Friday, August 21, 2009

More on Fresh Fanatic

Are we tired of Fresh Fanatic posts? I hope not! I've had a chance to stop in a few more times in the last few days, as well as get some reader questions answered, so I thought I'd collect everything into a single follow-up post.

First, prices. One of the traps Fresh Fanatic is going to have to work hard to avoid, because of its focus on high-quality fare, is high prices for everything. They've maintained over and over that while they're going to be selling organic produce and other goods, they believe they'll be able to offer lower prices than other stores. How are they doing? Well, prices on deli meats are high but not exorbitant. $8.95/lb for things like ham and turkey, which is about a dollar more than many stores offer for comparable meats. They use Applegate Farms for the meats but offer Boar's Head cheeses. When I've been there they haven't had anything on special - if they do start to offer specials, it might bring things down a bit. I got a pound of ham yesterday and asked for it sliced thin and they did a really great job, which isn't always a given at delis around here. The bakery staff also mentioned that they're still playing with prices on things like the prepared sweets. A slice of flourless chocolate cake is $3.25 now, but that might change as they gauge interest.

Produce seems reasonable, especially for fruits and vegetables which have both an organic and non-organic option. I'm still not thrilled about how the produce is organized, though. Tomatoes, for instance are set up so that organic ones are in the main produce area, while non-organic roma tomatoes are on the other side of the partition by the front door. Two separate places in the store to get tomatoes? I don't think it works, but they're still playing with how things are set up, I imagine. Price in general will be something everyone will be keeping a close eye on.

For items where they only have an organic option, like eggs, prices are high. Their cheapest dozen eggs is $3.50, and that might mean people shop elsewhere for staples. I'd like to see some non-organic options for things like milk and eggs so that a trip for basic stuff doesn't take too much of a chunk our of my wallet.

How about hours? Right now they're still playing in by ear a bit, but they're open by 7:30 or 8 in the morning and are planning on closing between 7:30 and 8 on weeknights, 6 or so on the weekend. They've mentioned to me a couple of times that they're trying to get a feel for the neighborhood and how late people will shop, and they won't close up if there are still people shopping. They also have a "walk-by" window on Park that will be open at 7am to server coffee, which will be great for people who use the bus stop that's right there. I stopped in at about 8 this morning for coffee ($4.25 for a large latte and a poppy seed muffin) and both the store and the coffee window were open.

Beer? They're waiting on the liquor license, and it may take up to six months for that to come through. Once they get it, they plan on having a good selection (30+) of beers, and they're also planning on soliciting suggestions from shoppers as far as what we'd like to see. The Associated on Myrtle has always had an excellent beer selection, so it will be interesting to see how Fresh Fanatic competes.

A few people have mentioned it, but everyone there has been exceptionally friendly and helpful. Stop at the fish counter and you can end up getting a 15 minute lesson on fish. Everyone wants to know what they can do to help, and what they can do better.

Have you had a chance to stop in yet? Tell us what you think!


Club AV said...

love your blog. I've been waiting/watching Fresh Fanatic patiently and love your updates. Also, like your twitter asides about Shadow Complex, etc.. I downloaded last night.

Brian said...

Ha, thanks. Yeah, my Twitter feed really only tangentially relates to the blog a lot of the time, but I also publish links to new posts there.

As for Fresh Fanatic, it's really exceeded my expectations in almost every way so far. It's not perfect, but it's quickly become on of the best grocery options in the area.

Amychka said...

Fresh Fanatic was really nice to be in, and they do have good variety, but I must agree about the prices. I think that $9/lb for turkey is expensive. Most of us are on a budget and while I do love that it's organic and blah blah I probably will still buy cheaper turkey elsewhere until they do start offering specials.
I liked that the fruit was reasonably priced, but the dairy was like whooaaa prices (at least to me -I think paying over $5 for milk is insane!!)
One thing I must praise though is their bakery! The prices there seemed very reasonable (75 cent truffles! 50 cent cookies!) And they had yummy samples of a lot of stuff they were selling. So that's nice.
I am interested to see where they go with it and it's great to have in the neighborhood.

justin said...

I was pretty pleased with my first brief trip yesterday. The prices didn't seem particularly out of line to me, but I've been shopping mainly organic long enough that I just don't think I notice; I'm also single and childless, and rarely cook meat, so the prices of produce and dairy (which didn't seem outrageous? $2.50 for a quart of organic milk is, IIRC, cheaper than Associated, though still more than Ronnybrook at the farmers market with a bottle return) doesn't add up to much, even if it is super expensive. Anyway, the staff were absurdly friendly. They gave me a free latte for no apparent reason, and were taking suggestions at the cash register for products to carry. I think it fills a great niche between a super high end, carefully curated place like Choice Greene, and the Myrtle Associated. Between those three, and the farmers market, I can't see needing to shop for food anywhere else. It looks like a great addition for those of us on the north side of the neigborhood.

justin said...

Quick follow up, since I just went over to FF: they now have non-organic, but free range and antibiotic-free eggs for $2.69 a dozen. Also, I'm extremely psyched by their coffee bar: Gimme beans, $1.75 for a small, $1.95 for a large. That's about comparable to Connecticut Muffin, and is almost definitely much better coffee. Cheaper than Bidonville or Pillow, which are both lovely places but I don't love their coffee. Also, cold brewed iced coffee!

Brian said...

Tried to stop in on my way to work this morning at about 8:10 and they weren't open. The coffee window wasn't open either, but I got them to open it up and make something for me.

Things aren't really consistent yet, but I'm hoping they'll get there. If they really want that coffee window to be useful, it's going to have to be open well before 8:00 on weekdays. It also took them quite a long time to both make the coffee and get change after I paid, but I'm willing to chalk that up to them still learning the process.

Brian said...

Some more on price -

I was in yesterday to get some orange juice because I've been feeling under the weather, and the only OJ they sold was $6.90 for half a gallon. That's a bit ridiculous.

I'm all for organic options, but when the only orange juice you sell is almost $14 a gallon, you need to offer non-organic choices.

Jason said...

This place is great! Finally a supermarket that has sockeye salmon for under 20 bucks a pound. I am a Pratt student, so I was really happy to see this in my neighborhood, they also offer 10% off to pratt students with ID! Everyone can go here for fresh clean and not stale old groceries like associated.

Dahl said...

I stopped in there last week, and I was pretty impressed. They were also ridiculously nice to me as well. They gave me free individual gelato, which they said they were giving to all customers as a thank you gift. (It may have been because they may have melted a bit at some point and were a bit sticky, but fine by me). Also explained the prepared foods (made there) as I wandered through that aisle). The price for the meat and fish seems very reasonable, waaaay cheaper than Provisions. Since I'm about equidistant from both, it may become a destination on the weekends for that type of food.

Anonymous said...

Not so Fresh Fanatic.
Last week I was here and notice the insane prices on some things, I felt like running out the door but I purchased a soy drink and a sweet potato pure, when I try it at home fist I though it was spicy but then notice that it was spoil instead. This is the only place with more workers than customers in Brooklyn, that may be the reason why they are extra nice.

Wilka Jones said...

I read a review on the N.Y. Times an want it to be the first for the cooking classes. I got there but they had no Ostrich, no live fish and a very kind girl at the Bakery told me that the Chef was gone and now the bread is coming from Europe. Is this the concept of fresh for this people?
Some things are cheap but a lot of things are expensive for this neighborhood.

Anonymous said...

I did purchased some soups before here and usually they are very good and tasty I just had a tomato and vegetables soup and it is awful. I fill like I wasted my money on water with vegetables.

Anonymous said...

There is something wrong with the pickles that I purchased, after one bite the garbage was the best place to keep them. Why are this people selling that crap in such a beautiful place?
Stay away from the bland vegetarian food buy the (expensive) vegetables and do it yourself it will probably taste better.

Brian said...

Sucks about the pickles. Pickles are awesome.

I've stopped going here in the morning for coffee after having one bad experience after another with their coffee window. It's just not worth the headache every morning.

Anonymous said...

I got some bread in this place and the next day I did complain because it was too hard; they told me that the bread is made in Europe!!!!!!!! I think that the real name for this place is now only Fanatic. The lady at the bakery was not nice at all

Anonymous said...

This place was very promising at the beginning, they started with some good food made in the house and now it absolutely sucks. What is wrong with this people?????!!!!

Anonymous said...

yeah, i am with you. i was so happy to have them in the hood, now i go there and it's dead, all the produce looks old and no one will talk to you unless you walk up to someone and usually they aren't even nice. last time, there was a full on argument by 3 employees(managers?), i'll just walk a little more out of the way to provisions or choice green.

Xiao-Yue said...

Wow, interesting how this conversation has changed so much over the course of a few months! I'd been considering this place because Groupon had a deal where $15 bought $35 worth of food but after reading your comments, I'm almost certain that I wouldn't be willing to travel an hour to here (10m to Trader Joe's) even with the Groupon discount.

It'd be interesting to do a case study on this store, I wonder what they'd find.