Gristedes is a New York City-based supermarket chain. Most of its locations are in Manhattan. I have never been to one of its Manhattan locations. I have been to its Brooklyn Heights location. It is, in my view, a strange grocery store. Gristedes is notably more expensive than Key Food, a grocery store chain with numerous locations in the DUMBO-Brooklyn Heights-Cobble Hill-Carroll Gardens area. Furthermore, it very seldom has sales.
Does Gristedes offer something for its being more expensive? Gourmet selection? Better selection? More pleasant shopping experience?
The answer to all three of those is negative.
Gristedes has a large selection, but its selection is ordinary. It never seems particularly clean. While the Key Foods are often not the most pleasant places to shop, the only advantage that Gristedes has over them is that it tends to be largely empty. Why is it largely empty despite being surrounded by thousands of apartment dwellers? I have never performed a survey, but I will venture that the most likely answer is that Gristedes is absurdly expensive and offers nothing to justify its ridiculous prices.
(I never bought a tampered-with yogurt at Gristedes. Then again, I never bought yogurt at Gristedes because it would be expensive.)
I am not motivated enough to compare Gristedes prices to the small number of actual gourmet grocery stores and markets in the area, but I fear that a careful survey would reveal that it is, at the very least, not cheaper.
Pondering the Brooklyn Heights Gristedes’s Business Model
Given that Gristedes is huge and never particularly crowded, I struggle to understand how it stays in business. It is owned by Mr. John Catsimatidis, who briefly considered running for mayor after a failed run for the Republican nomination in 2013. What would his selling point be? His remarkable ability to keep a very perplexing grocery chain in business? It is not a long walk to DUMBO Market, a slightly expensive-yet very large and clean grocery store with a gourmet aesthetic. Gristedes is more expensive than DUMBO Market. If you know the area, you will understand why that is astounding.
I will venture, however, that Gristedes may make sense in Manhattan. Perhaps its Manhattan locations are better conceived. Its high prices may be in line with Manhattan grocery store prices. What if the prices at the Brooklyn Heights location are so strangely high as to not discriminate against Manhattanites? Plausible, I suppose. But Brooklyn Heights is hardly known for being cheap. Gristedes is expensive against a high benchmark.
The Broken Brooklyn Heights Gristedes Sign and Other Matters
Having noted that I am a bit confused about the Brooklyn Heights Gristedes business model and how it stays in business, I do have one request. If Mr. Catsimatidis is reading this, may he consider cleaning the graffiti from one of Gristedes’ windows and fixing its broken sign? See the below image:
Gristedes has had this broken sign for a long time. The uncleaned graffiti has been a blight on the neighborhood for months. No one fixes the sign or cleans the graffiti. . Maybe more people would be willing to indulge its confusingly high prices if they took care of the facade. Gristedes is located in one of the ugliest buildings in Brooklyn Heights. There is nothing that can be done about that. It was there before it became “Gristedes.” But that is no excuse to have a broken sign and dirty windows. Leaving the building in that state diminishes the neighborhood.
The DUMBO-Brooklyn Heights-Cobble Hill area has more than enough room for multiple grocery stores and markets, including Gristedes. I suppose it has a niche (although I am not entirely clear what that niche is). It has room for all of these so long as they take care of their storefronts.
Take care of the storefront like I take care of fallen trash cans.
Please fix Gristides, Mr. Catsimatides.