UPDATE #3: (Putting this up front so it gets noticed)
After trying Fresh Fanatic a number of times in the past few months, I cannot recommend it as a place to do any kind of regular shopping. They don't stock some basic things I would expect at a gourmet grocer (cocoa powder, fresh basil), and whenever I go I invariably have to go somewhere else to find everything I need. They also stock the same item in multiple locations, making shopping there somewhat of a treasure hunt. Regular broccoli is in one section, organic broccoli in another. Regular apples here, organic apples over here. What's the point of this? It just makes a shopping trip more difficult than it needs to be.
Most importantly, the customer service is just awful. The last few times I've gone, the staff has been both rude and unhelpful, making me feel as I'm imposing just by asking a question or even wanting to pay. I always seem to leave in a much worse mood than when I went in, and I'm through giving them the benefit of the doubt.
To read more about my recent experiences, check out this post:
Today marks the official grand opening of the new gourmet grocer in Clinton Hill (or is it Wallabout?) on Washington and Park, Fresh Fanatic. I've had opportunities to stop in twice now and so far I'm pretty impressed. I've been hoping for better grocery options for a while now, and while Fresh Fanatic may not be the second coming of Trader Joe's, it seems to be about the next best thing.
I'd gotten a heads-up about a new "deli" opening nearby when I sat down with the owner of Body by Brooklyn a few months back. I'd gotten my hopes up for a little Italian deli - good meats and cheeses - and that would have been just fine. Instead, Fresh Fanatic is a more than full-service grocer, offering deli, meat and fish, coffee, and hot food counters along with a pretty substantial fresh bakery.
I was initially struck by just how big the space is, since I was expecting a glorified bodega. Fresh Fanatic is built in the Fresh Market or Greene Grape Provisions mold, focusing on a small selection of high-quality products rather than a huge selection of everything. There just isn't space to carry everything, but from what I've seen so far, what they do carry is very good.
Jake Bernstein, Fresh Fanatic's Marketing Director, was kind enough to answer some questions I had in advance of the grand opening today.
What brought Adam and David [Fresh Fanatic's owners] to this part of Brooklyn?
The family owns the building at 275 Park, entitled The Chocolate Factory. They made it residential in 2003 and opened the spa (body by brooklyn) soon after, and now comes the supermarket.
What's the relationship with Body by Brooklyn?
Also owned by Adam and Davids family.
Why a grocery store?
Adam and David had the space already and saw the opportunity. There is also no great fresh affordable supermarket in the neighborhood.
What does Fresh Fanatic hope to do differently? I noticed separate deli, bakery, and meat counters - will there be any specialties?
We specialize in international, gourmet, organic (stress affordable), and eventually a 24 hour coffee window.
Will there be any delivery options? What about prepared foods?
We will be taking delivery orders via internet. Also we have many prepared foods such as sushi, whole chickens, and much more.
Aside from Body by Brooklyn, does Fresh Fanatic have any other direct relationships with local businesses, such as selling Bergen Bagels bagels, for example?
We will be at The Jelly Pool Parties for the last two Sundays of August.
So what's been my experience so far? Well, the produce is good, but not expansive, and is unfortunately split on two sides of a large partition. Onions, potatoes, etc on one side, with other fresh product on the other. I'm one for having all the produce in one section, but that just might be a personal caveat. I did like the way the rest of the store was organized, and nothing feels cramped or out of place.
The deli and especially the cheese counters looked great. I'm a long way from Greene Grape Provisions and the other great markets in that part of town, so having this kind of cheese and deli selection close by is fantastic. This is probably instantly the best meat counter in this part of the neighborhood as well. There wasn't much to see as far as the coffee, hot foods, and bakery are concerned, but those will come along as the store finishes getting set up.
This block is home to Mojito, Il Porto, RePop, Body by Brooklyn, and now Fresh Fanatic, and it's become a great destination in a part of the neighborhood that seemed pretty barren just a few years back. We can always use more great grocery options, and so far Fresh Fanatic looks like a great one.
UPDATE: A commenter inquired about the hours, so while I was in today I asked. Right now they're opening at about 7:30 and closing between 7:30 and 8 on weeknights, 6 or so on the weekend. They're playing it a bit by ear, and if there are people in the store, they're not going to kick anyone out. They also plan to have a drive-by window open at 7 in the morning for coffee, which should be handy for anyone who uses the bus stop there on Park.
I also asked about beer, since right now it's the most glaring omission. They're well aware, and apparently it's what's been asked about by more people than anything else. They're in the process of getting their liquor license, but it can take up to six months. I was assured that when they do finally get it, they're going to do it right, hopefully offering a large assortment.
Today I had a chance to shop at the meat and fish counters, the deli counter, and the bakery, and every single person helping me was eager and enthusiastic to not only help me with what I was looking for, but to ask for any thoughts I might have. This first week, at least, Fresh Fanatic seems to be doing everything they can to be the best grocery in Clinton Hill. Or Wallabout, but I'm not sure how much competition there is for that one.
UPDATE 2: See further thoughts here: http://www.clintonhillfoodie.com/2009/08/more-on-fresh-fanatic.html
275 Park Ave