By George Capsis
Oh, wow! Mrs. Green’s, just like D’Agostino, has caught the empty shelf disease, and it could be fatal!
My pal Joe Fedele, from the United Food & Commercial Workers International Union (Local 1500), gleefully sent me a trade press article documenting the closing of four Mrs. Green’s stores and offering shots of empty shelves in the Greenwich Avenue store right here in the West Village.
Joe’s Union fought hard with daily pickets to organize the Village store but management offered workers an unprecedented employment package including profit sharing and the Union backed away.
Now, there are empty shelves. The supermarket business is undergoing accelerating changes that seem irreversible.
Young people today must buy organic, fresh, and local, which is the message of chains like Fresh Direct (my daughter Athena in San Diego orders me to use Fresh Direct) but let’s look at our little town, the West Village.
If you are concerned about price, you bike up to Trader Joe’s on 22nd Street and 6th Avenue or the smaller store on 14th Street near 3rd Avenue. As you enter, you discover that the checkout line starts right at the door and winds through the store to 30 cashiers. They make more per square foot (psf) then any other food store—$1,723 psf compared to $552 psf for Publix and $496 psf for Kroger.
Trader Joe’s heads the category of “limited assortment” which means they don’t have many slow-moving items or competing brands. They just have one—the Trader Joe’s brand, which occupies a lot less shelf space. Indeed Trader Joe’s, and stores like it, are projected to expand by 150% by 2018.
When D’Agostino failed to sign the lease for their space in the Archive building, I called Trader Joe’s press office to see if they would take over and was offered, “No plans right now.” But the three-block-long St. John’s 1500-apartment complex will have retail space and I guarantee that, sooner or later, Trader Joe’s will be in the West Village and will crush all competitors.
The Consumers Union correctly downrates Trader Joe’s produce, meat, and fish offerings, but rates them near the top overall because of their prices.
Western Beef is closer to Trader Joe’s pricing, but it is the most depressing store ever, with narrow aisles crowded by sales displays. However, it is as cheap as Associated used to be.
The new tenants in Rudin Towers will, if indeed they cook at all, shop Citarella or await delivery from Fresh Direct.
Word is that the Canadian company that owns Mrs. Green’s is aggressively looking for investors. If they don’t find one and unless John Catsimatidis buys it, I think we will see the Hudson Street store close.