Secrets of Brooklyn Heights’ Key Food, Gristedes Revealed in Wall Street Journal

Wall Street Journal reporter Anne Kadet recently moved to Brooklyn Heights, and has written a story about the supermrket scene. She likes Key Food on Montague Street, which is handy to her new digs–she even likes Gregory the Mannequin–but is put off by the high prices. She is even more dismayed by Gristede’s prices, which she writes “are what you’d expect to find on a remote island inhabited by zillionaires” and by the store’s condition, which she describes as “a scruffy mess.” Consequently, she now does most of her shopping at Trader Joe’s.

She interviewed Key Food co-owner Enrico Palazio, who said he doesn’t consider Trader Joe’s his competition–it lacks a deli and an on-location butcher–but rather Fresh Direct, whose prices he beats. He’s counting on the fact that many Heights residents don’t drive, and don’t want to lug their groceries more than a few blocks.

Ms. Kadet also interviewed Gristedes owner, and former mayoral aspirant, John Catsimatidis, who said he can’t afford to lower prices or renovate because the Henry Street location commands a monthly rental of $100,000.

Share this Story:

, , , , , , , , ,

  • Banet

    Why would he need to renovate? The entire store was built as brand new after the fire about a decade ago.

  • Kit

    True, but (pre- and post-fire) the store layout has always been customer unfriendly. Somewhat better post-fire, it has always been an awkward space without any logical flow to it. (And I’ve been around since the days when the pharmacy section was the By George! restaurant.)

  • Kit

    FYI, only follow the link to read the WSJ story if you are a subscriber or are willing to become one. Otherwise, guess you’ll have to go to the library or scavenge a copy out of your building’s recycle box.

  • Andrew Porter

    Did she mention that locals call Gristede’s “Grosstede’s”? I too am WSJ-challenged.

    I live half a block from that store, but go past it to Key (for specific items that Joe’s doesn’t have) and to Trader Joe’s every 5-6 days for all my staples. When I’m there, I also shop at Shelsky’s, across the street (onion pockets, Orwasher’s rye bread) and Sahadi’s.

    Whatever the owners currently call the former Peas ‘N’ Pickles, I go to it for more stuff Key doesn’t have, and when I’m feeling lazy, or late at night.

  • Andrew Porter

    And I’ve been around since the entire block was a pile of rubble. The pharmacy section was run by the guy who used to work at Parrish Pharmacy, on the corner of Orange and Henry. There’s a 1958 photo of it on the BHS site (click on image to enlarge):

  • AEB

    Ah, a where-do-I-grocery-shop thread. Well, as a north Heights resident, it’s usually Peas ‘N’ Pickles (or whatever it’s now called) for most things–prices are reasonable-high, but it’s convenient, the produce is good and varied, and you’re likely to find what you’re looking for. And the register people are efficient and friendly. (I especially like the woman who pronounces “thank you” as “dangoo.”)

    Gougestedes is for emergencies only and Key Food for stocking-up. Trader Joe’s is too crowded and too far away and too full of nonsense.

    Other than these stores, there’s the butcher on Clark, but not for beef–heavens!–which is expensive and just muscle, has no real flavor. But most of the time, I “import” meat from faraway Manhattan, ditto fish.

  • DIBS

    If you do a google search for any NY Times story it will come up and be fully readable.

  • Eliz

    But….this is in the Wall Street Journal….

  • ColumbiaHeightster

    They got wise to that trick. Doesn’t work anymore.

  • ColumbiaHeightster

    Two thumbs WAY UP on Shelsky’s.

  • Jorale-man

    Trader Joe’s is great once you figure out the non-peak times to go. The prices really are *significantly* cheaper – I feel like a sucker when I buy things elsewhere that I can get there.

    Being in the South Heights, I also like the convenience of having Key Food on Atlantic next to the green grocer and Sahadi’s. The Key Food is a little scruffier and more crammed than the store on Montague but it’s rarely busy.

  • Egan Foote

    Am I reading the co-owner of Key Food’s name right?

  • Claude Scales

    Close, but no cigar.

  • Andrew Porter

    Worst days for Trader Joe’s are Friday through Monday. But with 31 registers, even if there’s an enormous line, it’s never more than maybe 5 minutes to get to one.

  • Banet

    Really, any weekday is fine in the morning. I was there today — Thursday — checking out around 11:45 and there was A grand total of 5 people waiting in line. I don’t think it took more than 30 seconds before a register opened up.

  • Andrew Porter

    Hey, AEB, if you hold down the option+shift+dash button, you get — instead of -. So you can stop doing –.

  • AEB

    You live and learn (sometimes)—thanks, Andrew!

  • Andrew Porter

    I found the WSJ article on page A10B of the July 12th issue. A neighbor gets every issue, then throws them away, unread. I fished it out of the paper recycling bin in my building.

    The key part for me was: “…Gristede’s three blocks north on Henry Street…prices there—$4 for a quart of half-and-half, $3.50 for an avocado—are what you’d expect to find on a remote island inhabited by zillionaires. … My typical grocery haul, which costs $59.16 at Gristede’s and $48.10 at the Key Food, runs just $35.12 at the national chain [Trader Joe’s].”