It was my girlfriend’s mom who first told me that there was a traffic jam on Elmwood this morning. She told us to avoid the block between Summer and North if we knew what was good for us. Obviously she hadn’t been aware that the opening of PriceRite had been at eight O’clock am. Even if she had, I doubt that there are many people who could have guessed that the supermarket would have created such a stir on an overcast Sunday in March.
After breakfast we decided to head on over to see what all the fuss was about. As word of the opening was spreading on the street (Elmwood that is), we decided to take a short cut and go through the back entrance (off North). Incredibly, the back was also buzzing with activity. On our way into the store we were greeted with a line of shopping carts stacked neatly in a row – plus a steady stream of carts whizzing by us. In order to get into the thick of things we were led to the front of the store (the starting line) where we began our journey through the rows of unfamiliar aisles.
I couldn’t believe how many people were in front of us… and behind us. It was like being in a formation in a marching army of shopping carts. Customers had not come to browse either – they had come to load up on all of the various goods found throughout the store. And I mean various. I had heard from acquaintances that PriceRite might pleasantly surprise some people. They had told me that although the supermarket was a discount market, the quality and the selections were actually quite decent. And they were right. My girlfriend described it as being similar to other markets that she had once frequented in the Tri-State Region – ultra urban, no frills, packed to the gills, and busy.
This is a true urban market. No fancy shelves… actually there are virtually no shelves. It’s back to the basics here. Instead of shelves, the products are stacked up on shipping palettes. Rows and rows of boxes, cans and bags, lending wallpaper-like visuals to the browsing experience. The aisles weren’t as heavily trafficked as the fringe areas, so we were able to take our time looking at some of the offerings. We found a number of items that we had not seen in Buffalo before – and that was good news. We also found a bunch of products that have made their way onto our list of everyday staples. I found my favorite cereal, which made me happy. My girlfriend was happy to find that the produce was extremely fresh and there was plenty of it. Her mom was glad to see some name brands along with plenty of ethnic goods. Thankfully, there were no canned and bottled goods labeled ‘FOOD’ or ‘DRINK’ – generic product images once made famous in the cult movie Repo Man. I guess in the back of my mind I always pictured that the place was going to be too creepy-generic.
While I was there I ran into a few of my friends from the neighborhood who were giddy with delight over the opening. One friend told me that the store brought tears to her eyes because she was so happy for the customers who have found quality goods at fair price so close to home. Another friend told me that it was her second time back that day because when she got home (after the first visit) she couldn’t stop thinking about some of the items that she had run across. What a surprise. It was refreshing to find a well stocked, brightly lit, simply organized layout. PriceRite is apparently well managed too. I know that it was opening day, but the staff (and there was a huge staff) was knowledgeable and friendly. Even when I got busted (yeah busted) for taking a couple photographs, they were kind and courteous – not like robotic chickenmen that you sometimes run across at big box shops (or in Repo Man).
I’ll be interested to see what PriceRite will be like in a couple months. I hope that the overwhelming first-day success is a sign of things to come. If they keep up appearances, stock the shelves, keep it clean and concentrate on customer service, then I’m sure that they will do just fine. As for me, I’ll continue to shop at Wegmans, Guercio’s, and The Lexington Co-op, while adding this place to my list for a quick neighborhood stop when on my bike. Hopefully they will install some bike racks as we didn’t see any on our way out.