The new and long-awaited grocery store at Edgewood Plaza Shopping Center in Palo Alto finally opened on Friday afternoon, to the joy of shoppers and nearby residents.
Called The Market at Edgewood, the new store fills a nearly three-year void left after The Fresh Market, the anchor store at the renovated shopping center at 2080 Channing Ave. abruptly closed in March 2015.
In June, the Mutlu family, owners of Crystal Springs Produce in San Mateo, signed on as a new grocer, with developer Sand Hill Property Company putting up $300,000 in financing to seal the deal.
The new store held a soft opening at 2 p.m., and by 4:30 p.m. its aisles were filled with neighbors who were hugging one another and filling their shopping carts with fresh produce, meat and deli items.
Shannon Murphy and Gus Alcazar exited with two brimming grocery bags.
"We love it," Murphy said, adding they moved to the neighborhood two-and-a-half years ago when The Fresh Market was already closed. The new market stocks a good selection of organic, vegetarian and gluten-free products, she said.
Inside, large bins of fresh fruit and vegetables have replaced the many bins of candy and dried snacks that greeted customers in The Fresh Market. Mustafa Mutlu, one of the owners, said in June that the store would offer the kind of produce the family is known for at its Crystal Springs store.
On Friday, he realized that promise with five kinds of eggplant, bins of potatoes, tomatoes, Asian and Indian greens and squash, a variety of pears, apples, grapes, mushrooms and specialty produce, from Buddha's hand fingered citron to cherimoya.
There's also an olive bar, full-service deli, bakery and meat and fish departments.
"It's beautiful. I can’t imagine putting this all together," said shopper Micki Cardelli. She said the prices seem reasonable.
Palo Alto resident Sea Reddy said he gives the store "a 10." He found the staff friendly, and he is glad they hired Isabella Cosentino, of the family that used to run Cosentino's Market in San Jose, to manage the deli and bakery.
Some customers said they were concerned when they heard the store would not have low prices like a Trader Joe’s. But they said Friday they were pleasantly surprised to see that many prices are in line with other places where they shop.
"It’s very exciting to see. The prices are better than I thought they would be," Colleen Nielsen said.
David Markowitz and Eric Nielsen agreed that the new owners took a page from The Fresh Market, offering many of the same specialty and high-quality items.
"It's clear this was an operation model that made sense," Nielsen said.
He and Markowitz noted that The Fresh Market pulled out because the company decided to focus on its East Coast stores, although the Edgewood store was profitable.
"It's clear that the last owner helped them to understand the customer base here," Nielsen added.
He said he spent a lot of money at The Fresh Market every week.
Priya Rao and her mother, Nirmala Keshwain, were pleased by the selection of South Indian produce, including a long, pale green squash they call white pumpkin, bitter gourd, fresh fenugreek leaves and a long, bean-like vegetable called "drumsticks" that is prepared with lentils. Rao said the drumsticks are rare in American markets.
Aydin Kyazim, one of the grocery store's owners, said he is pleased with the response.
"It's been coming along pretty good so far. We've already got our first five-star review on Yelp," he said.
Emel Mutlu, another co-owner, said the store would now concentrate on working out the kinks. A grand opening is planned for January.
"The biggest feedback we have gotten is the quality of the produce, its freshness and the prices," she said. Other thumbs-ups have been given to the meat section and bakery. About 75 percent of the deli items are made on site, as well as nearly all of the bakery items, she added.
The store also stocks a selection of beer, wine and spirits; dairy, pastas and grains; canned goods and condiments; and home products such as soaps and detergents.
"We're going for a grocery that strikes a balance between international brands and things that people express they want,” she said.
There are not a lot of conventional brands, but the owners say they are listening to customers. Some people want items such as Pepsi, Coke and Cheetos.
"We are hearing a bit about that. We are hearing, and we will try it and see if it works," she said.