The new Metro Market/Mothership/Ohmygosh/There’s more? at 4075 N. Oakland Ave. spans some 90,000 square feet and two floors, the bottom of which is towering. It’s about as average a grocery store as a Hummer limo is an average SUV. Can Milwaukee’s dominant grocery player shake off the mid-range shackles and wow a whole new generation? What does the new kid on the grocery block want from us, and will we part with it willingly?
Join us for today’s Just Desserts with senior editors Claire Hanan and Matt Hrodey.
CH: When is the last time you rode an elevator in a grocery store.
MH: Never, unless the escalator at Whole Foods counts. I’m sorry, the upscale health-conscious grocery alternative that shall not be named. You can feel the rivalry in the air.
CH: Indeed. Especially in the DIY grains and spice section, which was the biggest of its kind I’ve seen. The nearby trail mix bar was nice, though. It was heavy on the best part of trail mix: the chocolate and candy. Kinda felt like Roundys’ roots were showing there.
MH: They were once a candy company?
CH: I don’t think so. They just aren’t as natural-organic-picked-from-an-artisan as Metro Market’s nameless rival. There were at least six chocolate-covered somethings in the trail mix bar.
MH: If you had to pick three words other than “grocery store” to describe the new Metro Market, what would you say?
CH: Fancy food court. What about you?
MH: Beached Cruise Ship, although there were not enough 24-hour buffets.
CH: How many cruises have you gone on that sold $10 cookie cakes?
MH: I’m going back if they were that cheap.
CH: They were. And the writing was free. What did you think of the prices?
MH: Funny you should ask. Pick ‘n’ Save has traditionally adopted a high-low price model with splashy discounts to draw people in and then not-so-discount prices on everything else. I overlooked the opening-day sales and grabbed the following quotes: $3.99/lb. for generic boneless, skinless chicken breast, and $3.69/lb. for pork shoulder steaks. Overall, the prices might be a hair cheaper than the downtown Metro Market, but that is a completely untested hypothesis.
CH: How much was your BBQ chicken? (The only item left at the barbecue counter.)
MH: $5 plus tax. Reasonable and rather good. Both Metro Markets do a solid job of barbecue. But so does that other store off North Avenue. You know, the one with the green logo.
CH: Maybe you’re just easy to please, or really hungry. The cookie cake tasted a lot better than it looked, which was dry. I was not looking forward to a hunk of dry cookie. But I was pleasantly surprised. What did you think of the live classical music?
MH: Nice, but not as nice as the trail mix bar. Or the protein bar bar. Or the artisan bread nook. Or the one sugar place connected to the other sugar place and the pretzel zone.
CH: It was hard to look away from all of the sugar.
MH: If this was Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, where would you meet your demise?
CH: I would get one of the turtles from the sweet and chocolaty zone, a giant soft pretzel, a wedge of some rare, aged, local cheese and then I’d go sit at the bar and have a beer. Then I would collapse. But I would collapse in the seating area on the upper floor near the frozen pizzas. No one would see me suffer. What was your favorite second-level find? It was the place, we discovered, where a normal person would do the majority of their shopping.
MH: The game meats: ground camel, alligator steaks, wild boar flesh, wild boar ribs, elk, venison, hens, and ducks. You could throw one helluva “burgers from the wild” party.
CH: That was quite the Noah’s Ark of grocery cases. Were you impressed by the Starbucks kiosk? You didn’t look impressed.
MH: I can’t imagine juggling both groceries and hot coffee.
CH: That’s what carts are for, and those were nothing special.
MH: You’re a cart connoisseur.
CH: Let’s just say changes in cart technology have been slow. What was your read on other shoppers’ emotions?
MH: Elated, bewildered, impassioned and flushed. There was at least one group of young kids out to experience the sensory sugar high. There were also some proper adults. Nothing brings out the generations like a new grocery store. But will they come back? Will you?
CH: I would go back to try the pizza, the juice bar or the fresh neon orange popcorn. Will you return? Have you become a Metro Marketeer?
MH: I use the downtown location a fair amount. I ran across Tom Crawford of WMSE there a couple days ago. So even the cool kids are using M.M. these days. Will M.M.-Shorewood compete with that North Avenue grocery (with heated underground parking, thank you very much) on my list of stores to visit when I’m ready to spend some money because it’s the weekend? This is an unanswerable question.