Check out the video below. Kroger and New York’s Murray’s Cheese have partnered to put a Murray’s Cheese Shop in Dallas area Kroger stores. The first store opened in Irving on May 25, the Fort Worth location opens July 6, and Murray’s shop in the Kroger on Mockingbird at Greenville debuts today. If the model proves popular, the cheese-store-within-a-store concept will be rolled out to other Kroger stores. I stopped in yesterday for a media tour and spoke to folks from Murray’s and Kroger.
Cheese details below.
There are nearly 200 cheeses plus accompaniments such as olives, pickles, chilies, dips, etc. To put that number in perspective, it is comparable with specialty store Scardello. Slightly more than at Sigel’s in Addison (100-150 cheeses). Murray’s Mother store in Manhattan has roughly 400 different cheeses. In short, this initiative vaults Kroger into the front line of the growing market for quality cheese in America. However, I saw differences in the selection at Kroger/Murray’s and Scardello or Molto Formaggio. Essentially, most of the most expensive cheeses are not in the (current) Murray’s Dallas selection. They are being conservative until they know their customer base. On the other hand, Rich and Karen Rogers at Scardello will go to the American Cheese Society Annual Meetings and come back with several ‘finds’ that don’t fit any accountant’s spreadsheet profit-and-loss model. Their customers will buy them based on their recommendation. It should be said that Murray’s in Manhattan does similar specialized sourcing. A representative told me how they were the only importer of a wheel of one obscure cheese and they sold it almost entirely to French chefs in New York.
The store-within-a-store concept’ is slightly different here from the form it takes in high-end department stores such as Bloomingdale’s. The store literally rents space to vendors making Bloomingdale’s a bazaar of independent tenants. A leather goods or perfume vendor, for example, sets up its own display fixtures, hires its own staff and conducts its own training subject only to general guidelines about opening times, allowable product, etc. from the landlord. Kroger employs the staff, Murray’s supplies the cheese, and the two collaborate on training. The big challenge that I see will come after the Murray’s staff return to New York or go on to some other city to set up the next store. How do you maintain the huge level of knowledge that is necessary to compete with the specialty vendors? If a customer goes into Scardello, or to Theresa Magee at Sigel’s in Addison and ask for a blue cheese that’s not too sharp, they know they will be guided to a Stilton over Roquefort, but will the staff at Kroger be as knowledgeable? And what is the difference between Muenster and Munster, and which one would it be less sociable to put in carry-on luggage on a long flight? I hope that the training regimen works, but cheese is one of the hardest food products to knowledgeably sell.
We sampled several of the cheeses (recommendation: La Tur – with a tannic Cabernet Sauvignon). They were all good. This collaboration is a very welcome addition to Dallas. It raises the profile of cheese. The other supermarket chains will have to respond or Kroger will steal this demographic.