KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Sandra Lewis has shopped at Midtown Fresh on Westnedge Avenue twice since it opened on Wednesday, she said. Lewis used to shop at the same location when Hardings was there. However it closed back in 2015, making the area a food desert.
“This fills that gap more than enough,” Lewis said while shopping with her son. “If you’re a gourmet cook or a gourmet eater this is the place to go.”
Lewis was among the hundreds of residents who got a good look at the grocery store during Wednesday’s soft opening. She shopped for meat that day and returned on Thursday to pick up even more.
“The meat is so fresh,” she said. “I found mushrooms that I can’t find any place else. I found different cheeses that I can’t find any place else. And the help, [the] customer service, is A1.”
Building a neighborly environment was important said manager Paul Petros. They didn’t want their family-run business to be like any other grocery store. Staff members smile and say “stay fresh” to customers when they walk through the doors. And when customers are finished grocery shopping, their foods are bagged personally at the end of the check out line. Management doesn't believe in self-checkouts.
“When customers come we just want to greet them [and] talk to them,” said Petros. “Come look at our kitchen. It’s not a deli. It’s a kitchen. What do want out of there? We’ll cook you meals, home-cooked meals.”
Management hired real chefs to do the cooking. One was grilling sausage on Thursday while another prepared California sushi rolls nearby. In between was a bakery selling foods from Victorian Bakery located only a few blocks away.
“This is our home,” said Petros. “The only way we survive is by supporting local.”
Customers appreciate it, mainly because it’s providing fresh food in the heart of the city, said Linda Merrill. Most of the major grocery stores — Meijer, Walmart and Trader Joes — are located on the city’s edge, making it convenient for many residents.
“I really have been waiting for this store to open,” Merrill said. “I’m glad it’s very busy. It’s nice to see.”