More than 2,000 customers walked through the doorway at The Fresh Market in Bedford when it opened June 27 — the market’s first store in the Granite State.
“We try to focus on the customer service side of things. A lot of people talk the walk, but I think we walk the walk,” said John King, store manager of The Fresh Market. “I think Bedford was looking for something like that, and we deliver it.”
The Fresh Market is delivering customer service in many forms at its new 20,000-square-foot space in the recently renovated Bedford Mall: There are golf umbrellas and raincoats on a hook for the market’s complimentary carryout assistance (for shoppers with three or more bags), and customers can request green polo shirt-clad staff members in the produce section to cut them slices of the items they would like to sample before purchasing.
“Fresh Market is all about the experience,” King said.
In the first few weeks of the store’s opening, customers were greeted in the breezeway by wooden crates filled with ears of corn and watermelons. Inside, customers find themselves in the fresh-cut flower section of the store. “Orchids are our biggest thing,” King said, gesturing toward the tall purple and white orchids lining rows of shelves. “We have them year-round.”
The floral department opens directly into Fresh Market’s pride and joy: its produce section. “It drives us,” King said. “It’s beautiful. We’ve got that Grade A produce.” Nearly 40 percent of the produce at Fresh Market is organic, King said, and some of it is sourced locally, including zucchini and yellow squash from Lavoie Farm in Hollis (“Local 100” signs around the store signify New Hampshire-produced items). A pre-packed produce section features kits to make cole slaw, vegetable kabob and fajitas. Vegetables and fruits are sliced in-house daily for the kits and do not sit on the shelves for longer than two days.
Self-service bars for olives, antipasto, salad and soups separate the produce section from the deli counter, which serves as the centerpiece of the back of the store and allows customers to place orders from three of its four sides. One case of the counter is dedicated to prepared dishes, such as macaroni & cheese, meatloaf, panini and a variety of salads. The Dilly Cucumber Salad (cucumbers, tomatoes, onions and a garlic dressing) is one of the shop’s most popular offerings, King said.
Chilean sea bass, halibut and tilapia are among the fish stocked fresh at the shop’s seafood counter. Customers may also opt to order such prepared dishes as breaded fish, coconut-crusted mahi mahi, crab cakes, escargot, or teriyaki wild salmon burgers, all of which are accompanied by cooking instructions.
“It’s a great spot,” King said. “You can come in and get a meal, quick and easy.”
The meat counter at Fresh Market boasts only all-natural chicken and turkey, skewered meats and in-house ground burgers made with bacon, tomato and mozzarella and Gouda and Portobello mushroom.
A hot case is filled with rotisserie chicken offerings, pork, ribs, salmon and turkey. Rotisserie sandwiches can be ordered at the same counter and are made with offerings right out of the case. Chairs and tables are outside, in front of the door. Rotisserie sandwich offerings include Harvest Pork & Brie (pork loin, apple slices, brie and mango chutney served on an onion roll) and Buffalo turkey (turkey breast, wing sauce, blue cheese, onions, lettuce and tomato served on a bulkie roll). The deli counter wraps around into a section of premade sandwiches, salads and wraps, a sushi station and an extensive cheese counter.
King said the bakery has emerged as a hot spot at Fresh Market; its cases are filled with cannoli, cheesecake by the slice, crème brulee, cupcakes — among them Lemon Coconut, Peanut Butter Explosion and Strawberry White Chocolate — éclairs, petit fours, tiramisu and full-sized cakes.
The front of the store gives customers the freedom to fill bags with whole bean coffee (or grind their own at the shop) and they can also pour their own samples from two carafes of brewed coffees. Customers can take their pick of, and sample, sweets from candy-filled glass jars on another island.
“We want to make sure customers enjoy the product,” King said. “As long as they use the scoop, they can give it a shot.”
Parallel to the coffee station is the bulk food section where customers can bag their own nuts, dried fruit and fruit and nut mixes, both sweet and savory. The end cap of the bulk section allows guests to grind their own peanut butter.
Fresh Market has three aisles dedicated to groceries — marinades, oils, salad dressings, pasta, sauces, grains and a health and beauty section that features mostly all-natural products that are “definitely different than the type of things you’d find at a big box store,” King said. The far left wall of the store serves as freezer case and dairy section (which features local milk from Contoocook Creamery and eggs from Pete & Gerry’s) and is set up adjacent to a wall of chips and snacks. The shop also has sections dedicated to beer and wine. King said he will look into adding local wines to the shop’s offerings.
“We have it all,” King said.