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The Economy of Gastronomy

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I  love shopping. I also love Italian food, which comes as no surprise to anyone who has spent more than 30 minutes in my company. So it goes without saying that shopping for Italian food holds a special place in my consumer psyche.

It also explains my over-the-top reaction to the expanded footprint of one of my absolute favorites, Iavarone Bros. This specialty store, which operates four European-style markets in the New York area, has always been a “go to” shop for imported prosciutto, just-made mozzarella and fresh pasta and pignoli cookies. The store closest to me, however, was among the smallest. Sure, I braved the crowds and squeezed past other shoppers in the quest for a wedge of Grana Padano: The food was always worth it. Still, the experience left a bit to be desired.

Now the experience is as over the top as the food. The shop in New Hyde Park is about three times the size it used to be, and it’s nothing short of a monument to Italian food and culture.

The deli and prepared foods section, situated in the center of the store, is enormous. There’s at least 20 ft. devoted to an assortment of cheeses, and even more space dedicated to prepared foods. The area is so inviting that I watched several shoppers circle again and again, attempting to narrow their choices.

The produce area is reminiscent of a market in Italy, brimming with colorful fruits and vegetables. The bread and pastries section recalls the old world charm of Little Italy, and the butcher shop … don’t get me started. I was cutting back on red meat and chicken until I saw the display. My husband couldn’t stop grinning at the size of a porterhouse steak he picked out and the assortment of Italian sausage was pretty over the top too.

One of the features in this month’s Executive Suite spotlights “stand-out” stores – retailers who are over-hauling their physical spaces in the pursuit of engaging with shoppers whose expectations have changed. In the case of CityTarget, the story is about a willingness to step outside of the traditional suburban set-up to cater to a growing base of urban shoppers – customers with different needs and sensibilities. Build-A-Bear recognized that as its young customer base grows more and more tech savvy, it was time to deliver an updated experience complete with engaging new technology. There’s the Burberry store on Regent Street in London; experts hold this up as the pinnacle of where traditional retail needs to go.

At Iavarone, it’s all about the experience: The wider aisles, the visual delights of a bounty of foods and the smells and samples come together to create an unforgettable shopping event. I can’t wait to return, although I may have to curb my spending a bit. Total bill: $171.96 … and that was after my $10 coupon was processed.