On Friday, the first thing customers saw when they entered Best Market in the Holmdel Commons shopping center on Grand Opening Day was loads of produce on sale like sweet strawberries (.79 for a 16 oz. package), golden pineapples ($1.99) and asparagus ($1.99 lb.)
Baked bread was in the air. Pop music played on the store's speakers. Boar's Head deli samples on little toothpicks were proffered. Everywhere, red shopping carts and pull-along baskets inched along between the aisles and displays, and shoppers took their time, taking it all in. The last time some of them were here the place was a Top Tomato supermarket.
"It's wonderful," said Sara Getachew, a self-described bargain hunter who drove all the way from Eatontown to check out Best Market, after getting the circular in the newspaper. "I found myself saying, 'Oh my God, look at these prices.' And a lady next to me laughed and told me she was saying the same thing to herself."
For Best Market co-owners and brothers Eran and Aviv Raitses, this was exactly the kind of reaction they were looking for. They've given 25 percent of the 38,000 square foot store over to fresh fruits and vegetables. An emphasis on produce, at a good price, is one of the hallmarks of the Best Yet Market supermarket locations in New York, said Eran Raitses.
With no advertising except for that store circular and advance press coverage, the store managers, some of who had been commuting from Long Island for weeks, opened the doors for a soft opening on Thursday afternoon and the Grand Opening on Friday. Store hours will be 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
"I'll be back, without a doubt," said Agnes Stano of Holmdel, who was pleased with the deals she got on veggies and meats. "The people are very nice, and it's very clean."
The store has been staffed with 100 workers from the local area. Some vacancies remain in the seafood and deli department, and for those who don't mind moving merchandise in and out of the grocery area.
Best Market has a fish stand, managed by the third generation of longtime fish mongers from Canal Street (Salmon, $4.99 lb). There is a bakery, where Semolina baguettes (.99 cents) emerge from the oven every half hour and specialties like New York Rye ($2.49 a loaf) compete with a huge variety of artisanal specialties. The deli stand is said to be three times larger than most (Boar's Head half baby honey maple, $6.89 a lb.) The meat department was also busy (Veal cutlets, $6.99 lb.)
Clearly the most fun was over at the cheese stand, where the staff was hawking homemade samples of fresh mozzarella ($3.99 lb) like beer at a baseball game. The colorful cheesemaker didn't really need to advertise. The takers were flocking to the counter.
Deborah Dow, by day Holmdel Township's Recreation Dept. coordinator, was trying to maneuver her cart past the cheese stand excitement. She raved about her special find: La Santa Maria coarse sea salt from Italy. Eran Raitses shared her enthusiasm, and they discussed how to saute steak in coarse salt without any added fat.
Throughout the store, imported brands abounded. Eran Raitses said Best Market is small enough to engage with importers that bring in one shipping container at a time. One unfamiliar brand to Holmdel shoppers is Sophia. The label offers stuffed grape leaf tins from Greece ($1.88) and Giardiniera from Macedonia (two 24 oz jars for $5). You could find Fage brand Total Greek Yogurt (2 for $5). The Nutella hazelnut creme was stacked high. "This is not the American Nutella," said Eran Raitses. "This one has more hazelnuts." (Nutella fans, interpret that to suit your needs.)
A Best Yet Market in New York features Beer World, touted as the largest beer selection in the city. When asked if Best Market was going to purchase a liquor license from Holmdel Township and offer beer and/or wine, Raitses said he considered it a convenience for his customers. "We need to look at the cost. I believe we will pursue it."
One thing you will see de-emphasized after the grand opening, however, is sugary soda. Eran Raitses personal quest is to rid sweet soda -- including diet soda -- from the American diet. In Long Island, he succeeded in taking Coke and Pepsi off the shelves at one store. Instead, expect to see seltzers and flavored water, he said.
Also, expect to get a little exercise in. Already, on Friday afternoon, that shopping center parking lot was full-up, and Best Market shoppers were emptying their carts at the perimeters.
The store will continue to run a weekly circular in the Asbury Park Press, said Marketing Manager Jonathan Sender. They are also giving away recyclable bags. "We also do email blasts with in-store coupons," he said. Shoppers can sign up at BestMarket.com.
Best Market, 2130 State Route 35 in the Holmdel Commons (Best Buy is located here.) Phone (732) 275-0909.
Grand Opening Week is Feb. 17 through Friday, Feb. 24.
- Store hours: 7 am to 10 p.m. daily
- Credit cards: Visa, Discover, Mastercard, American Express
- ATM avaiable
- WIC accepted