When Whole Foods opened their store 15 blocks away from Fairway, at Columbus Circle, Fairway was obviously concerned. They put up a giant poster in the front of their store comparing the prices of 5 items. Fairway's prices were of course lower. That was one of the reasons why I was sure that I would not go to Whole Foods. I was a hard core Fairway shopper and nothing was going to take me away from my beloved Market.
Fairway is an Upper West Side institution. It's the kind of place where you can get your organic produce, European cheeses and your Charmin Ultra Strong "6 mega rolls equals 24 regular rolls" pack. It is also the kind of place where wearing your your flip flops in the summer can be dangerous. The back of your heels might get clipped by a too close to you grocery cart.
I clearly remember my first time I bought something in Fairway. I was standing on line with a bag of 3 oranges. A little old lady asked me if she could go ahead of me. I turned around and saw that she had an almost full cart. I told her no. Over the years I've had many conversations with other patrons with topics ranging from my pre-typed shopping list that follows my path through Fairway to the elevator that moves like molasses but has a door that shuts almost as quickly as it opens. This is the of the charm of shopping at Fairway.
When Wholefoods opened a new store 22 blocks from Fairway in the other direction on 97th and Columbus I had the same attitude that I had when they opened up the Columbus Circle store. There was no reason why I would shop there but this times the circumstances were different. D's pre school is right down the block so I am near it 5 days a week. It's also on the same block as the 97th Street farmer's markets and Michaels, 2 places that I frequent.
One morning, right after Whole Foods opened, I dropped D off at school and decided to stop by to see what the new store looked like. It was not the usual Manhattan grocery stores. It had wide isles and was very peaceful. Even at 10 am Fairway is a mad house. I walked around the store and checked out what they had. I bought a few honeycrisp apples and left. It had been a very pleasant experience even if the honeycrisp apple cost a bit more than they did at Fairway.
That next Monday I decieded to go to Whole Foods to pick up a few things that I needed. During this visit and I noticed more things that I really liked. The carts were larger and were easier to push. I noticed that Whole Foods has a private label brand that is very well priced and is of excellent quality. They had frozen fruits and vegetables, beans and grains, organic orange juice, organic milk, organic 100% natural hazelnut flavored coffee and bread, all things that I buy frequently. I also found out that their delivery fee was 3.99 versus Fairway's whose is 7.99. Even if certain things are 20 or 30 cents less at Fairway that extra 4 dollars for begins to eat up the savings. They also give 10% off if you buy a case of anything. I left Whole Foods a bona fide fan that day.
Much to my own surprise I now shop at Whole Foods about 50 percent of the time. Recently I was in Whole Foods, poking around the freezer and looking for a particular flavor of ice cream. One of the workers noticed what I was doing and came over to me and asked me what I was looking for so that he could check to see if there was any more in the back. A few moments later he came out with my pint of chocolate. You do not get this kind of service at Fairway. This is another of the reason why I keep going back to Whole Foods.
Over the past few months I've discovered the delicious Sky Top farms organic, non-homogenized milk Whole Foods carries, enjoyed their selection of local beers and discovered the joys of food shopping in a relaxed environment. I still have a special place in my heart for Fairway. They have a great kosher in house bakery, the best olive oil selection and a huge selection of organic produce. My love for Fairway, though, is no longer exclusive.