The brand new building is located in the area known as Bohemian Hill just south of the Georgian, or former city hospital, near the intersection of Lafayette and Tucker at 1500 Lafayette Avenue.
The 37,000 square foot store includes fresh produce, floral arrangements, seafood, prepared foods, coffee, bakery, meats, dairy, wine and beer, and all the dried goods and households items you'd expect.
There are as many local selections as can be expected at this time of year. I found basil from Farmington, MO and apples from Carbondale, IL. I would expect the local selections to grow in number come the Midwestern growing season.
So I've been really looking forward to this opening. We need more choices in this part of the city as the area is truly quite diverse by all definitions. You have some of the region's wealthiest people in Lafayette Square and Soulard and you also have lots of subsidized and public housing in Peabody-Darst-Webbe, LaSalle and then of course the growing segment of working middle class areas of Fox Park, McKinley Heights, Benton Park West, Gate District, etc. The area is brimming with potential and adding food choices is a big part of anchoring the area and allowing us to build upon the recent successes in the near future.
This part of the city was deemed a "food desert" by the USDA, meaning there were not enough choices for fresh, healthy foods. This is changing. For instance, I live in Fox Park near Russell and Jefferson. As a crow flies, you have a Schnucks at Grand and Gravois that is 1.5 miles away. I rarely see neighbors here though, as opposed to the Schnucks at Kingshighway and Arsenal which is the current choice for most seeking a peaceful shopping experience. It is 2.6 miles away. Schnucks Culinaria downtown is 2.2 miles and there is a Shop-N-Save 2.7 miles away. Furthermore, a Sav-A-Lot marketplace store recently opened in the Jefferson Commons strip mall; it is 0.5 miles away. We now have the discount foods segment of the market covered as well as the typical Schnucks section covered, and now we have a higher-end choice as well. All segments of the grocery market are being covered in this crucially important part of our great city.
So what was our first impression? In short, it exceeded our expectations. Let me tell you that we are a family of five, so discount pricing is important...but we also love to cook and try to eat healthy. My biggest concerns at the grocery store are price, freshness of produce and a good mix of high end options (like cheeses, Mediterranean treats, European styled breads, good beer/wine, etc). Maybe equally important is a civilized shopping experience...you know not getting hustled in the checkout line, or just store simply having a consistently peaceful vibe as opposed to an experience rife with bad public behavior and tumultuous drama from the customers and staff.
Our biggest fear of this place was that it would be somewhere we would go to get nice stuff, but wouldn't be able to afford it as the family stock up place. That is not the case. The price point is excellent. The normal stuff is the price you would expect, without unnecessary mark ups.
If you are the market segment that can sustain the huge mark ups of "organic" foods, you have that option as well. The dairy has lots of Greek yogurt and regular yogurt options. Milk-wise, you have the typical stuff and the soy and returnable bottle stuff. Options galore!
The space itself is laid out nicely, with interesting decor and nods to the local architecture that is the ultimate draw to the area.
The seafood section looks great. And the fresh produce appeared to be reasonably priced and top quality.
There is high end stuff too, like a great Mediterranean snack area, really good European and Middle Eastern cheeses, etc.
But in almost all cases, for the staples, there are both name brand, a store brand called "Best Choice" and even a more highly discounted brand for such things as dish soap, etc.
There are plenty of enticing local selections like Companion breads, Billy Goat Chips, local beer, Park Avenue coffee, etc.
To those who so desire, you can walk in the store, hand over your shopping list to an employee, then head over to the bar for a local brew or a glass of wine. The workers will bring your cart back to you and you are ready to check out! Pretty swanky, eh? Jeeves, fetch my Cheez-It's whilst I sip on this here malbec :)
They are doing the little things well too. Nice natural lighting near the checkout lanes, they offer the NY Times and WSJ, they have plastic bag recycling drop offs, etc.
See we CAN have nice things in neighborhoods other than the Central West End. This will be my new family stock up grocer...and much more. Cheers to the fine folks at Fields Foods and welcome to the neighborhoods of the near south side!