In the Suburbs: Downtown market didn’t register with Fairfield customers
Published 6:19 am, Sunday, May 1, 2016
When I heard recently that bfresh market in downtown Fairfield was closing its doors after only a few months, I didn’t know whether to feel regret or just move on.
I barely got to know anything about this small store behind the new Plan B restaurant in the old Fairfield Post Office, and now it’s gone.
Fortunately, I did have two opportunities to try bfresh. After a fellow customer in the diner where I eat breakfast mentioned bfresh, I decided to stop at the market to check it out and discovered that it occupied a small space with prices somewhere close to Whole Foods, featuring a selection of delicious breads and pastries, slightly pricey fish and beef, wonderful produce and salads, and some other unusual things. There was a nice snack area where folks could sip coffee and catch up, and the store was certainly easy enough to navigate, albeit on the narrow side.
The second time I went to bfresh was with my wife on Good Friday. Since it was right across from her cardiologist, she suggested we check it out. Our excursion was brief, but we did get some unusual fig bread and salad. But my wife wasn’t interested in paying for a high-priced leg of lamb or a roast.
Then last week, I read the owners of bfresh had decided that the “footprint” they had chosen for the store was not working and decided to close the property. While I understand their decision to a point, I think there were other factors that contributed to the difficulties with this new market. Despite the fact that Stop and Shop is just down the road and Whole Foods isn’t much farther away, I would consider the latter more of a threat.
I also remember many years ago when a tiny forerunner to Balducci’s opened on Black Rock Turnpike where Dunkin’ Donuts and Cinzano’s are today. Fairfield is a more down-to-earth community than Westport in a lot of ways, and many of our folks were not into $2 potatoes and pricey beef and fish. So the place eventually closed.
A lot of us favored the old Fairway Market with its amazing butcher shop and great prices. I was heartsick when that place burned down, causing it to smell like one big barbecue pit for hours. That place was just more a part of the community, like Miro’s Farm market and Moishe’s Deli.
When bfresh closed, I tried to think about what didn’t happen with this latest grocery offering in our town. Could there have been some feature stories or profiles on the chain to draw some attention? In the end, I decided that one of the main problems with this market goes back to its location, location, location. Buried right behind Plan B, the place got lost.
In addition, there weren’t any special events that I heard about to get the store better known. Except for seeing sale flyers at our Fairfield University Bookstore, I wouldn’t really have thought about going to bfresh. Guess I wasn’t alone.
Over the 34 years we’ve lived in Fairfield and Bridgeport, we’ve seen many places like bfresh come and go, and most of the establishments — grocery stores, restaurants and boutiques — were either located in the back of a strip mall or shopping center, rarely promoted themselves, or did not offer special coupon days or unusual sales.
But there have been a number of success stories too. For example, Rio Bravo, a Mexican restaurant chain that replaced a long line of failed restaurants, seems to be a perfect fit for the site next to Staples plaza in on Kings Highway. Another is Geronimo, another South of the Border entry that is doing well at Post and North Pine Creek roads.
And thanks to the shrewd planning by Kleban Properties, Fairfield Center has expanded toward Beach Road, bringing wonderful new retail outlets and restaurants. I wonder whether bfresh would have been more successful if larger space were available on the other side of the Post Road. For now, we’ll just have to wonder what retail establishment will arrive next behind Plan B and hope for more success.
Steven Gaynes is a Fairfield writer, and his “In the Suburbs” appears each Friday. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.