Friday, March 23, 2018

Brian Tangora, president of the North Jersey Chamber of Commerce; George Matyjewicz, communications liaison for “Our Kehila” of Clifton/Passaic; Mayor Jim Anzaldi of Clifton; Yaakov Rabinovich, General Manger, Seasons of Clifton-Passaic

Alex Wercberger, GM of Lawrence Seasons, and Yaakov Rabinovich, General Manager of Seasons Clifton-Passaic

A light-hearted moment during a brief pause between customers in the dairy, salad and sandwich department. L to R: Aron Fried, Manager Simon Berrebi, Momi and J.P.

Customers entering the store at the 11 a.m. opening.

The checkout lanes were already long just 45 minutes after opening.

It was 10:59 a.m. on Tuesday, and the new Seasons Clifton-Passaic store entrance was buzzing with anticipation as anxious patrons awaited its 11 a.m. opening. Adorned with festive balloons, with snow cones and cotton candy available nearby, the doors finally slid open. The crowd responded with a coordinated rush forward to pick up carts, “upload” kids into cart seats and then swivel right into the enormous and beautiful store. As the crowd spread quickly in every direction, some of the store owners and managers took a moment to speak about this monumental addition to the kosher community of local grocery vendors.

General manager Yaakov Rabinovich answered a few questions in between the unceasing demands of a busy opening day, and described some of the defining features of Seasons. “Quality is the first priority; quality service, quality products, a quality overall experience for the customer.” Seasons’ goal is to create an environment where the task of shopping is a pleasant and simply “unparalleled experience—almost a destination,” he added. They are “committed to being meaningfully responsive to customer feedback.”

Mayer Gold, CEO, is thrilled to finally bring Seasons to the area, and that contagious excitement was apparent as the store’s staff and management seemed to pride themselves on engendering personal relationships with customers. It is those relationships that make the customers “love coming back,” continued Rabinovich.

Seasons offers a call-in and pickup service for shoppers, as well as delivery. During the grand opening, Rabinovich noted that both call-in orders for pickup or grocery delivery to Passaic or Clifton will be free through July 18. Soon, he said, there will be web options as well.

While most people are not even thinking about the ‘P’ word right now, the Seasons staff is already giving attention to which of the fresh food departments will be operating during Pesach. The deli is being given strong consideration.

Over at the bakery, a nice variety of fresh and attractive baked goods lined the shelves and baskets: occasion cakes, breads, bagels and breakfast fare, and a staffed dairy fresh salad and sandwich case. A basic lox and seasoned cream cheese sandwich on a whole wheat baguette was fresh and flavorful. The roll itself had good flavor and was just the right amount of crunchy on the outside and squishy on the inside.

Simply Sushi offered an expansive menu with several original creations. The “Crunchy Dragon Roll” was a fabulous fusion of flavor, texture and culture, featuring tempura onions and fake crab. Nice for the kosher sushi diner who likes the shellfish substitutes or wants to avoid raw fish.

The Main Ingredient deli and carryout case was loaded with delectable standard and original main and side dishes. Show-stoppers were pretzel chicken fingers, whole cornflake chicken fingers, grilled “baby” chicken (dark meat) and three varieties of fresh grilled salmon. The grilled veggies and butternut squash were excellent. The fresh fish department was beautiful and also an “aroma-free” zone—always a good sign around fish. The meat department was attractive and well-organized with abundant variety, and with some great pricing on favorite items. No messy packages or gooey shelves.

Also notable was the designated area containing a freezer case for gluten-free items, which are in greater demand now than ever. At Seasons, however, they were actually easy to find! Gluten-free products were also dispersed throughout the store by category.

This store is big—as in 55,000-square-feet big! It is well-organized and shopper-friendly, with plenty of assistance from smiling and enthusiastic team members who are readily available. Kosher shopping has never been better, and Seasons appears to surpass the quality and options of even Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s—with the importance and bonus of being all-kosher one-stop shopping.

Spoiler alert: Seasons of Clifton- Passaic is highly recommended! Bitayavon!

By Ellie Wolf