The Food Emporium

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The Food Emporium
Founded New York, New York, United States (1919; 96 years ago (1919))
Founder Louis Daitch
Headquarters 2 Paragon Drive, Montvale, New Jersey, United States
Number of locations
12 (2014)
Area served
New York Metropolitan Area
Parent The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company
  • New York City's Neighborhood Grocer (current)
  • Someone Made a Store Just for Me! (secondary)

The Food Emporium is a chain of grocery stores in the New York City metropolitan area. Founded in 1919 as Daitch Crystal Dairies,[1] it is currently one of six "banner store chains" owned and operated by The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company, which acquired the The Food Emporium's former parent, Shopwell, Inc., in 1986.

The Food Emporium operates 12 stores as of 2014; 11 of them are scattered throughout Manhattan, with the other in New Canaan, Connecticut. The Manhattan stores were converted from A&P banner when the latter re-branded its NYC stores as The Food Emporium (or Waldbaum's).


Early Origins[edit]

Food Emporium's history can be traced to 1919, when Louis Daitch founded Daitch Crystal Dairies, a public company trading on the American Stock Exchange. Over the years, he opened shops in the New York City area selling butter and eggs. Following World War II, Daitch Crystal Dairies enjoyed tremendous growth in the new supermarket format, emerging in the 1950s as a significant chain. In 1955, Daitch and its 34 stores, in New York City, on Long Island, and in Connecticut, merged with Shopwell Foods' chain of 18 Westchester County supermarkets. Shopwell was founded by Sigmund Rosengarten, who came to the supermarket business as a butcher. Along with other shareholders of the private company, he received stock in the merged company. The supermarket chain, known under variations of the Daitch and Shopwell names, underwent a period of significant expansion. Within a year, seven new stores were opened and nine more were added by acquiring the Diamond K chain.

Daitch's supermarket chain peaked in 1962 with 103 stores, but the company's growth was not focused. It attempted to launch a chain of convenience stores called Shop-Quik and in 1970 opened Shopwell Plaza in Westport, Connecticut, a shopping center that included Daitch's attempt at running a package liquor store. In 1973, Daitch changed its name to Shopwell Inc., now headed by Rosengarten's son Martin Rosengarten, who was aided by his own sons, Jay and Glenn. A year later, the company entered the Vermont and Massachusetts markets, where it opened seven stores. The venture did not work out, however, and in 1976 the company sold off these units, taking a $800,000 loss.

Following their failure in New England, the Rosengartens took stock of their situation. First, they concluded that for Shopwell to succeed it needed to focus on being a regional chain. The company reached a turning point during a 1979 management meeting. The participants made a chart with the names of the three Rosengartens at the top and 33 vice-presidents listed below them. When asked to whom they reported, the vice-presidents pointed at one another, but no one pointed to the three in charge. The chart became known in company lore as the "spaghetti chart." Shopwell was clearly in need of massive reorganization. The number of vice-presidents was reduced to just 12, and Martin Rosengarten turned over active control of the chain to his sons, who were both in their thirties. They began to close stores located in unprofitable areas and allowed other leases to expire, so that the chain was reduced to 65 units. The company also conducted some market research, which revealed the unpleasant truth that Shopwell stores had no discernable image. Their customers patronized Shopwell stores simply because of their convenient locations.

Food Emporium Format Launched in 1979[edit]

During the course of trimming the size of the chain, the Rosengartens noticed that the remaining stores were mostly located in upper income neighborhoods, such as Manhattan's Upper East Side and in Westchester County. Not only did it make sense to cater to the higher-income customer, the Rosengartens also recognized that no supermarkets in the area were doing much upscale marketing, leaving the business to smaller shops like Zabar's and Balducci's. From these insights came the idea of the Food Emporium format, which would mix regular and specialty items on the same shelves, rather than following the lead of other supermarkets, which at best offered a small gourmet corner. Elsewhere in the country the concept was already being refined, pioneered by Byerly Foods in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1973. Grand Union was already in the process of developing specialty supermarkets in the New York market, making Shopwell's decision to launch the Food Emporium format in 1979 a timely one.

By the end of 1983, Shopwell had converted 17 of its 55 stores to the Food Emporium format. Another seven would be converted over the next two years, but the conversions proved costly. It took about 18 months for a Food Emporium to attain profitability, rather than the industry average of around eight months. Shopwell also tried moving into the economy sector of the supermarket trade, an effort that failed. A One Stop Shop cash-and-carry store opened in 1984 and closed that same year. As a result of these and other factors, Shopwell lost $3.4 million in 1985 on sales of $464 million, and the Rosengarten brothers in 1986 (their father retired the year before) announced they were looking to sell the company.

A&P takes over[edit]

The Rosengartens announced the sale of Shopwell to A&P, in 1986, in exchange for $64 million. A&P, which acquired 91.5 percent of Shopwell's common shares, picked up 25 Shopwell stores, three Value Center Stores, two distribution centers, and a dairy, but clearly the reason why it acquired the company was to add the Food Emporium format to its portfolio. A&P, however, was in the process of developing a format similar to Food Emporium called "Food Bazaar" but elected instead to scrap that idea in favor of buying Shopwell and growing the Food Emporium chain.

In 1985, in an effort to strengthen its position in Canada, A&P acquired Dominion Foods and used the Food Emporium name there in some stores soon after the 1986 acquisition. This format garnished well into the mid-1990s.

After A&P's 1993 purchase of the Kohl's Food Stores chain in Wisconsin, many of those stores were re-branded as Kohl's Food Emporium; new stores were opened as such. The Food Emporium remained the primary format of the Kohl's stores until the Wisconsin chain ended in 2003.

A&P entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on December 12, 2010, only to get out of it on March 13, 2012. On September 11, 2012, A&P announced it would sell 16 of its Food Emporium stores as part of its recent turnaround.[2][3]

Popular Culture[edit]

The Food Emporium is well known in the late 80's and early 90's for its famous slogan, "Someone Made a Store Just for Me".[4]

External links[edit]