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Merchandising

A Cut Above

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The nation’s Top 100 Retailers grab the spotlight this issue, STORES’ annual salute to the biggest names in the retail arena. In many ways, these leading retail chains are the engine that drives our economy.

Not to be overlooked, however, are the smaller chains and independent stores. While it would be enormously difficult for us to rank these retailers in a meaningful way, make no mistake: There are plenty of mom-and-pops that are “tops” at what they do. And, in any number of instances, they could teach the big guys a thing or two about retail basics.

I have the good fortune of having one of those small-yet-extraordinary retailers right in my backyard: Pellegrini Prime Meats. The shop personifies the hometown butcher shop — and then some. Along with an enormous selection of meats and cold cuts, there are fresh fruits and vegetables, cheeses, olive oils and a selection of pastas. There are trays and trays of mouth-watering prepared foods and a section of the shop devoted exclusively to fish.

Pellegrini’s is a standout when it comes to customer service. They know me — if not by name, by face — and every one of the butchers will smile and say “hello” as I’m standing at the counter. It’s really nothing short of extraordinary — and it feels warm and welcoming to be on the receiving end of such friendliness.

They always ask how I’m preparing my purchase — do I want my chicken cutlet pounded, the kabobs marinated or the roast beef shrink-wrapped to assure optimal freshness when I cook it a day or two later. Over the years, they’ve shared grilling and cooking tips to help ensure that I didn’t under-cook pork or over-cook a filet mignon. On a handful of occasions one of the butchers has insisted on carrying my packages to my car, even though it’s parked a short walk from the store.

Pellegrini’s sells premium product at a premium price, but it’s clear you’re getting a lot more for your money than just that night’s dinner. For years the owners, Al and Baldo, have been advertising in local flyers, typically offering a 10-percent-off coupon. As a weekly (and sometimes bi-weekly) shopper, I covet these coupons.

The store celebrated 50 years in business recently, but there’s nothing staid about their marketing; they just began sending deal-of-the-week e-mails. There’s only one caveat: You have to bring the e-mail with you. Sure, that means making a print-out, but it also makes the customer feel a bit special: Only those who have the printout receive the discount.

Long Island has great supermarkets, and I spend my fair share of time and money at them buying cereals, dairy, paper goods, pet food, etc., but I never buy meat there. Pellegrini’s has won my heart and my business.

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