Maria Swieton walked into her hometown Price Chopper to pick up her medicine from the pharmacy. An expansion has been under construction for months now, and on Wednesday, she noticed a buzz over by the construction area. She thought she’d mosey over and see what it was all about.
“And I ended up with this pizza,” she said, wiping off a greasy hand on a napkin. “Excellent pizza.”
The thin-crust pizza came from Stone Fire Pizza, one of three new restaurants that has opened inside Price Chopper’s new concept store in Latham. Store officials decided to open to the public parts of the construction area that are now complete in order to create some buzz about the new store, which now has a name.
Market Bistro will be ready to open fully in December. Plans for the new store were announced last October, so Swieton was glad to finally get a glimpse of what her grocery store will look like. That curiosity resulted in a cart full of food she hadn’t expected to purchase Wednesday.
“I always come here,” she said. “You know, it’s very hard in the beginning because you’re lost and it takes a while to get used to.”
In just a few months, there will be 16 fast-casual themed food stations inside the 10,000-square-foot addition to the Latham store. Officials are calling it “restaurant row” and have plans to put 140 seats in the middle of two rows of fresh, made-to-order food stations that include everything from pizzeria, fish fry, design-your-own burger and hot dog stations to an international cuisine station, meat rotisserie and more.
There also will be a cooking school at the front of the store, an organic bazaar, a smokehouse, Starbucks café, drive-through pharmacy, floral living wall and outdoor seating for 40 to 50 people.
The idea is for Market Bistro to be the centerpiece of the grocery chain’s future growth. All future stores will be modeled after it. When all is done, it will be the most ambitious makeover project in the Price Chopper’s 80-year history.
“Normally, we would open up everything all at once,” Price Chopper President and CEO Jerry Golub said. “But this project is so large and complex that we actually decided to open up in pieces as we go. There are tons of issues logistics-wise, since we’ve got areas closed off here and there. But we’ve taken great pains to let people know what’s going on and to create an environment that is encouraging people to try foods and to see how we’re progressing.”
So far, Price Chopper has lured customers into the new area (which is off of a temporary hallway) with promise of offerings from Ben and Bill’s, a New York-style deli.
“People will look at Ben and Bill’s and they’ll remember Joe’s Deli down in Albany,” said Golub. “And some of the older folks that had an opportunity to experience that deli will talk about their experiences there.”
Price Chopper has big plans for deli offerings. In addition to Ben and Bill’s, another traditional deli station has opened inside the new space. But that won’t be it.
“You’re not seeing all of the delis,” said Golub. “There will be at least another one. We’re going all out with our delis and prepared foods.”
On Wednesday, construction workers were busy behind big plastic curtains hung to portion off the part of the building still under construction. Customers carried red baskets and pushed shopping carts across the concrete floor in the new space, eyeing rows upon rows of prepared foods behind glass displays. A man stood at the entrance to the area, offering food samples to passers-by.
“Customers have told us they would like more choices, and that’s what this is about,” said Golub. “Whether they want to eat here or get ready-to-eat food to take home or just food to prepare at home — that’s what this store is designed to give them.”