Posted: 3:56 pm Friday, February 27th, 2009
By Jeff Ostrowski
Publix Super Markets’ dominance of the Florida grocery biz is unquestioned. So why has an oddly named supermarket with a kitschy cactus logo opened a store in Palm Beach County?
The newcomer is Western Beef, a New York City-based grocer that on Feb. 11 opened in a former Winn-Dixie at Sandalfoot Plaza west of Boca Raton. There’s a Publix just across State Road 7, but one afternoon this week , Western Beef was full of shoppers such as Patricia Gast.
“I don’t like Publix — it’s too expensive,” Gast said as she loaded bags of meat and poultry into her trunk.
Gast’s opinion of Publix puts her in the minority of shoppers. The chain racks up accolades like the one in the March 2 issue of BusinessWeek. On its list of “Customer Service Champs,” the mag ranks Publix No. 6 — just behind Jaguar, Lexus and The Ritz-Carlton (and ahead of Four Seasons, Nordstrom and BMW).Winn-Dixie, which filed for Chapter 11 in 2005, and Albertsons, which is closing most of its Florida stores, have learned how difficult it is to compete with Publix.
Even so, Western Beef aims to expand here. The 36,000-square-foot Boca store is the chain’s first in Florida — but not its last.
“They feel like this is a great place for them, so we’re working with them to try to do some other spots,” said Bill Reichel of Reichel Realty in West Palm Beach.
Western Beef Chief Financial Officer Tom Moranzoni said the chain is negotiating other leases in South Florida but wouldn’t offer specifics.
Despite the home-on-the-range theme, Western Beef focuses on city slickers. Except for the Boca location, all 26 of its stores are in the New York metro area, including locations in Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx.
Western Beef’s specialties, Moranzoni said, include meat, fresh bread and ethnic foods. Shelves at the Boca store are stocked with Hispanic brands such as La Fe, El Sembrado and Del Prado.
Western Beef isn’t the only grocer looking for the table scraps left by the 1,000-store Publix behemoth. Wal-Mart last month opened a Neighborhood Market in Greenacres. It’s the retailer’s third grocery store — Neighborhood Markets are distinct from the chain’s mammoth discount stores — in Palm Beach County.
And specialty grocers Sedano’s and President seem to have thrived by targeting Hispanics.
About the Author
Occupation: Reporter My sports/favorite activities: I drop everything to surf. When there are no waves (which is often in South Florida), I cycle, run, swim and lift weights. Old age has forced me to retire from hoops, softball and Ultimate Frisbee. Goal: Stay in shape, stay uninjured, complete a sprint triathlon and maybe run a 5K in under 20 minutes again. When I'm not training: I live in Lake Worth with my wife and two children.