Fairway, a 12-store grocer, gets ambitious

April 17, 2013 at 9:17 AM
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NEW YORK, April 17 (UPI) -- A supermarket specialist said New York grocery chain Fairway has a chance at surviving a leap into the big leagues if customers see it as a shopping adventure.

"Fairway has the Bounty paper towels and Coke but also these small-batch, artisanal items that make it an adventure," editor of Supermarket Guru Philip Lempert told The New York Times, referring to the 12-store chain that raised $177.5 million in in initial public offering Tuesday.

"Millennials wake up every morning not wanting to eat the same food twice in their lifetime," he said

Fairway, which has plans to expand to a 300-store chain, took more than 70 years to go from a small fruit and vegetable stand in Manhattan to a 12-store chain that is beloved as a niche-item grocer with few pretensions.

But it is a fiercely competitive business that now include the likes of Walmart and Target. Whole Foods, which opened its first store in the Big Apple in 2001, now has seven stores in the city.

Fairway is known as a store with reasonable prices where one can buy exotic cheeses, specialty meats and olives and basic staples, like soda and milk.

It's slogan claims it is "like no other market," but the numerous staff members wear aprons that ask simply, "Do you have a food question today?" in attempt to bridge the gap between the grocers and the would-be gourmets.

It's IPO valued the company at $554.9 million with debt of $203.6 million as of a year ago, the Times said.

The long-time family-owned chain is now controlled by Sterling Investment Partners, a private equity firm that bought 80.1 percent of the business in 2007. Major shareholders include the grandson and great grandson of founder Nathan Glickberg.

Howard Glickberg, the grandson, is vice chairman of development. His son, Daniel Glickberg, recent resigned as a company director, but will keep a stake in the company, the Times said.

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