Tuesday, August 25, 2009

My first assignment

Not too, too, happy but I guess I'm here exactly to get better!

Market Profile

In 1965 Westside Market, 2480 Broadway, was at the starting stages of becoming a community staple. The market’s founder, John Zoitas, bought the place where he served as produce clerk for seven years. He created a store where every inch could be used to place food waiting to be bought by hungry customers.

“There is something from every part of the world in every corner of this store. Trust me, if there’s space we use it,” said Ian Joskowitz, general manager at the first Westside Market.

Now in 2009 the Zoitas family own and operate three additional supermarkets, two in Manhattan and one in New Jersey, aside from maintaining their original location on the Upper West Side. Their food emporiums boast long product lists with items stocked above fridges and even registers.

In order to maintain the stores each market needs around 100 employees. At the flagship store 135 employees work a variation of three shifts. Since the stores operate 24 hours, 365 days a year, workers continuously stock produce, cook Zoitas family recipes for the delis, clean and tend to clients.

“I think I have heard it at least a dozen times from Mr. Zoitas himself, ‘work and don’t make mistakes because mistakes mean loosing money and loosing money means loosing jobs. We feed families from this business, our workers families,’” Joskowitz said.

The mindset of creating jobs as well as a lucrative business would not be able without the adequate space. In 2004, building construction for apartments forced the market to shut. Although neighbors were upset over the temporary closing, construction time was spent wisely. Before closing the market had an L shape, Joskowitz said, which made it hard to navigate aisles. After redesigning the floor plans a large square emerged to house all the products. Industrial kitchens were built in the basement of the store as well as storage and shelving space being added. In 2007 the new building was finished and the store reopened to wow customers.

“I like the store and have been coming here for a long time. They have a huge stock and I can usually find all I want in one place, it’s a kind of cornucopia,” said Jeff Ward, of 145 St.

In a week hundreds of cases are delivered, a produce worker said. Many items are from local farms, like Dandrea Farms of New Jersey, and from neighboring countries, like Canada or Mexico. There are also over 15 varieties of coffee beans and food oddities like Marmite, an English spread.

Customers can also try what they want before they buy it. Clear plastic containers with toothpicks or spoons are close to cheese, bread, or fruit so that people can munch. In a very simple way, with no product promoters, shoppers can skip on an item because they do not like its taste. For some store employees this is what makes the markets special.

Jorge Arias, cheese master, has worked at the four Westside Market stores over the past 20 years. Starting as a cook Arias became more involved with cheese and now manages over 1,000 pounds of cheese cut daily.

“I like for people to know the different cheeses that there are, if a cheese is expensive they won’t buy it unless they know what they’re getting. That’s why its good that we always offer samples and try to think of new ideas to implement. I will keep working with food here until I retire,” said Arias, who is 50.

For more information, hours and locations visit or call 212-222-3367.