Bistro Market has charm, but will it last?

Geoff Pickle, Web Editor

If there’s one word I would use up-front to describe the Bistro Market downtown, it’s panache. The place is immediately eye-catching, and its many glass windows facing Walnut and South all but beg passersby to enter.

And enter, they have. Since the Price Cutter urban market opened Aug. 20, crowds have rushed the place, eager for a brand new experience.

Many aren’t likely to be disappointed in this wish. The grocery store has a feel unlike any grocery store I’ve been to. There’s a 24-foot salad and hot food bar to appease the daytime lunch break workers, and there’s a 50-seat beer, wine and cocktail bar to appeal to the after 5-ers.

On opening day, I decided to check out if the buzz was as noisy as predicted, and I was faced with a jam-packed store.

As I sipped on a Blue Moon, all the while taking in the sheer surreality of drinking a beer in a grocery store, I glanced to my left to find Springfield Mayor Jim O’Neal a few seats down, martini glass in hand (though I can’t claim to know what he was drinking – I didn’t ask).

I couldn’t help but laugh to myself as I walked home. It was a moment for my personal history book.

Last night, I decided to try out the grocery aspect of the store. I can’t claim to be as impressed with this aspect.

I appreciate the market as a whole, but as a grocery store, it doesn’t stand up to say, Dillon’s, which is about a mile away. The 10,000-square-foot Bistro Market – with a large portion already used for the food and salad bar; the beer, wine and and cocktail bar; the Starbucks Café; and the large selection of pre-packaged liquor – doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for groceries.

In terms of selection, you aren’t going to find as much variety here as you would in a larger store. I saw mostly name-brand merchandise, resulting in a price range arguably incomparable to other grocery locations.

That said, I tend to live financially conservative, so this could just be my own personal bias speaking out. And I haven’t visited a Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods or any of the urban stores Price Cutter modeled the market after.

It’s also worth noting that the market’s aim is not to compete with the larger stores in town but rather to add a new commodity to the downtown area.

Price Cutter parent company Pyramid Foods CEO Erick Taylor is predicting sales of $10 million in the first year. Though the crowds could calm down after the newness of the market has fully set in, it wouldn’t be surprising if Taylor finds himself correct a year from now. It is hardly arguable that the market has charm. It will be interesting to see how Taylor’s prediction plays out.

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