NASFT: Five hot specialty food retailers

New York -- A New York City gourmet emporium and a Bay Area nine-store natural/specialty food supermarket chain are among the recipients of the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade’s Outstanding Retailers of 2012 awards.

The annual awards, which will be presented on June 18 at the Summer Fancy Food Show in Washington, D.C., recognize excellence in customer service, product sourcing, merchandising, quality assurance and a passion for presenting top-quality food. They were selected by a national panel of specialty food experts including previous honorees, manufacturers, distributors and editors of Specialty Food Magazine

Here is a rundown on the winners:

• Caviar & Bananas: Opened in 2008 by husband-and-wife team Kris and Margaret Furniss, this gourmet market and café features a sushi bar, prepared foods all made on site and a wide-ranging product mix from, indeed, caviar to bananas. Located in downtown Charleston, S.C., the store takes its aesthetic cues from New York City’s top specialty food markets.

• City Feed and Supply: This natural foods grocery, café and deli, with two locations, is far more than a purveyor of quality natural foods. Owners Kristine Cortese and David Warner are deeply involved in their Massachusetts community, and source local and regional products from small farms and artisan producers. The couple had no retailing experience when they decided to open a specialty food store in 2000.

• Eli’s Manhattan:
Opened in 1998 by noted merchant Eli Zabar with inspiration from the food halls of Europe, Eli’s Manhattan has become a neighborhood institution on the exclusive Upper East Side. With 20,000 sq. ft. of space, the store is packed with baked goods made on site, prepared foods, fresh fish, aged meat and cheeses and a changing array of the latest specialty foods.

• Mollie Stone’s Markets: College pals Dave Bennet and Mike Stone opened their first store in 1986 to bring natural foods to a larger market in the Bay Area of San Francisco. Since then, they’ve expanded to nine locations with more than 30,000 products in the largest units. The retailer is known for its in-store demonstrations and lively social media program to connect with customers.

• Pastoral Artisan Cheese, Bread & Wine: With three locations in Chicago, this retailer is known for its carefully edited selection of artisanal foods, including more than 150 cheeses, as well as its Artisan Producer Festival at Chicago’s French Market. Owners Greg O’Neill and Ken Miller opened the first location in 2004, taking inspiration from years of traveling and living abroad and finding a scarcity of market-driven shopping at home.

The NASFT, which is celebrating its 60th anniversary, is a not-for-profit trade association established in 1952 to foster commerce and interest in the specialty food industry. It has more than 2,900 members in the United States and abroad.

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