In recent weeks, reps for Westside Market have invited local media outlets to preview the new store opening this month on Third Avenue at East 12th Street. We decided to take them up on the offer.
Text and photos by EVG contributor Stacie Joy
George Zoitas wasn’t sure if quotemaster Peter (“the Cheese Guy”) would be able to put Grateful Dead quotes on his cheese packages at the new Westside Market, opening soon at 84 Third Ave.
It was my first question in our interview and one that seemed to surprise him. The Dead quotes are an unusual touch that I recall from shopping in another Westside Market location. That and the fact that there were plenty of vegetarian options and a pizza bar, not to mention a live-lobster tank.
George's parents, Ioannis (aka Big John) and Maria, opened the first Westside Market on Broadway near 110th Street-Cathedral Parkway in 1977. The East Village location is the family's fifth location.
George and his brother-in-law, Jimmy Beleses, are managing this store, which they want to be a one-stop destination for East Village residents.
That looks possible, with seriously credentialed pizza ovens, a sushi section, a separate vegan area, convenience items, a juice bar, and lots and lots of prepared foods (helmed by Maria, who is also famous for her cheesecake) filling up the 15,000-plus square foot space.
Prepared foods are made at the on-site kitchens in the lower level (so much stainless steel!) and blast-chilled in enormous fridges before sale. Big John handles the produce section, which although empty when I went to photograph it, looks potentially amazing.
George moved to the neighborhood for the year prior to the store’s opening, and says he’s ready to cater to the East Village’s special needs (see aforementioned vegan section). He says he loves the neighborhood and is passionate about serving the area’s denizens.
When I asked him what makes his store different than, say, Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s two short blocks away, he says that the family has the ability to buy from many suppliers, vendors and providers, and aren’t locked into carrying certain brands. In addition, he says that each Westside Market has its own buyers, so nothing is centralized, making for a localized experience.
Some things that make this supermarket different: no self-checkout lanes, which I appreciate; the new and eco-friendly compressors and water-cooled machines and dedication to environmentally friendly processes; the ability to order and stock customers’ preferred favorites, like a particular brand of cat food, your kid’s yogurt, or a cleaning product that’s hard to find (suggestions are welcomed by the Zoitas family). And the fact that it’s a family owned and operated business, with George crediting his parents for his knowledge and achievements.