Friday, May 22, 2009

Friday Frolic: Liberty Market Top 'Food Star;' Phoenix Ranch Market Chain and Asian Grocer Among Newspaper's '50 Stars of Arizona Food World' List

Arizona Region Market Report

Gilbert, Arizona's independent Liberty Market supermarket (pictured at top) has been picked as the Number 1 "food star" in the Arizona Republic newspaper's just-published 2009 list of what it calls the "50 Stars of Arizona's Food World."

Liberty Market is just one of three Arizona food retailers to make the list. The other two are the Latino-focused Phoenix Ranch Markets chain and Lee Lee Oriental Supermart, an Asian specialty format supermarket in Peoria, Arizona.

The daily newspaper published its "Top 50" list in yesterday's (May 21) edition.

Here's what the Arizona Republic says about Liberty Market, it's top "food star."

Liberty Market
"Since 1935, Liberty Market has been a Gilbert fixture. For decades, it was the only grocery store in town. Then it became the grocery store no one went to, and now the market-restaurant is the Gilbert headquarters of chic, cozy eats: gourmet olives and cheeses for sale, wood-fired pizza to order, pressed sandwiches, fizzy Italian sodas and red velvet cake. Think La Grande Orange, suburban style. It's the creation of Joe Johnston, the brains behind Coffee Plantation and another Gilbert landmark, Joe's Real BBQ. 230 N. Gilbert Road, Gilbert. 480-892-1900." [Web site:]

Fresh & Easy Buzz last wrote about Gilbert, Arizona's Liberty Market in this October 17, 2008 piece: [Phoenix, Arizona Metro Market Report: Gilbert, Arizona Independent Liberty Market Fears Not the Tesco and Wal-Mart Invasion of its City.]

Tesco's Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market, which now has five of its small-format, convenience-oriented combination grocery and fresh foods Fresh & Easy markets in the Phoenix Metropolitan region city of Gilbert where Liberty Market is located, and about 30 stores in Arizona, didn't make the Arizona Republic's food star list. The newest Fresh & Easy unit in Glibert (number five), at Higley & Queen Creek in the city, opened on March 26.

Wal-Mart also has one of its four small-format combination grocery and fresh foods Marketside food markets in Gilbert, Arizona. [October 3, 2008: Wal-Mart Opens First Four Small-Format Marketside Fresh Food and Grocery Stores Tomorrow Morning in Gilbert, Chandler, Mesa and Tempe, Arizona.] Marketside isn't an Arizona "Top 50" food star either, according to the newspaper.

In addition to the retail food markets, the newspaper's "Top 50" list includes restaurants-chefs, a public market, pubs, food companies, wineries, individual foodies and other purveyors of all varieties of foodstuffs.

[You can view the Arizona Republic's complete "50 Stars of Arizona's Food World" list here.]

Here's what the Arizona Republic says about Phoenix Ranch Market, its number 18 selection, which is owned by Southern California-based Pro's Ranch Markets:

Phoenix Ranch Market
"This high-energy California-based grocer packs its markets with tortillas made fresh daily, thirst-busting aguas frescas, vats of crema, a seafood bar with as many as 10 varieties of shrimp and an 80-foot case stocked with traditional Mexican meats. The produce department offers the best local selection of fresh and dried chiles. Too busy to cook? Stop by the expansive takeout restaurant for carnitas, Guerrero-style tacos, red-chile beef or seafood tostada. 1602 E. Roosevelt St., Phoenix, 602-254-6676; 5833 S. Central Ave., Phoenix, 602-276-3800; 5802 W. Thomas Road, Phoenix, 623-247-0362; 6730 W. Camelback Road, Glendale, 623-247-4200." [Web site:]

The Phoenix Ranch Market stores are located in and around Phoenix, Arizona.

Fresh & Easy Buzz recently wrote about the newest Phoenix Ranch Market Latino-focused supermarket, which is in Mesa, Arizona. You can read our story here: [April 26, 2009: Sunday Feature: Pro's Ranch Markets' Set to Open Sixth 'Phoenix Ranch' Latino-Focused Phoenix Metro Region Supermarket in Mesa, Arizona On Wednesday.] The Mesa Phoenix Ranch Market store is now open.

The Arizona Republic also gave a "Top 50" nod to the Lee Lee Oriental Supermart in Peoria, Arizona (number 25).

Here's what the newspaper writes about the Asian specialty supermarket:

Lee Lee Oriental Supermart
"No, you're not in Asia - you're in Peoria. But it's easy to lose your bearings wandering the aisles of amazing Lee Lee Oriental Supermart. Just about every Asian country is represented, from Indonesia to Singapore, the Philippines to Thailand. The range of products is breathtaking. The high-quality produce section can stop you in your tracks, both for the staggering variety of greens, fruit and vegetables and for the astonishingly low prices. Check out the live fish and handsome seafood counter. The meat case displays animal parts you'd never see at your neighborhood American supermarket. And the shelves are packed with noodles, oils, vinegars, sauces, pastes and beverages. Lee Lee is like the Grand Canyon: You have to spend some time here to truly appreciate it. So make sure you stop and smell the Chinese long beans. 7575 W. Cactus Road, Peoria, 623-773-3345; 2025 N. Dobson Road, Chandler, 480-899-2887."

The downtown Phoenix Public Market, a collection of numerous retail fresh foods, specialty grocery and prepared foods purveyers all under the same roof, is also one of the "Top 50" on the list. [Web site:]

Arizona's food banks also get a mention as one of the state's "food stars," and rightly so. The Arizona food banks, like those in many other states, have seen some of their busiest times in history over the last year as the recession and unemployment has hit Arizona hard.

The "Top 50" list is an interesting mix of businesses and individuals, all having a single focus, which is to bring food to Arizona residents in a variety of ways and formats, focusing on doing it the best way they can.

And it's interesting, but not a surprise, to note that the three food retailers named to the "Top 50" list are all independents. After all, when it comes to features and offerings like product selection, specialty focus and fresh, prepared foods, independents have historically lead the way among American grocers.

That's good -- and likely rather tasty -- food for thought as we enter the Memorial Day holiday weekend.

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