MONTVALE, NJ — The Fresh Market, a supermarket chain headquartered in Greensboro, NC, professes to offer consumers a unique shopping experience, designing its stores to evoke an old-world charm with a warm and inviting atmosphere and superior customer service.
That quest for “unique” was entirely evident at a grand opening of its first Garden State location, held here June 15. Eschewing the traditional ribbon-cutting ceremony, the chain instead cracked open an 85-pound wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.
“We like to think of ourselves as offering a different experience, and cutting a ribbon is boring,” Marc Jones, senior vice president of merchandising and marketing for The Fresh Market, told a crowd of Montvale borough officials, local media and shoppers assembled for the grand-opening ceremony.
Upon entering the store, customers are greeted by gorgeous and well-stocked produce and floral departments, where workers alternate between maintaining displays and interacting with shoppers to answer questions and discuss items with which they might not be familiar.
Mr. Jones said that The Fresh Market’s typical store is 20,000 square feet in size, with produce and floral comprising about 20 percent of that space.
Offering locally grown products is an integral part of The Fresh Market’s philosophy, according to Paul Schillaci, the local produce field coordinator for the chain, which has more than 100 stores in 20 states.
“We try to generate interest and support the local economy by offering locally grown product,” said Mr. Schillaci, who joined The Fresh Market two years ago after spending 25 years at Wegman’s, where he was most recently a produce buyer and ripening program coordinator. “Also, the impact on the environment is less with locally grown product, which is something our customers appreciate.”
Mr. Schillaci said that locally grown is defined by The Fresh Market as something that is produced within a 125-mile radius of a store, and opening day of the Montvale location featured a number of items produced in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania, highlighted by New Jersey’s famous blueberries.
“These were picked Monday, packed on Tuesday and are here for sale today,” he said while holding a one-pint clamshell of Jersey Fresh blueberries. “Selling something that quickly after harvest will enable us to offer the best quality and flavor, which is what savvy consumers expect.”
Mr. Schillaci’s background is heavy in agriculture. He grew up on a farm that produced vegetables and grains, earned a bachelor’s degree in plant sciences from Cornell University and then went to North Carolina State University, where he earned a master’s degree in entomology. In all, he has 40 years of experience in produce. As part of his duties at The Fresh Market, he is in charge of finding potential supply partners and making sure they meet the chain’s criteria.
“Our top priority is making sure the food we sell is safe,” he said. “So our grower partners need to be certified by a third party for Good Agricultural Practices. We also want to make sure that the growers we use are established and reputable, and I personally visit them and inspect their facilities and products.
“I am really quite pleased with what we have from New Jersey for this grand opening,” Mr. Schillaci continued. “While it is still early in the season, the blueberries and the leaf items are outstanding, and we look forward to getting more [Jersey Fresh] product as it becomes available.”
Mr. Jones said that while The Fresh Market does not target a specific demographic or income level when opening a new store, it tends to seek out locations “where people appreciate food. We wanted to be in New Jersey, and Montvale was a great fit.”