Balducci’s Food Lover’s Market, a high-end grocery chain with locations in four states, launched its second Westchester location last week in Rye Ridge Shopping Center in Rye Brook.
Luxurious eating appeared to be the theme of the Jan. 27 grand opening at the 18,000-square-foot store. Employees dished out samples that included New York strip steak and a giant cannoli stuffed with smaller cannolis. The store, with a wide range of rare fruits and vegetables, imported pastas and organic meats and seafood, is targeting Westchester food connoisseurs willing to dish out a little more each week for their groceries.
“With the proliferation in the last couple of years of food shows, Balducci’s is a place to make that come to life for the viewers, so they seek us out for that reason,” said Judith Spires, CEO of Balducci’s. “We are able to replicate what they see. Or if they don’t want to replicate what they see, our chefs are creating fabulous, healthy gourmet food that is quick and easy for people.”
The store expects to have about 100 employees at the location. That includes a mix of full- and part-time jobs. Every section of the store – the bakery, the meat and seafood, the cheeses – includes a full-time department head. The store also employs an executive chef to direct the prepared foods offered in store.
“We have trained fish mongers who can teach people how to prepare food… in our meat departments we have dry-aged beef, the kinds of things that a sophisticated pallet is looking for,” Spires said.
Those types of offerings are what separates Balducci’s from other midsize markets that have struggled in the region, Spires said. In November, Irvington-based Mrs. Green’s Natural Markets announced it would close five stores and was facing supply shortages on its shelves. In the same Rye Ridge location that Balducci’s now operates, the grocery chain D’Agostino abruptly shut its doors in June 2015.
“Our target is the sophisticated food lover, and that’s our area of expertise and we know we do that well,” Spires said. “We have a very strong brand that will be very successful and is very successful where we operate.”
Spires said that the chain’s management constantly gets calls from people wanting a Balducci’s in their neighborhood. And those calls could be answered. Balducci’s is considering further expansion.
“We’ve got a couple of places we’re looking at,” Spires said. “We love the New York region and are looking to expand there. We have opportunities along the East Coast.”
The company, which includes the Kings Super Markets, was acquired in August by KB Holding, a Delaware-based investment firm affiliated with GSSG Capital, a Qatari private equity firm, for an undisclosed amount. The management structure stayed the same following the deal.
“With our new ownership, our dedication is to growth and, being supported by our new ownership, certainly we have the brand in demand to give us the opportunity to grow,” Spires said.
Balducci’s was founded in 1916 as a food stand in Brooklyn by Louis Balducci. The chain now operates six locations in New York, Connecticut, Maryland and Virginia. Its other New York location is in Scarsdale at 15 Palmer Ave. While Balducci’s closed its Manhattan stores in the early 2000s, the chain does operate a smaller, Gourmet on the Go, location in Hearst Tower in New York City.
The Rye Brook Balducci’s location was announced by Rye Ridge’s management, Win Properties, in March. The chain joins a parade of openings at the 230,000-square-foot shopping center. Farm-to-table restaurant Dig Inn and Rye Ridge Pharmacy both launched there in the past two months. Mediterranean fast-casual restaurant Cava Grill will open there next spring. The center is also home to Chipotle Mexican Grill, Chop’t salads, Starbucks, retailer Lester’s, a Chase Bank, locally-owned restaurant Fortina and The Wine Cellar, along with other restaurant, retailers and professional offices.
Spires declined to share the total investment of the renovations to the Balducci’s, but said the company had completely revamped the store. It now includes a small cafe area, a meeting space for the catering operations and a full kitchen area for preparing food.
“It is a very top-of-the-line, A1 operation,” she said.