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Tops Markets launches new store format focused on fresh

Tops Market, a 155-store chain based in Williamsville, NY, with locations throughout upstate New York, northern Pennsylvania and western Vermont, has launched a small-format, fresh-focused concept store called Orchard Fresh, which is located in the upscale Buffalo, NY, suburb of Orchard Park.

The store opened April 14, and so far it has exceeded expectations, according to Steve Wright, director of produce and floral.

"During our first week, our sales have been about double of what we expected," he told The Produce News April 18. "Our produce sales were around 18-20 percent [of total store sales]."

316Mr. Wright said that the new store concept had been under consideration for a couple of years, and while it is still in its infancy, there have been discussions about opening locations under that banner.

At approximately 25,000 square feet, Orchard Fresh is notably smaller than other stores in the chain, but Mr. Wright said the intent was to model it after specialty-type markets that have limited offerings but high-end products.

"We have extensive organic [produce] offerings, and our goal is to make organics available to all at a reasonable price," he said. "Our organic items are typically 10 to 20 percent higher in price than our conventional items. That is affordable compared to other upscale retailers in the area."

That high-end affordability is the niche that Mr. Wright believes will help Orchard Fresh thrive.

"Up to this point, there has not been a store like Orchard Fresh in this area," he said. "We have upscale stores like Wegman's and Trader Joe's, and they do a great job so no one was up to challenge them. With Orchard Fresh, we are going for that upscale consumer that might not want to spend as much."

Mr. Wright said that the store currently has more than 150 organic produce items, but that number is growing daily as consumer response has been nothing short of remarkable.

"Ultimately, we will rely on consumer feedback to decide what we will carry," he said. "Part of our core value is providing our guests with options to make healthier choices. We carry both organic and convention items, but when there is the opportunity to carry organic items exclusively, we will do so."

He said that about 60 percent of the produce at Orchard Fresh will come through the chain's warehouse in Lancaster, NY. When local produce is in season, it will work directly with area growers.

"We currently have a strong potted herb program grown in Eden Valley, NY, and carry tomatoes-on-the-vine, produced with green energy out of Lewiston, NY," added Jeff Cady, produce category manager. "That commitment will carry into other locally grown products as they become available."

Mr. Wright said that a lot of thought and careful consideration went into opening the new store, including hiring the right people for the right positions.

"Our associates put a great deal of attention and detail into their work," he said. "All of our pre-cut items are done here in the store with great care and an eye for quality."

Mr. Wright, a 31-year veteran of the produce industry, has been with Tops Markets for two-and-a-half years. Prior to that, he worked in the produce divisions at Seaway Foodtown in Ohio and Spartan Stores in Grand Rapids, MI.