Super Fresh looks for produce to produce a loyal following

January 22, 1995|By Karin Remesch | Karin Remesch,Contributing Writer

When customers enter the new Super Fresh food market in Bel Air, they immediately step into a produce department that company officials claim is the best and most well-stocked in Maryland.

If your recipe calls for lemon grass, yucca roots, bitter melon or other unusual and exotic ingredients, you'll find them in the 4,000-square-foot produce department of the newest addition to the Super Fresh chain.

"It's the focal point of our store and the best produce department in the entire company," said Casper Genco, vice president of merchandising.

The store offers a variety of produce from the traditional to the exotic to organically grown, and the items are displayed to create a farmer's market atmosphere.

Large bins decorated with dried flowers and grasses, copper kettles and pottery bowls are the backdrop for massive displays of produce and tropical fruits. Prices are marked on chalkboards to reinforce a country look.

During the area's vegetable and fruit growing season, the shelves will be stocked by 27 local farmers, company officials said.

Super Fresh, the anchor in the remodeled Bel Air Plaza on West Baltimore Pike, opened its doors to customers at 7 a.m. yesterday. Store officials said that, by noon, well over 1,500 customers had walked through the doors, enticed by low-priced grand opening offers and free samples.

Store officials are confident that competitive prices, feature items, a large selection and courteous service will create a loyal customer base.

"Eighty-five percent of our employee training was geared to customer service," said Mr. Genco. "That's what we are going to build our reputation on."

The 45,000-square-foot store was built on the site previously occupied by a Super Fresh less than half that size.

"We didn't remodel, we demolished and totally rebuilt," said Bill Bennett, director of the store, which took 13 months and nearly $3 million to complete.

The store created 300 new jobs, and another 75 employees were transferred from other locations.

In addition to the store director, three managers will be in charge of the store, which will be open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday to Saturday and 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday.

Store officials visualize customers making several stops there each week, not only to buy staples but also to buy carry-out pizzas and prepared food items that range from fried chicken to Chinese and Mexican dishes.

The store, billed as the company's flagship, also offers an in-house bakery that will produce 130 cakes, crusty "old-world" breads, whipped cream tarts and fresh-made doughnuts daily.

There is also a cheese aisle with more than 100 varieties; a delicatessen, and full-service seafood and meat departments.

Amenities include a floral department, card and book shop, and a pharmacy. The Bel Air store boasts the first pharmacy for the chain, a subsidiary of the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co.

"Harford County will be our niche. It is a thriving community in one of the fastest growing counties," said Mr. Genco.

The company is scouting locations for additional stores in Harford.

"We know we can serve this area with state-of-the-art stores and give our customers more than our competitors can," said Mr. Genco.

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