The INSIDER Summary:
• New York City grocery stores are small and disappointing.
• Midwest grocery stores rule — here are the photos to prove it.
When I moved to New York City five years ago, I knew it wouldn’t be easy.
The apartments are small and expensive, the subways are crowded, and sometimes there’s just way too much trash on the street. But the thing that ended up being one of the biggest struggles was adjusting to New York City grocery stores.
Grocery stores in New York are much smaller than they are around the country.
The Food Marketing Institute sent INSIDER data that said the current median size of a grocery store in 2014 was 46,000 square feet. Though this has dipped since 2007 when the median was 47,500 square feet, it’s still way bigger than an average NYC grocery store.
And while some people believe the average size of grocery stores may be shrinking after a boom in the ’90s, it’s nothing compared to how small NYC chains are. A 2009 study by the NYC government found that the average full service grocery store area per person in NYC was 1.5 square feet while the national average was around 3 square feet per person, meaning the NYC stores were roughly half the size.
So as someone who grew up in Minnesota and was accustomed to palatial grocery stores, New York was a huge let down. There were fewer brands, less selection, and fewer bulk items. Even Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s — two grocery stores beloved by New Yorkers — were a disappointment.
In an effort to show everyone how abysmal NYC grocery stores truly are, I did a walk through of my hometown grocery store, Cub Foods, in Minnesota versus my local Gristedes on New York City’s Upper East Side.
Though it’s no Whole Foods, Gristedes is about the equivalent to all the Stop n’ Shops, Food Emporiums, D’Agostinos, and Fairways around New York City. Here’s how they stacked against each other.
ENTRANCE: Right away, Minnesota’s Cub Foods has so much more space that Gristedes with full-sized carts and tall ceilings.
NYC’s Gristedes has some wood and pumpkins in a tiny entry way.
PRODUCE: I couldn’t even fit all of Cub Foods’ produce into one picture.
Gristedes was packed with people, but had a horrible selection in one tiny row.
DAIRY: Look at Cub Foods’ wide aisles! The dozens of brands!
Gristedes in NYC, meanwhile, looks sad and cramped by comparison.
STORAGE: My MN grocery store had such tall ceilings that they could pack bulk items all the way up to the top.
My NYC grocery store doesn’t have tall ceilings, and left boxes around the floor. And money-saving bulk items? Forget about it.
SPACE: The Cub Foods in MN has so much space they have numerous other aisles dedicated to toiletries and even home goods.
Meanwhile, the windy aisles of Gristedes only have the basics. This sad little alcove is just trying to use up as much space as it can.
PETS: A great comparison I found was the pet section of both grocery stores. MN sells huge bags of food, sale items, toys, pet beds, and more. Gristedes mainly sells cat food and some treats.
CHECK OUT: All of these manned stations at the Cub Foods check out were a site for sore eyes.
Especially after using only one open lane at Gristedes.
BONUS: Cub Foods has self check-out, complete with paper bags.
Here’s to you, Midwest grocery stores. Never change.
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