You may have seen that Walmart just opened one of their Neighborhood grocery stores in Mansion Square in…Niskayuna? Schenectady? I dunno, it’s right on the border there. I guess it’s technically Niskayuna. Anywho…
So the Walmart Neighborhood Market is now open. And maybe you didn’t notice. This was a pretty soft opening. I mean, they talked about it briefly here and there, but there was no mad media blitz, despite some newspaper ads. No cascade of crazy deals designed to lure people in like Shop Rite. No celebrity appearances, no tractor pull in the parking lot. We swung by Friday night for two reasons. First, to see how this small market would compare to a Supercenter grocery section in terms of carrying limited edition/seasonal items; and second, just to see what the fuss was about.
But first…well, I guess zeroth…the parking entrance is a bit weird from the back side. We’re already picturing accidents there. As you come around the side the Market is on the right and all of sudden the pavement just opens up, it’s hard to explain, it’s just a big open area of pavement that they’re just hoping people will drive carefully in and not slam into each other. Good luck with that. It’s right in front of the truck delivery area, so I can only figure it has something to do with getting the trucks into this not-huge space. Just be careful if you drive in that way.
Second things first. It’s a little grocery store. Nothing special. It’s smaller than a typical market and certainly could be swallowed whole by a Supercenter grocery section. With no bakery, no deli, and no meat or fish counters it feels even smaller – you don’t have that perimeter of more-open space that those areas often provide. The selection was nothing to write home about. Produce looked pretty good and signs indicated there was local stuff. Prices were typical of the local mega Walmarts. There were some bakery and ready to eat options, just not in a whole big store area. Lots of Perry’s ice cream, which we haven’t tried, yet. Shop Rite also carries it. Six or Seven varieties of Talenti gelato, but just the same flavors everyone else has locally. Why on earth can’t anyone get any different flavors around here? And it was expensive. I think it was four something dollars. Maybe I haven’t paid close enough attention at other places’ regular prices since we really only get it on sale. At one end they have a line of aisles (if the grocery runs east-west, these run north-south if you see what I mean) with some things like pet items, health and beauty, etc. There’s a pharmacy. In one of the grocery aisles there was a bin of pillows for some reason. All in all, there looked like a good selection of typical junky food like every variety of Cap’n Crunch mixed right in next to healthier fare that other markets are segregating into separate “health food” sections.
As for special items, a definite mixed bag. Long story short, you’re not necessarily going to be able to pop into the Neighborhood Market to pick up all of the limited edition special products you see being thrown down reviewers’ gullets on these internets. They did have Gingerbread m&m’s. They did not have Gingerbread Twix. They did have Thomas’ seasonal Cranberry English Muffins along with Cranberry, Pumpkin Spice, and GINGERBREAD bagels. So I was able to grab a bag of those with my bag of m&m’s. Oddly, they don’t appear on the Thomas’ website. These were in an odd spot, over by the frozen foods, not near the rest of the breads or bagels. What I assume is the seasonal aisle is over by the non-foods. A large percentage of it was Queen Anne Cordial Cherries. The regular candy was along here also, with “small appliances”. So, not much of a seasonal aisle.
The bagels say $4.69 on them, but only cost $2.98, which is good for 6 bagels.
So what’s my overall impression? I guess a hearty “m’eh”. Would I shop there regularly? I doubt it. But if it were the closest market to me? Well, at least in it’s ‘still new and shiny’ state I could see that happening. They had most of the things we buy from grocery stores. Can I see other people shopping there? Heck, yeah. While it was small, there was a good variety and their prices will attract people. There’s some effort there to bring in ethnic groups, also (one end cap featured just masa and giant bags of rice), so they will likely draw from the small corner markets in Schenectady. And the aisles are the width of normal grocery stores, so you don’t feel crammed in and like it’s a mad crush of people like you do at Shop Rite on Balltown even when there are only a half dozen other people in the store.
Apart from the parking lot approach from the side, one other glitch popped up when we checked out. I went for the self-check and scanned my m&m’s and bagels, the itemized list looked right, but when I went to the checkout part and paid it had charged me for two bags of m&m’s. Maybe it was my mistake, but I really didn’t think so. It was hard to scan the m&m’s, resulting in multiple swipes, but the itemized list still just showed two lines. Anyway, I walked straight over to customer service where a smiling employee awaited me and listened to what happened. She was a bit unclear on what to do and had to wait for the customer service manager to give her some direction. She was busy chatting with a couple of other people and didn’t seem pleased by the interruption (well, not really an interruption, the girl helping me just sort of waiting quietly instead of saying ‘stop chatting and help this customer’). Finally we went over to a register and the girl helping me processed a credit back to my card in no time. Again, maybe it was my poor scanning abilities coupled with high end self-check scanners that don’t beep loudly enough when you have successfully scanned.
There’s one quick other note, they did go for some fancy touches like very modern freezer cases with the temperature display on them, lights that only come on when someone walks by, etc. Everything was nice and new looking, bright. Except for the floor that had a sort of industrial concrete slab sort of look. It wasn’t offensive, just a bit odd, probably easy to clean.
So, there you go. We’ll see what happens. It’s directly across the street from Price Chopper and Target, which has groceries. They both have pharmacies. It’s down the street from Hannaford and a bit further along is the Niskayuna Co-op and Shop Rite. It’s near the other Price Chopper on Eastern.
Something’s gotta give, doesn’t it?