The $20 Project: Fresh & Easy opening

febooty.jpg I got my postcard the other day from Fresh and Easy and decided I’d run over to check it out. I figured this would be a good way to run off another in the $20 series and check the Arcadia store at Foothill and 2nd out.

What a shock the size of that crowd was. I nearly skipped going in as the normally empty parking lot had people lined up or circling, stalking for a space. My golden rule has always been to not do grand opening days; I should have stayed in the lines today. (What was I thinking arriving 30 minutes after a grand opening?). I am certain the businesses sharing that lot will be hurting today. Only Baskin Robbins had the right idea and took advantage of the crowd by passing out samples and coupons.

More on the adventures at Fresh and Easy and another 20 Bucks after the jump.

Crap that place was packed. Getting to the door I hear a guy on his cell phone “Get all the Canvas Trader Joe’s bags you can grab and get over here right away. They are running out of their canvas bags and we can hand ours out on their way out”. Hmmm…could it be TJ’s had someone there checking it out?

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The place was jammed. Some of the congestion was due to dipshit reporters taking pictures and interviewing people in the middle of aisles creating traffic jams. A bunch of it was other stores spy’s walking the store taking notes and pictures. The Safeway guys pictured here were funny and actually had their store logo shirts on. The lady’s in suits with clipboards were entertaining “We can do that, our selection is deeper”. I saw them head across to Ralph’s on my way out.

The store looked to be about a third of the size of the Von’s that was there before. Nice, clean, brightly lit (take a note Pavilions, lights are a good thing when buying food). All told the prepared fresh stuff looked tasty. The heat and eat fresh selection was hugogigantic. The cheese section was really nice, bigger than the local TJ’s. Ditto the frozen food

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Wines and Spirits was a nice selection, about the same as the local Trader Joes. Their house label wine at 1.99 Bottle is the “Big Kahuna” from Australia. Cutesy Surboard inspired packaging, am curious to see it compares to the orignal volume leader “Two Buck Chuck”.

Wandering through the conversations overheard was more entertaining than usual. “For a British company there is no British food, not a sticky pudding to be found”. “Isn’t that cute their 2 buck chuck is called ‘Big Kahuna'”. “How come no one speaks with a funny accent”? “It’s cheap enough, but I won’t go back” My favorite still is the little blue hair with a heavy French accent picking thinks up muttering “much too expensive” and putting back on the shelf, always face down.

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The chocolate aisle was on my list of things to hit. Its PMS week in my house so to keep myself out of trouble for little things like breathing, I bought the “One Huge Hunk” Belgian chocolate bar. The name is funny; the not so subtle oxymoron to that one pound bar is the pic of perfect abs on the label. At 3.49 for a 17 oz bar that’s the cheapest alternative to Midol I’ve seen yet.

Another stop was the cheese aisle. Lot’s of good stinky cheese. Of course there was a lot of Stilton’s. The basic version was almost 1.50 pound cheaper than the batch I lost bought at Trader Joes. I opted for the unheard of until now “dried tart Cherry” Stilton.

The fresh salad selection had some really tasty nice looking salads. I grabbed my lunch for today. There was a “Beet Salad” that had a nice mix of greens, beets, candied pecans with goat cheese and vinaigrette. This was too good to pass up and was tossed into my cart. At 2.84 this can easily become a regular lunch.

Wandering about the store I can see where they tried to tailor the products to fit my local community. A much bigger selection of Asian foods than my local market carries. I grabbed an interesting “Orange Udon Noodle Salad” that needs minimal prep to try soon.

The Mexican stuff was a bit less than I usually see. Although the tortillas were a lot softer than what I see at most markets. Almost as good from looking and squishing as what you get at the Mexican markets so those will be tried when I need them.

fereceipt.jpg When I got to the check out area the lines were moving. It was not unlike the self checkouts at Home Crepot, except every register had someone there to help you pack and get things moving. It was nice to see Michael and a few of my old favorite staff from Pavilions there to help me out. All told the bill for the goodies I picked up was $17.84.

Anyway, all I need wasn’t there. My youngest is picky, picky, picky about his veg. There wasn’t a frozen “white corn” so I had to go hit Pavilions for a bag on the way home. $1.99 for their house label frozen white corn. Fresh and Easy doesn’t sell stamps so I had to pick up some 2 centers from the post office on the way home so could use some old postcard stamps I found. 8 of them needed and bought. 19.99 for the days spending.

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On the way out was a new guy passing out flyers. Bright green flyers. I got one foist at me. “Shame on Fresh & Easy for Desecration of the American Way of Life” is the headline. The flyer outlined a complaint that one of the sub-contractors employed by the general contractor didn’t pay prevailing wages. The union believes Fresh & Easy owes it to the unions to make sure that all the sub-contractors used by the general contract should not be independent contractors but rather sub-contractors using only union employees.

Silly me, the perpetual pot stirrer, I had to ask him a couple of questions. First was if he had ever had any work done at his house. Of course he did. I said, “well I have had to hire people too. Did you ask if they were union as part of securing bids?”. You’d have thought I shat in his rice krispies with the look he gave me. I decided to point out I looked at price and experience as the criteria and asked “didn’t anyone have that same right”? The look got dirtier, someone else walked up and I took my bags and left.

Anyway, I liked the store. What it looks like and how it runs once the grand opening is over will be more telling. I’ll wait another 30 days or until the lot thins down some. I’ll probably use it on those odd times when I need to grab something quick as I don’t have time to cook a full meal if I am in the area. Overall it felt comfortable there and that was due more all the people I knew from other stores. Feeling comfortable and welcomed is half the battle for a new store. I’ll just wait for them to get some time under their belt before I pass final judgement.

Read more about the series in Markland’s original “The $20 Project” which was posted Sunday evening.

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