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Inside the Grocery Store for Downtown Crossing's 1 Percent

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Here's the latest installment of Bates By the Numbers, a weekly feature by Boston real estate agent David Bates that drills down into the Hub's housing market to uncover those trends and people you would not otherwise notice. Follow him on Twitter and check out his ebook, Context: Nine Key Condo Markets, 2.0.



A Millennium Place resident called Wednesday's opening of Roche Bros. Market in Downtown Crossing "huge."

She was quite possibly speaking behalf of a few thousand residents in this key part of Boston who own luxury condominiums with enviable amenities, but who are bereft of a convenient grocery-store commute. For them, things like obtaining quality fresh vegetables, important ingredients for a new recipe, or even decently prepared take-away often means it's time to jump in the car, an action which flies right in the face of why they chose to pay downtown living prices in the first place—to avoid jumping in the car FOR ANYTHING.

So, even though this densely populated part of the city has diverse demographics, the new Roche Bros. in the former Filene's Basement site has the dubious distinction of being able to improve the quality of life of even millionaires, the 1-percenters who live nearby in some of Boston's newest and most expensive condominiums, including in the near future Millennium Tower.

Dena Zigun, Roche Bros.' marketing director, told me that Downtown Crossing was "the busiest pedestrian mall in New England." So, it was the opportunity to serve the neighborhood's rapidly growing resident population, as well as the significant commuting population that works or shops in the area, that attracted the Wellesley-based firm to the heart of Boston.

I toured the 25,000-square-foot facility Tuesday and found several features that make this market different and worth checking out. The second-generation, family-owned business, which opened its first supermarket in Roslindale, is well-known for its cheese department. It's the leading retailer of Stonewall Kitchen products, a popular specialty food creator which noted the 10-year relationship with Roche Bros. by providing the market exclusively with a Wild Blueberry Champagne Jam. The company's long-established fresh fish supplier is so close by that it seems returning boats might have an option to unload the fish in the new store rather than the dock.

Related:
The Tower That Hopes to Remake Downtown Crossing [Curbed Boston]

There was also a new super-food section in the market. And there, are of course, loads and loads of prepared foods (much too long to list) and prepared-meal components, ready for quick consumption or to add as a critical ingredient or complement in a predominantly homemade meal. Zigun said that Roche Bros. expects that prepared foods in Downtown Crossing will make up 50 percent more of the store's total buying pie than other Roche Bros. locations.

Sure, Roche Bros.' Downtown Crossing spot has everything from grass-fed beef to KM hotdogs, organic to more mainstream products, but, on a personal note, the presentation of Roche Bros. cupcakes and cookies was impressive, one that screamed master-baker, not chain supermarket. Seriously! For this reason, Roche Bros. picked a good day to open: If they had let touring folks buy Tuesday, despite having staff work through the entire night to get the store ready, they might have been short a few baked goods.
· Our Bates By the Numbers archive [Curbed Boston]