In Defense of Gristedes

To the Editor:

I’ve read several letters over the past few months about what a terrible grocery store Gristedes is. I’d like to offer a different viewpoint. I’ve found all the employees there to be friendly, courteous, willing to help, and frustrated.

No one who doesn’t live on Roosevelt Island is going to come here specifically to shop. However, a lot of people who do live here leave the Island specifically to grocery shop, or have groceries and supplies delivered to their apartment from off-Island.

What this means is that the customer base our local Gristedes has to work with is limited, consisting of “spot shoppers” who are just grabbing a few small items to tide them over until their next off-Island shopping trip, or people with budget constraints who shop locally for value, rather than specialty items.

Consequently, the Gristedes on Roosevelt Island is somewhere near the bottom of the list when it comes time for Red Apple, Gristedes’ owners, to resupply them with new fresh products. If you ask the produce manager if they can stock a wider selection of fresh salads, you’ll likely hear, “Sure, no problem.” But while they are quick to place the order for fresh salads, filling that order is not within their control, and they will either receive nothing, or else the store is sent salads whose expiration date is 3 days away, rather than the usual week or 10 days. This isn’t the fault of the produce manager, or even of the store.

Since limited sales means the store makes less profit than the average store, if other stores want the freshest salads, they get them first. Nevertheless, the Roosevelt Island Gristedes doesn’t give up. They order fresh salads again and again, making phone calls, doing whatever it takes. It may take a couple of weeks, or even longer, but you will see a wider selection of fresh salads if you can just be patient.

The service at Gristedes is personal. Yet some customers may think to themselves that fresh salads weren’t on the rack because the produce manager didn’t listen to them, didn’t care enough to do anything. They don’t ask; they just assume they know what the problem is. They say to themselves, “Well, if the store goes out of business, it’s their own fault. That’s just the way capitalism works. If they can’t compete, they should close.”

But Roosevelt Island is a special case. And some of us really like having a local store with a decent selection, decent hours, decent prices, new products regularly, and friendly staff that tries hard. If you haven’t shopped there in awhile, you might take another look. The more people who shop there, the more clout they have, the bigger selection they can support, and the more satisfied both customers and managers will come to be.

Ruth Hatch

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