Since 1912, good value and quality keep customers coming back to Chanatry's
by Gordon M. Hochberg | June 23, 2010
UTICA, NY -- Chanatry's Market is a family-owned supermarket that has been
serving this upstate New York community since William Howard Taft was in
the White House. Its practice from the start was to offer high-quality items at
competitive prices in a friendly atmosphere. That practice endures to the
present time, only in a larger setting.
Fresh produce and meats have always been key departments at Chanatry's,
located here between Syracuse and the state capital of Albany. In fact, the
store has the largest service area for meats (55 feet) in the region, with staff
available at all times to offer customers personal service, according to
company owner Bill Chanatry.
But the produce department is what greets shoppers as they enter the store.
Fresh fruits and vegetables from all over the world were available in mid-
June, as always, beautifully displayed in the department that features clean
and wide aisles to help make shopping easy and enjoyable. And as Mr.
Chanatry was proud to declare, "Produce is absolutely the most important
category in the store."
Produce from New York state was starting to come in when The Produce News
visited the retailer on a sunny day in mid-June. For example, local Romaine as
well as tomatoes from New York greenhouses were set up on what the retailer
calls its "hot spot" - an island display that draws shoppers into the rest of the
The hot spot also featured five-pound bags of salt potatoes from
Hinerwadel's Inc. in North Syracuse, NY. The company generally produces
about 800,000 to 1 million five-pound bags each year, according to Mark
Strutz, the company's production manager.
The company uses white potatoes from a variety of areas, and will utilize New
York potatoes in season. The salt potatoes are very popular with retailers in
the Northeast, including, of course, Chanatry's.
The retailer enjoys offering a wide variety of local produce, and uses "Pride of
New York" signage to help shoppers identify it.
"I think as an independent, we can offer our customers local New York state
product at a very competitive price," Vinnie Ciccone, produce manager at
Chanatry's, told The Produce News June 15. "I like to advertise right through
the season at very aggressive pricing."
Mr. Ciccone is a 30-year veteran of the retail industry, mostly in produce. He
has been produce manager at Chanatry's for the last five years. Mr. Ciccone
noted that the hot spot would feature many local items throughout the
season, such as onions as well as one of the Empire State's key items: apples.
And with summer approaching at the time of this visit, he stated, "I'll
advertise sweet corn as long as the season goes."
Bozzuto's Inc., a wholesale grocer headquartered in Cheshire, CT, has been
the primary supplier to Chanatry's for about eight years, according to Ken
Brickel, perishable sales manager at Bozzuto's. Mr. Brickel and Dan McAllister,
produce merchandiser at Bozzuto's, both provide the retailer with sales and
merchandising assistance on a regular basis.
Asked what sets Chanatry's apart from the competition, Mr. Brickel replied,
"They are able to adapt to market conditions. They can take large quantities
with a great price point. They have a nice open-air atmosphere. Customers
find value and friendly service."
For a long time, Chanatry's has also worked with local growers in season to
offer its customers a wide variety of high-quality fruits and vegetables - a
practice more important than ever, perhaps, as the locally grown trend has
taken off with consumers in New York and around the country.
In fact, on the same day that The Produce News was at Chanatry's, New York
Commissioner of Agriculture Patrick Hooker stopped by to help kick off the
state's 2010 season and its Pride of New York campaign.
"So far the season looks great," said Commissioner Hooker. "We've had an
early start to the season." He added, "I don't doubt that there's a little damage
somewhere" from early storms in parts of the state, but "we're off to a very
Bill Chanatry's ancestors founded the first store =- a small grocery outlet -=
in 1912. They opened their first real supermarket about five miles from the
current location in 1938. In 1965, there were two stores -- one on French
Road very close to the current location and another about five miles away.
(That one closed in the early 1980s.)
In 1987-88, the store on French Road was torn down, and a brand new,
30,000-square foot supermarket was built on the current site. This store was
expanded in 1998 and now boasts about 50,000 square feet.
The produce department represents about 5,000 to 5,500 square feet, and
produce generally accounts for about 15 percent of total store sales during
the summer months -- a bit less the rest of the year, according to Mr.
"We know our customers, we know our products," Mr. Chanatry said from his
office overlooking the action in the store - and which he shares with his son,
Mark, who is the company's president. "We have to maintain our quality --
with no compromises."
Like the other executives at the supermarket, Mr. Chanatry was eagerly
looking forward to the 2010 New York produce season, when the hot spot and
the produce department in general would be offering inviting displays of
sought-after items like onions, sweet corn and apples.
He noted that the Utica area was "multi-ethnic," with large populations of
Italians, Poles and even Bosnians. "They are all big produce eaters," he stated.
"And they know their produce." And as these and other groups become more
knowledgeable, "they all look for New York produce."
Asked about the importance of organic produce at his supermarket, Mr.
Chanatry said that "a very small group, mostly the younger ones," does look
for organic produce. But "it doesn't make or break our produce department."
Mr. Chanatry noted that the company has worked with upstate New York
growers during the local season for many years, but that he has enjoyed the
excellent working relationship with Bozzuto's and its people as well.
"We're a big customer of Bozzuto's," he said. "They help with the
merchandising. They have a 'Kenny' [Brickel] for every department. Bozzuto's
has been an exemplary provider. There isn't anything they wouldn't do for
(For more on New York state produce, see the June 28, 2010, issue of The