Hugh Black of Pittsfield braved the cold temperatures to be at the reopening.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A brighter, redesigned, upgraded Price Rite Marketplace opened Friday morning on Dalton Avenue.
The 25-year-old grocery chain is rebranding all of its Massachusetts locations with a goal of an improved customer experience.
People were lined up before 7 a.m. for the 8 o'clock opening. The temperature was a seasonable 15 degrees so there was a fair amount of foot shuffling and blowing into hands. By 7:30, the number grew to several dozen and by the time 8 o'clock neared, it was close to 200 and stretched right around the perimeter of the parking lot.
The first 400 customers received a $20 gift card. They ran out within the first 45 minutes.
Senior Vice President Chris Farran was on hand from the corporate office in New Jersey. He was very pleased with the way things were starting out.
"It's exciting stuff. We are celebrating our 25th anniversary as a company and Pittsfield is celebrating its 16th anniversary. We're really excited to see so many people here so early," he said. "Massachusetts is a great market for us. We have a lot of stores down in the Springfield area. Pittsfield is our farthest west store but it's probably our most beautiful country and we have a fantastic group of customers up in this marketplace."
One of those customers is Beverly Bissell from Lee. She was first in line and had her cart already.
"I like coming here quite often, my husband and I shop here a lot; 5:30 this morning we got up! We love their chicken wings and the free gift card doesn’t hurt either!" she said.
Hugh Black of Pittsfield is a former employee of Price Rite and he waited in line along with the rest of the shivering horde.
"If they didn't do this people might have started to go someplace else. You've got to keep up with the times. There's a lot of competition these days," he said.
Store Manager Jennifer Harwood of Dalton was thrilled to see a lot of her regular customers coming through the doors. She greeted them all with a warm routine more associated with your favorite waitress from a small-town diner than that of a store manager.
"Hi honey, good to see you again. ...Let me know if there's anything you need. ... Oh hi, where is your husband this morning," she said as customers came through the door.
Harwood talked about the process of a full rebranding while still keeping the doors open for customers.
"We really started rocking and rolling and getting it all set this past month. We never closed. We did this all around the customers. My team is great, they feel revitalized and ready to go," she said. She also added some good news for the local job market. "We started with 26 employees and we now have 41 and we're still looking for help."
The grocery business is notoriously competitive but even with local chains Stop & Shop, Big Y, Price Chopper, etc. to butt heads against, Harwood said she feels confident in Price Rite's place in the market.
"We are very competitive with our pricing, I think it's the best in town, but our stuff is the best. We have certified Angus beef, we get fresh produce every day. We have household items, health and beauty items, it can be one-stop shopping."
Harwood is proud the store maintained its commitment to low prices while modernizing and updating the experience for their customers.
"We've got the self checkout so people can get in and get out, we've added products, it's much easier to get around," she said. "We can still offer the best prices though. We are not a big box but our prices are similar."
Pricing is what will ultimately determine any store's success in the grocery business. Debbie Fassell from Hinsdale hopes that doesn't change.
"The prices are competitive and I hope that doesn't change," she said while she waited in line. "It's always been a great place to get your groceries but now it just looks much nicer from what I could see."
It's been a long two-three year process for Price Rite to rebrand and update all of its 60-plus stores but Senior Vice President Chris Farran thinks it will be worth it.
"We started taking a look at things and said, 'Hey, as customer demographics change, and their expectations change, what can we do to offer our customers the value and shopping experience that they're looking for?'" he said. "We engaged a lot of customer surveys and studies and involved all of our associates. The response was resounding. They wanted good value of course but we found we needed to be more specific to a particular market. Is there something particular to [Pittsfield] that somebody is more inclined to buy versus a different market?"
The store was busy the entire two hours iBerkshires was there. All the comments from customers were positive.
Black summed everything up accurately when it comes to grocery shopping in the Berkshires or anywhere else: "It's gonna be about pricing, that's it."
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