For the past few weeks, we’ve been cleaning at my store. Not just the normal cleaning that we do every day, the clutter cleansing, head clearing, let-the-sunshine-in kind of cathartic purging that can only be known as spring cleaning. Where once stood stacks of firewood, now rises racks of seeds — geraniums, marigolds, morning glories. Displays of hot cocoa mix and marshmallows have come down, and end caps (the displays that you see on the ends of our grocery aisles) highlighting chicken broth and spice for soups have been moved back to their normal places on the shelves. All to make room for the first harbingers of spring — the celebrations of Passover and Easter.
Passover, a Jewish holiday that will begin on March 29th, and Easter, a Christian holiday that falls on April 4th this year, are both celebrations with long standing food traditions. At our stores we do our best to supply our customers with everything they need to enjoy their festivities.
One of the main symbols of Passover is Matzo, a type of flatbread made solely from flour and water. These ingredients are continually worked from mixing through baking, so that the bread is never allowed to rise. This year at my store, my Grocery Team Leader and Associate Team Leader, Peter and Caio, took a few days to determine the best place to display our end cap of matzo, gefilte fish, macaroons, horseradish and any other items one could want to help prepare for their Seder dinner. You can see the result in the accompanying picture, it’s a veritable tower of treats.
Likewise, my Meat Team Leader Richie, and his Associate Brian, have worked hard rearranging their service case and side coolers to accommodate extra Kosher chickens and beef briskets, traditional Passover fare. As with every holiday, successful merchandising execution means preparation — knowing when to order holiday specific items, how much to order and where to display them. The merchandising part of the equation becomes especially important in our prepared foods service case, where Jimmy and Jaimee, our leadership team, must make sure that any foods that are prepared as kosher remain that way. For example, plenty of time is spent creating “plan-o-grams” (diagrams of our cases to plan where food will be placed) that ensure meat does not come in contact with dairy, and that our delicious blintzes, charoset and tzimmes have plenty of room to shine!
One of the hallmarks of Easter is Lent, the 40 days leading up to the holiday. During this period, many people choose not to eat meat on Fridays, which means our Seafood department has to increase their orders! Planning a few days in advance, Patrick and EJ, my Seafood Team Leader and Associate, will talk about what fish have been most popular lately, what recipes customers have been asking about from current food publications or the daily newspapers, and what special discounts we may be participating in. Weighing all of this information, they’ll place an order that will aim to have something for everyone in the case on Friday morning.
Back in Grocery, Peter and Caio poured through the order guide for our Easter candy selection several months ago and are just now getting in their boxes of chocolate bunnies and cream filled eggs. The candy goes up in just a few hours, a sea of pastel colors, and will have to be constantly refilled as customers treat themselves to an early Easter present with a piece or two of chocolate. Danny, our Bakery Team Leader, might try to sneak some of his Hot Cross Buns into the display.
Of course, Bill, our Dairy buyer, may be the busiest person of all during Easter. He’s in charge of making sure we have enough eggs for the tradition of dyeing and decorating (not to mention eating) hard boiled eggs before Easter. Bill knows that the happiness of many children depends on his supply of eggs, so each year he references the notes he took from holidays past, takes into account the trends and sales from the current year and places an educated order. Bill has been doing this job for over 20 years — he is an absolute expert in the art of ordering eggs.
What are some of your favorite spring holiday traditions? What kind of foods do you look for to celebrate with?