Uptown Market Goes Uptown

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Crowd at celebration.JPGSometimes, all you want from a grocery store is stuff you can throw together for dinner, a steak or piece of fish. Sometimes, though, you want more, much more. Even here, in laid-back Seattle, we want to do all our shopping in one stop, soup to nuts, flowers to toilet paper. Obsessive scurrying isn't needed to find just the right brie, the perfect cupcake, the ideal teapot; ideally, they're all under the same, 50,000-square-foot roof, all with validated parking.

In this bleeping economy, restaurants are bleeding (and bleeping) themselves with price cuts, but grocery stores, by and large, are doing well. In fact, they're able to spend money on significant upgrades to attract and keep shoppers who might otherwise scurry to specialty stores. It's not a slam-dunk, but the analysts preach that "tuning in to consumer data and retailer partners' needs" leads to success. Gobbledy-gook, better interpreted on a local level, which leads directly to the region's sole remaining player, Food Market Northwest, formerly Thriftway, now dba Metropolitan Market.

The locally-owned, six-store Metropolitan Markets chain has not been immune to the grocery wars. They cut an underperforming. five-year-old store in Federal Way's Dash Point Village at the end of 2009, though the firm has plans to open its first eastside store, in Kirkland, later this year.
Managers at Uptown Mkt.JPG
The potentially lucrative inner-city market has proven the most contentious. Consider the landscape: there's the ultimate farmers market, at Pike Place, better known as Seattle's number one tourist attraction than as a one-stop supermarket. To meet that particular need for downtowners, there's a smallish Kress IGA a couple of blocks away. Two Safeways, one at the top, one at the bottom of Queen Anne. Whole Foods opened at 2200 Westlake three years ago and introduced Seattle to the "whole paycheck" concept of luxury organic shopping (though, to be fair, they've done a great job of everyday pricing as well with their "365" line), and QFC (part of Kroger's, which also owns Fred Meyer) followed suit six months later with a similar new store at 5th and Mercer.

Used to be, there was a Larry's Market as well, in the former Hansen Baking Company at 1st and Mercer. Larry's collapsed four years ago, and Metropolitan (with a nearby store at the top of Queen Anne about to be torn down for redevelopment) stepped in.

But the Larry's look, a sort of upscale Costco warehouse, didn't match the new Whole Foods experience (warm lighting, the abundance of a European-style outdoor market). And with the development of its existing store unexpectedly stalled, Metropolitan had to do something. They've spent millions remodeling the entire store, which opened this week to enthusastic crowds lining up for free samples from suppliers like Salumi, Gelatiamo, and Cupcake Royale. Looks more and more like Metropolitan's flagship store at Admiral: there's an expanded line of organic products, a carving station in the deli, more local, artisan and farmstead cheeses, and a "wellness and nutrition" department for shoppers with dainty skin and delicate digestion. For oenophiles, a selection of 1,300 bottles. The celebration continues Fridays and Saturdays through mid-February.

Metropolitan Market Uptown, 100 Mercer St., Seattle, 206-213-0778

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This page contains a single entry by Cornichon published on January 23, 2010 11:30 AM.

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