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There's help at Fairway in Plainview

At Fairway Market in Plainvew, "greeter" Justine Vega-Fuentes

At Fairway Market in Plainvew, "greeter" Justine Vega-Fuentes Dronet helps customer Nick Panico of Manorville find hot sauce. Credit: Newsday / Erica Marcus

Among the most common questions Justine Vega-Fuentes Dronet gets are: “Where’s the tahini?” “Where’s the extra-virgin olive oil?” and “Where's my wife?” Dronet is one of two “greeters” employed by Fairway Market in Plainview, but the title hardly does justice to her responsibilities.

I followed Dronet around on a recent afternoon as she tore around the store in her black Vans asking customers “Can I help you find anything?” In the course of 10 minutes she had located chipotle mayonnaise, Progresso soups, jarred onions, cranberry extract, hot sauce and sugar. Noting that the olive-oil tasting bar was out of bread cubes, she sped over to the bakery to replenish the supply. She righted a fallen soup carton so that Wolfgang Puck’s visage didn’t face the floor.

Fairway is a supermarket where a personal guide comes in handy; its organization is famously complex. This, Dronet can repeat in her sleep: “Specialty and organic are in aisles one to six. Frozen is seven. Aisles eight to fourteen are regular grocery and fifteen is dairy.” (This explains why the McCormick spices are in aisle 11 but Fairway’s own, fancier, spices are in aisle 3B.)

Plainview’s first greeter, Joanna Aducci, started this spring as part of a chain-wide initiative. Dan Glickberg, Fairway vice president and a fourth-generation owner, told me that when the new Pelham Manor store opened in April, greeters were introduced “to help new customers get acquainted with our store. And we found that they worked so well, it would be beneficial to all our stores.”

So, management commissioned a few dozen bright-red aprons bearing the message “NEED HELP? I’m friendly and have answers.” Dronet, who lives in Farmingdale, donned the apron a month ago but she already knows the store like the back of her hand. She’s learned that people often look up at the ceiling when they are praying for help, but also that many customers just prefer to trawl the aisles on a voyage of discovery. On those occasions when Fairway simply cannot fulfil a request, she offers the customer a request form to fill out. “Nine out of ten times we can get the item,” she said.

Greeters work the floor at Fairway from 10 am. to 8 p.m. Fairway Market is at 50 Manetto Hill Mall, Plainview, 516-937-5402.

Justine Vega-Fuentes Dronet helps Nick Panico find hot sauce

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