Today was the (unofficial) opening of the new Grocery Outlet “supermarket”, located a stone throw away from my house. I was a little dubious at first about what the store would do for the neighborhood (and clearly, this is not a posh neighborhood by any stretch of the imagination), but once I looked at it from the point of view of how this would ease my grocery shopping, I welcomed it with open arms. Indeed, I think I may have been responsible for suggesting this location. I remember distinctively talking to the manager-to-be of Grocery Outlet a couple of years ago, when they wanted to place it in the old-Albertsons building downtown (which we fought), and suggesting that the lot by my house would be a better location.
Of course, being that it opened today, we had to check it out today – and we were pretty impressed. Bear in mind that the store is brand-new (well, the building itself was vacated by the Salvation Army, but it’s been cleaned and painted so that it’s now unrecognizable), so you would expect it to look nice – and it did, the aisles were wide, the light, functional, and the colors, soothing. It wasn’t as faux-quaint as Trader Joe’s, but not as austere as your regular supermarket either. Everything was nice and neat (again, as you would expect), I can only hope it stays like that.
Now, for what matters, what does Grocery Outlet carry? Well, clearly they are attempting to be like a real supermarket and they carry a little bit of everything, specially vis a vis packaged stuff. Most of their products seem to be overstock – things that didn’t sell that well at other markets. I think that will mean that what’s available will change frequently. Today, for example, they had Haagen Daz sticky toffee pudding ice cream – a flavor introduced in 2006, that seems to no longer be on the market (at least it’s not listed in their website). No choice, but it was just $1.50 – about half the supermarket on-sale price. They also had off-brand stuff, but much less than what they use to sell when I frequented the Berkeley location. I’m not sure if that’s a good or bad thing, some of that off-brand stuff (I remember the frozen baked Alaskas) was pretty good. As you can expect there are lots of canned stuff.
Prices are generally low, but not everything is a bargain. Haas avocados were $1.50 – three times as much as what Smart & Final and Mi Tierra supermarket has them for this week. Suave shampoo was $1.50, about the same price as the Safeway’s. But Nestcafe coffee was about $3 less than it’s at Safeway.
They had a surprisingly large wine selection – mostly of cheap wines, of course. I’m thrilled, as this will mean that when I need wine for a dish and don’t have any 2-buck-chuck at home, I can just go across the street and get something.
In all, I don’t anticipate doing my shopping per se at Grocery Outlet, but rather use it as a place where to either get specific things that I know they have them for less – or to go and get something I realize at the last minute I’m out of (darn! I didn’t check if they had flour).
I will, however, write from time to time about special bargains that they have, or interesting items. This time I bought a slice of cheese that I plan to serve blind to my guests on Saturday. Let’s see if anyone can identify it 🙂
Next Day. I went to Grocery Outlet to see if I could get something for dinner. The answer is, unfortunately, no. They have Tyson chicken, but I think that was the company investigated for disgusting chicken practices. They had a few different cuts of pork and very little beef. But I feel uneasy about the quality and origin of the meat they sell. I did notice that they do have a small produce section, I didn’t study it, though.
One thing they don’t have are enough carts or any baskets – making buying just a few things a hassle.
As for dinner, I decided to make spaghetti carbonara and thought I had everything I needed at home. Of course, once I got here I realized I didn’t have enough bacon 🙁
Finally, Grocery Outlet is having its Ribbon Cutting on Thursday, May 7th at 5:30 PM. They’ll have sandwiches or something like that. The Grand Opening is on Saturday, May 9th, starting with Coffee and Treats at 8 AM. They’ll have raffles, samples, etc. – kind of like the BBQ they had a couple of years ago, when they wanted to get public support for converting the downtown Albertson’s building into a Grocery Outlet.