To put it charitably, the naysayers were wrong. Gourmet Heaven, the New York-style grocery store that opened this week on Broadway, is University Property’s biggest retail bull’s-eye since its comprehensive plan for the strip was released more than two years ago. The cavernous shop — a combination corner store, sit-down delicatessen and grocery store — is an homage to convenience. Stuffed into its freshly painted walls are a hot-and-cold buffet, a made-to-order sandwich bar, traditional snacks, fresh fruit, imported delicacies, and staples like detergents and napkins.
And that’s just the first floor.
If we sound a little gushing, it may be because Gourmet Heaven reminds us of what the local market has failed to do in the last five years: create a competitive — albeit perhaps orchestrated — environment in which stores are forced to prove their worth through service, quality and a range of options. The store does so much, and so much of it well, that it will up the ante for a number of local restaurants and stores whose market it invades.
Most importantly, Gourmet Heaven was designed with its largest clientele in mind: students. Second-floor seating and tables for 40 offer a space to study and socialize without cluttering the store. Fresh fruit — of which there is little near campus — is well stocked. Finally, hot food is available around the clock. If the success of a Broadway store is in the details, the store should succeed wildly. Gourmet Heaven opens up to the street with an inviting pyramid-shaped entryway complete with a open-air flower stand. The layout is spacious and logical. The first floor includes shelves of typical packaged snack foods and cereals, as well as a deli and freezer section. The gem of the eatery is a buffet of fresh-cut fruits, salad ingredients and hot dishes that include chicken, spareribs, pasta, hot vegetables, and rice and noodle dishes. Nearly 30 pans of food are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Gourmet Heaven employs a cooking staff all day long to ensure food remains fresh.
There is the small issues of prices. Some argue they are high, but quality foods are never cheap, particularly at a small store that does not order in large discounted volumes. Nevertheless, we are heartened to learn that the owners of the store are attempting to lower prices to meet student budgets.
So what about Krauzer’s? The late-night staple’s lease has not been renewed by University Properties, but the store will remain, forced now to compete with a grocer possessing greater variety, space and staff. That competition will be good for Krauzer’s and the Broadway market.
With Gourmet Heaven in place, the future of Broadway is looking increasingly bright. If the new store is an indication, the vision of a new Broadway and a true New Urbanism will materialize once Urban Outfitters and a proposed restaurant open. That will mean more people on the sidewalks, less carping about food and shopping options and a stronger year-round economy around campus.