report of Manhattan retail tour

Fight for space makes Manhattan produce departments unique

The day after the New York Produce Show, FreshPlaza participated in a retail tour to five different grocery stores in Manhattan. 

Grocery stores in Manhattan are unique from any other city in the United States and perhaps elsewhere in the world. First of all, the selection of produce is driven by the borough’s multi-culturalism. About 36 percent of Manhattan’s population of 1.6 million is foreign born. In addition, nearly 60 million tourists visit Manhattan annually. Different ethnicities drive the type of produce available and the selection varies by store, depending on demographics of the customers in the neighborhood. In addition, Manhattan is characterized by limited space. With about 72,000 residents per square mile, it is one of the most densely populated areas in the world. Most grocery stores struggle with storage space, which is reflected in the lay-out of each individual store. 

Morton Williams - no storage room
The tour started with a visit to Morton Williams, a family-owned and operated food retailer with 15 stores in the New York City Metropolitan area. Each store is designed to reflect the needs of the individual neighborhood. The store that was visited as part of the tour is located just south of Central park between 6th and 7th Avenue. As in most stores, space is very limited, but the store tries to accommodate what the customer asks for. “Demand for fresh-cut is huge,” said Marc Goldman, produce manager. Surprisingly, demand for organics is low and therefore, the selection of organic produce in this store is very limited. Space is limited and the store does not have a storage area. It receives fresh produce deliveries six days a week and 75 percent of fresh produce is sourced from Hunts Point Market. 

Whole Foods Market – astonishing department
The tour continued with a visit to Whole Foods Market, located in the basement of the Time Warner building on Columbus Circle, a very high traffic area. The produce department at this store is astonishing. The selection of produce items is surprisingly large and it is merchandised very well. Tropical fruit is organized together in one section. Another section contains tomatoes, but also has basil and mozzarella cheese in the same section. The use of wood crates makes for a beautiful display. Clear signs tell about the origin of the produce and in different places in the department, signs explain to customers how to store and prepare specific fruit or vegetable items. Opposite to most other Manhattan grocery stores, this store had a lot of produce items on promotion.

Chelsea Market – indoor food hall
From Columbus Circle, we made our way down to the Meatpacking District. A part of Manhattan that has undergone a significant transformation and now has become a trendy neighborhood. In the Meatpacking District, Chelsea Market was visited. In just 15 years, it has become one of the greatest indoor food halls of the world, with more than 35 vendors purveying everything from soup to nuts, wine to coffee, cheese to cheesecake. One of the stores at Chelsea Market is Manhattan Fruit Exchange that stocks general fresh produce items as well as exotic mushrooms, tropical fruits, fresh herbs, nuts and dried fruits.

Brooklyn Fare – everyone’s neighborhood grocer
Just opened two months ago in the heart of New York’s West Village is Brooklyn Fare. The store is the dream and vision of Moe Issa. She was raised in the neighborhood and has it witnessed blossom into a burgeoning residential area. While the number of residents has increased quickly, the basic necessities for the people in the neighborhood haven’t kept the same pace. The neighborhood is represented by wealthy people, people with fixed income and many families. “We try to be everyone’s neighborhood grocer,” said Will Sneddon, the store’s General Manager. Brooklyn Fare is a privately owned store with three locations. Three years ago, the first store opened in Brooklyn and two locations followed in Manhattan. If you live within 8 blocks of the store, groceries get delivered at home for free.

Le District - smart concept
All the way down in Manhattan’s Financial District, Le District opened for business in 2015. As the name suggests, this market is made up of districts. The Garden District is a one-stop location for all shopping needs, including fresh produce. The Café District offers a range of coffee delights, pastries and French treats. The Market District offers a culinary experience where you can dine & dash or stay all day. Le District’s mission is to deliver French-inspired food in an environment where service and quality are paramount.

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