Grocery shopping isn’t a chore most of us relish.
By Janice Llanes Fabry
Grocery shopping isn’t a chore most of us relish. Unlike shopping for a new wardrobe or a new car, it’s tedious and unremitting. As a matter of fact, valiant attempts have been made to circumvent it by way of on-line delivery services. Nevertheless, as intolerable as it may be, it’s unavoidable, and DeCicco Family Market, which opened last month on Halstead Avenue, has managed to make it more enjoyable.
Unlike most grocery stores, DeCicco is family-owned and operated. Its bread and butter, so to speak, lies in its fresh foods and customer service.
“Every employee knows how important our customers are,” said Director of Operations Michael Puma. “We’re going to get customers out quickly and happily.” DeCicco does not have a “12 items or fewer” register, rather cashiers and baggers are trained to move everyone along expeditiously, no matter how large the bulk. Sales assistants are also encouraged to accompany customers to items about which they inquire.
Having its roots in a small storefront in the Bronx 40 years ago, DeCicco Family Market is part Arthur Avenue Italian shop, part farmers market. It’s more Whole Foods than Stop &Shop with the ambience and sensibility of the former, and the less exorbitant prices of the latter. The family formula has proven to be a winning combination.
The Harrison store, on the site of the old Food City, is the family’s tenth. Located throughout Westchester and Rockland counties, the DeCicco chain stores are not cookie-cutter and are tailored to the communities they serve. At 12,000 square feet, the Harrison space is not huge by super grocery store standards. Unfortunately, the site could have used a bit more room. Although the shopping carts are smaller, the aisles are a tad too narrow, making it somewhat difficult to navigate at prime times. The store does, however, manage to offer a myriad of brands and fresh food departments.
“We are defined by our perishables and our own meat label, and we are able to offer good quality at a good price,” said Puma, about the features that set DeCicco apart. “Ours is a huge community store, and I love the fact that so many people have embraced us here.”
That’s certainly seems to be another distinction. The store feels more like a local mom-and-pop than a corporate setting. Even its tin ceiling, wood trims, and various displays suggest a warmer environment. In addition, upper management, such as Puma, who has known the DeCicco family since he was a boy, is always available.
The proof is in the food. DeCicco produce comes fresh from local farmers, as well as out-of-area distributors, and is replenished daily. It carries a wide selection of fruits, vegetables, spices, and nuts. A full line of organic produce is also available.
Their meat department has traditionally been their crowning glory. A premier team of butchers offers hand-selected antibiotic-free Angus beef, aged prime beef and fresh farm products, including pork and organic chicken. They make their own pork, turkey, and chicken sausages, and meatballs. In addition, they carry a variety of game meat products, from alligator to rabbit.
The seafood department works with local fishermen and the best seafood markets to offer an impressive selection of fish, as well as seafood entrees made daily. The deli offers the requisite top-notch deli meats, as well as freshly prepared salads, sandwiches, hot and cold dishes, sushi, and mozzarella made a couple of times a day.
Speaking of cheese, DeCicco’s dairy department carries hundreds of domestic and imported varieties. The bakery offers bread brought in daily from Arthur Avenue and baked goods — all-natural and gluten-free selections among them — made from scratch in their Brewster location, their much larger emporium.
Like Whole Foods, the market offers its own beer taps. Customers can bring their own growlers to fill or pick them up at the store. At a special event on December 14, they’ll be pouring some of the finest ales of North America.
DeCicco is also about catering to the community, both literally and figuratively. During Hurricane Sandy, they offered refrigeration to customers who were out of power and made sure to have a surplus of milk and bread to get people through.
“That’s the beautiful thing about being a family-style store. We cater to requests and leave room for growth. We try our best to make grocery shopping an enjoyable experience,” Puma said. For the skeptical grocer, DeCicco will start offering home delivery with a personal touch early next year.