Metro Beat

Kevin is VP at Food Trade News with primary responsibility for covering the Metro NY/NJ and New England markets. He has more than 30 years of experience on the CPG side of the retail food business and in media. He can be reached at kevin@foodtradenews.com.

Greetings all and welcome to the spring season. Glad to see that the nasty weather is behind us and here’s to the start of the next several months of everyone coming out of hibernation. And in case you haven’t heard, we have relaunched our website with an entirely new look and a new address. Go to foodtradenews.com and check it out, and let us know what you think.

After many months of delays and making sure that everything was completed in a compliant manner, the newest DeCicco & Sons Supermarket opened in Somers, NY, and it is spectacular. The eighth unit for the family has certainly raised the bar for future DeCicco & Sons stores.

Michael Puma, director of operations for DeCicco & Sons, said the water issue was the main culprit for the delay and it was complex and related to both the use of fresh water and waste water, not only by the store, but other commercial and residential properties in the vicinity. The DeCicco family encountered roadblocks in their efforts to connect to the Heritage Hills Waste Water Treatment Plant, which was in the process of upgrading their system. Waiting for state and county approvals became a cumbersome and lengthy process. “Making sure that everything is done in a way that complies with all legal and environmental considerations was time consuming, and it included some unforeseen challenges,” Puma said.

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While the store was originally hoping for a Q1 opening, the early May debut did not disappoint. The new 20,000-square-foot Somers store features indoor and outdoor balcony seating, a bar with kitchen and a lounge and catering space. The store also includes fresh food stations such as salad bar, hot food bar, antipasto bar and juice and coffee bar. There will also be a wide selection of grocery and specialty items, meat, poultry, produce and seafood delivered daily. There are homemade baked goods, an extensive cheese department, fresh sushi and a large selection of Craft beers.

Since they first opened in 1973, the DeCiccos have distinguished themselves from other independent operators with their innovative beer department, their award-winning prepared Gourmet Foods and specialty departments. They have specialized in hormone-free and antibiotic-free meats that are ethically and consciously sourced from family farms and their expansive cheese selection includes in-store made mozzarella, and all their stores feature in-store baked cakes and cookies and fresh produce always attractively displayed.

DeCicco & Sons were early adopters of sustainable and green technology in their stores, and had the first supermarket heated by recycled radiant heat from their earth-friendly refrigeration systems. They were also among the earliest grocery chains in the state to eliminate the sale of tobacco, and to eliminate single-usage plastic bags. The Somers location will also include energy-efficient LED lighting, motion sensors to reduce electricity usage and reclaimed heat from the refrigeration system to dramatically reduce the use of natural gas and the store is GreenChill Platinum certified.

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And a final fun fact…when you visit the store, see if you can find a cornerstone brick in the exterior of the new Somers location which is from the old DeCicco household in Calabria, Italy where the DeCiccos grew up before coming to the United States in 1958!! Congratulations and best wishes to the entire DeCicco family!

It seemed like this month we heard about many visits to the M*A*S*H unit for several industry notables. Best wishes for speedy recoveries go out to: Mike Atkinson of Douglas Sales, who went through a seven hour corrective procedure for his heart; Dave Edwards of Wakefern Food Corp., who also had heart surgery; John Scalfani of Tomra USA for a double hernia; John Paucillo of RDD Associates for an emergency appendectomy; and Joe Reich of Source Atlantique for a torn retina. Here’s hoping they are all out of the infirmary soon and back at their desks!

Our friend Brian Todd of The Food Institute tells us that they will be holding a webinar for the industry on June 18th. The subject of the webinar will be “The Future of Food Retailing: Thriving in the age of Amazon.” While automation, artificial intelligence and changing food habits are shaping the future of food retailing, Amazon continues to be the driving force in shifting shopper expectations. Inmar’s Jim Hertel and Craig Rosenblum will do a deep dive of the growth and contraction of retail food in 2018 and projections on the future of food retailing amidst Amazon’s expanding online and brick and mortar stake in grocery. Retailers and CPG companies will be armed with insights shared in this webinar to compete and succeed in the changing retail landscape. For information contact Jennette Rowan at 201.791.5570, ext. 215, or jennette.rowan@foodinstitute.com.

The Food Marketing Institute (FMI) recognized four exceptional store managers whose commitments are reflected in their stores’ positive financial performance, associate mentorship programs, and their actions to create meaningful connections within their communities. The FMI 2019 Store Manager Award winners were presented at the Future Leaders eXperience event in St. Louis and one of the big winners was from right here in our backyard. Lori Hodgkinson of ShopRite Supermarkets, Inc. in Croton-On-Hudson, NY was named the winner of category A (large stores).

“This industry thrives because of the people we celebrate today who bring their passion and talents to create unique food experiences for the grocery customer. They are the heart of the grocery store—motivating their employees to create memorable in-store experiences that keep shoppers engaged and coming back for more,” FMI’s SVP of member services Dagmar Farr said. “Store managers don’t just lead – they lead with purpose, with compassion and with a special dedication to their communities.” The winners each receive a $1,000 prize and a crystal award. Congratulations, Lori!

Word reached us that Bob Schupper has joined MPS Enterprises as a vice president. Bob will bring his expertise in perishables to MPS from his many years at Ahold, Giant Food, Tops, A&P and Wakefern.

Good luck, Bob.

And lastly, I had one of those “knock you to your knees” moments when I learned that Bill Weimer of O’Mara Sales & Marketing passed away on April 15 at the age of 63. To say his passing was sudden is an understatement. For those who did not know “Billy Bob,” he was an amazing guy who absolutely lit up a room when he entered, and owned it with his presence, storytelling and laughter. Billy started his career in the food business as a route driver/owner for a deli company (I believe it was Schaller & Weber, but I could be wrong) and then started really making his name in the inner city independent markets as the director of sales with Elmhurst Dairy. From there he went to the start-up company Dora’s Naturals, and was instrumental in putting Dora’s on the map as a leading distributor of natural and organic perishable products.

Billy struck out on his own in 2010 and built a nice small brokerage business, O’Mara Sales & Marketing, focusing on produce and natural/organic items. To be fair, Billy was dealt some obstacles along the way, but he found peace, love and happiness with his wife Lynn and their two lovely 10-year old twin daughters Madison and Megan. Bill also leaves behind two sons (William and Ryan) and a daughter (Erin) from an earlier marriage.

Friends of the family have set up a GoFundMe page to assist the family with unexpected expenses. May eternal rest be granted unto him, oh Lord, and let your perpetual light shine upon him always. May his soul forever rest in peace. Rest in peace my friend, I’ll miss you.

That’s it for now. As always you can reach me at 201.250.2217 or at my new email address – kevin@foodtradenews.com.