UPPER EAST SIDE — A Food Emporium on the Upper East Side is trying to devour the city's other specialty food markets with a new model featuring more organic products and high-end fare.
The grocery store, located on Third Avenue and 63rd Street, unveiled its revamped selection of specialty cheeses, craft beers and locally grown, fresh-cut produce catered specifically to a Whole Foods and Fairway-loving Upper East Side crowd.
As part of an ongoing project to revamp Food Emporium locations around the city, this site unveiled entire sections specifically targeted at Upper East Side shoppers, based on their buying trends over the years. Remodeling made way for a new gluten-free section, a bigger kosher selection, a new hummus refrigerator station and more specialty baby products, for example.
"It's a different market here," Food Emporium Director of Merchandising Michael Corsello said at the store Friday. "We want to be the market of the neighborhood. We're committed to the Upper East Side."
Other changes include a more expansive seafood department, with fish delivered daily from the Fulton Fish Market. On Friday, a whole mahi mahi was displayed in the fish section, along whole sea bass and unschucked oysters.
New amenities also include a better fresh and organic vegetable selection and a large section of prepared food made to go, including sushi and Indian fare.
"Everything here is good," said cook Maria DiJulia, 68, who works in the neighborhood. "I've been coming here for 12 years, and it keeps getting better."
Despite store improvements, however, some curious shoppers said that no matter how many bells and whistles Food Emporium added, it wouldn't stand a chance competing with the new Fairway on East 86th Street, or even various Whole Foods stores located around the city.
"I am a customer here sometimes," said Ekaterina Kleimam, 45. "It's okay, but sometimes things here are just no good. I've had things that are rotten."
Kleimam lives around the corner, so she says she'll come in for bread, or snacks — anything that's not specialty fare or organic. For those items, she treks over to Whole Foods on the Upper West Side.
"It's just better," said Kleimam, an epidemologist who admits she's obsessed with cleanliness and organic produce. "I trust them more."
At the store's opening, the Food Emporium's Director of Merchandising Michael Corsello admitted that their Upper East Side locations have a tough time competing with the city's other markets.
Although he boasted that the stores were doing well in other locations, he said that the store on Second Avenue and 86th Street, which was also revamped within the past two years, had a harder time catching on with customers business-wise.
"The Fairway on 86th is our competition, so maybe the progress there is not what we'd like it to be," Corsello said. "It's a slower process."
One customer even mentioned that she liked the Third Avenue store the way it was before, with the exception of the sushi bar.
"I liked the salad bar with all the nuts," said Mini Singh, 33, who works in a medical spa nearby. "That's what I'll miss the most."