From its old-world Italian decor, house-made fresh foods, weekly sampling events and in-store live music performances, Farmingdale, N.Y.-based Uncle Giuseppe’s Marketplace has earned its reputation as not just a grocery shopping destination but also an interactive oasis for Italian-Americans and all-encompassing food lovers alike.
Authentic Visual Charm
Sprung from the ashes of a former Waldbaum’s, Uncle Giuseppe’s newest location in Melville, N.Y., more than fills the grocery void that had previously plagued the community since 2015. Marking the Italian-themed grocer’s seventh and largest location, the 53,000-square-foot showplace, which made its debut in December, is a feast for the senses. Its interior design oozes authentic visual charm, with Corinthian-style stone columns, intricate murals of the scenic country and a cloud-adorned blue-sky ceiling that evokes the feeling of an outdoor market. The tantalizing aroma of fresh-baked treats and the soothing sounds of Italian opera ballads flood the aisles, where shoppers can find a variety of gourmet imports, chef-prepared meals and extensive fresh departments, as well as a full array of traditional grocery items.
“We try to hit all the senses here at Uncle Giuseppe’s,” says co-founder and CEO Carl DelPrete. Founded in 1998 with a mission to provide a one-stop-shop Italian marketplace, the company’s “display point of view is to make things look how we remember them when we were young,” he says, referencing his childhood visits to Italian bakeries, butcher shops and fresh markets as a point of inspiration for the store’s elaborate, open-air format.
A 128-foot deli and prepared foods counter adorned with dangling meats, fruits and floral greens serves as the cornerstone of the store, which boasts an assortment of fresh entrees, salads and side dishes made in-house daily by the kitchen’s 60-person staff. Massive windows frame the store’s pasta- and mozzarella-making rooms, offering shoppers a behind-the-scenes look at Uncle Giuseppe’s signature homemade products, which are continuously prepared and hand packaged throughout the day. An expansive hot bar, sushi counter, pizza station, cafe and carnevale-themed gelato bar provide countless fresh-made offerings for shoppers to grab and go or leisurely enjoy in-store at the social seating area. On weekends, the retailer hosts informative product samplings and a live opera singer, known to draw crowds big enough to require advanced reservations to secure a table, DelPrete says.
The Heart of the Business
At the heart of Uncle Giuseppe’s engaging approach and high-quality products is a customer-orientated staff of more than 250 people who’ve undergone an intensive training program to uphold the retailer’s high standard of dedication to quality and service. The company provides team members with 50% lunch discounts and 10% shopping discounts, offering an added perk as well as the opportunity to taste and enhance staff knowledge of new and seasonal offerings. Each team member has a discernible nametag to encourage both employees and shoppers to greet one another by name.
“We get many more compliments on our customer service than not,” says DelPrete. “It’s very hard to find really great bakers and great cooks and pizza makers, but you can find really friendly customer service-oriented people and then train them how to be great at the task.”
Happy Employee, Happy Customer
From seasoned fishmongers and butchers to cheesemongers and bakers, Uncle Giuseppe’s well-trained team serves as the foundation of the business, crafting unique items such as its new yeast-raised fried doughnuts, as well as educating and guiding shoppers through their purchase decisions. To ensure satisfaction not only for customers but also for employees, the retailer has initiated store-based focus groups for its human resources department to remain connected to staff needs. “If our employees are not happy, how can they possibly service the customer and keep them happy?” says DelPrete. “That’s very important to us.”
A Focus on Convenience
As for its customer base, the specialty grocer says it draws consumers of all ages and demographics, but it has found an increasing number of millennial shoppers at the Melville location compared to its other smaller-format stores due to its expanded departments and interactive experiences. To appeal to convenience-focused shoppers, the retailer is partnering with DoorDash in June to launch pizza delivery and Instacart for grocery delivery, and it plans to expand its store footprint throughout New York and New Jersey to keep up with demand from foodie-focused consumers who “live to eat.”
Interactive Shopping Experience
“You don’t have to be Italian to love Uncle Giuseppe’s,” says DelPrete. “As much as we offer really good products and a really good selection, I think we offer an experience that brings people back to an enjoyable way to shop.”