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Sneak Peek Inside Key Food's First Upscale Manhattan Store

LOWER MANHATTAN — It's more Whole Foods than Key Food.

The spacious new supermarket opening soon in Southbridge Towers is run by Key Food, but feels more like an upscale specialty market with a sushi counter, organic produce, an array of international cheeses and a sunlit seating area.

"We're going to be a full-scale organic gourmet market," said Sharmain John, a manager at the new store which is scheduled to open by mid-August. "It will be one of the best."

The three-level store, called 55 Fulton Market for its address at 55 Fulton St., will be a new flagship for Key Food, the first in Manhattan to showcase the company's new model of a grocery store, John said.

Customers will enter a sprawling ground floor featuring pizza, sushi, coffee and deli counters, along with shelves of organic and specialty packaged foods. The design features large windows, wood floors, stone columns and a color scheme of marigold, red-orange and lime green walls and fixtures.

Stairs and elevators lead to a lower level stocked with traditional Key Food items — ranging from laundry detergent to dog food — along with a butcher's shop, a fish counter and a dairy section.

Upstairs, a small seating area dotted with tables overlooks Fulton Street, with old photos of New York City decorating the walls.

The new 55 Fulton Market is more than five times larger than the cramped 3,500-square-foot Key Food just to the west on Fulton Street, which will close as soon as the new store opens, John said.

"It's a market that was long overdue here," said John, who has worked in the smaller Key Food for the past 19 years. "I'm excited for my customers. It's everything they wanted and a little more."

Local residents and workers said they were eagerly awaiting the arrival of a full-service supermarket in the fast-growing neighborhood.

"It's great," said Steven Vince, 52, who lives nearby and was pushing his 6-month-old son Dylan in a stroller. "There will be a lot more room to walk in the aisles [and] the new Key Food will probably offer a lot more products."

Angie Grossi, 70, a New Jersey resident who has worked near the Key Food for more than 20 years, said she is glad the new store is adding more checkout stations — six compared to the current three.

"It's going to be a welcome change," she said. "I'm looking forward to it."