Is Long Island ready for a supermarket with Southern charm? The North Carolina-based Fresh Market opened its 149th location Wednesday in Woodbury and pulled out all the stops for its new audience: Employees roamed the aisles with samples of cheese and sushi, stations were set up to offer tastes of prepared foods and sweets, customers received free tote bags. Everyone — from the butcher to the guy restocking the shelves to the cashier — was friendly and solicitous.
Manager John King said, “customer service is our signature. If you have more than two bags, someone will take them to the car for you.” (I had only one bag and had to fend off a would-be porter.)
And speaking of porter, I paced off more than 30 feet of cold beer at The Fresh Market, a stunning display. King explained that the stores are designed to sell both beer and wine, but since New York State doesn’t permit supermarkets to sell wine, beer just expanded to fill the space.
The 25,000-square-foot store is nicely appointed with faux-wood flooring and little antique-room vignettes positioned high up on the walls. A large produce section had both conventional and organic produce and featured something I’d never seen before: The Belgian endive was stored in a hinged box to shield it from light (which can turn the white leaves green). Also of note: exotics such as Buddha’s hands ($9.99), cactus pears and star fruits (both $1.99).
The meat counter had a lot of nice-looking prepared items including ready-to-bake potpies (8-inch for $12.99) and individual turnovers ($5.99). The highest grade of beef available was premium choice; King said there would be prime closer to the holidays. I saw no organic or grass-fed meat, nor heritage breeds of pork.
Many items — nuts, candy, trail mixes, snack foods — were sold in bulk. I was happy to see a favorite, dark-chocolate malted milk balls ($6.99/pound) and a new one on me, flash-fried salted okra ($12.99).
I bought a bucket of fried chicken to go ($7.99 for eight pieces) and it was a hit at the office.
The Fresh Market is open 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday. Parking, on Day One, seemed ample.
Info: 8285 Jericho Tpke., Woodbury, 516-224-4765, thefreshmarket.com.