Universal Food Markets
Owner: Bilit Patel
Location: 494 Ellison St, Paterson, NJ
Photographed: August 2019
Today's store tour is an independent store just east of downtown Paterson, and a few blocks south of yesterday's CTown. This store is somewhere in the range of 10,000 square feet and joins Universal locations in Rahway and Camden, CTown in Orange, Bravo in Newark, Golden Mango in Paterson, and Eagle and Super El Rey in Elizabeth, all owned by the Patel family. Any readers of my blogs know I'm not a fan of supermarket-bashing, but Universal stores are the bottom of the barrel when it comes to urban supermarkets. This location, like all the others I've been to, was very dingy and is clearly not held to the same standards as a store like the Madison CTown, even though both are affiliated with Krasdale Foods. It's a shame, given that Universal's stores are all in some of the lowest income neighborhoods of the state, all with predominantly minority populations (though of course they are better than nothing).
There's another problem here: this store is no longer associated with the Met Foods chain, although I suppose it once was. (Prior to Universal's opening in 2013, an Associated Supermarket occupied this space.) I grabbed myself some orange juice on sale and a few other items while visiting here, and was given a Key Food bag to carry them in, even though this store has never been affiliated with Key Food, nor have any of the other Universal locations...
Anyway, let's head inside the store! Because of its many expansions over the course of many years, the layout is quite odd inside. An expansion had just been completed at the time of my August 2019 visit, adding two rooms on the right side of the store. Deli is in the front corner, produce and dairy line the first aisle, with frozen on the back wall. If I remember correctly, there are three rooms along the right side of the store. The back one, which is the oldest, has additional frozen foods and some nonfoods. The second one has service seafood (admittedly a nice touch in such a small store) and international foods, with a butcher counter in the third one. The second and third ones were added during the latest 2019 renovation.
Deli immediately inside the entrance. Produce lines the front half of the first aisle...
...which oddly becomes aisle 4 almost immediately.
Towards the back we have dairy and paper goods.
These dairy cases and the frozen cases we'll see shortly actually look very new, and were likely installed in the latest renovation. And someone must have been asleep on the job making this aisle marker, advertising "napking" (get it... napkins... nap king... asleep on the job... never mind).
The arrow on the aisle marker points us over into the back corner room, with frozen and paper goods.
Here we can see the doorway into the back room.
Much older frozen cases here. As you can see, the store is quite cluttered.
International foods in the second room, which is new. I understand the clutter in such a small and cramped store, but there's no excuse for leaving an unattended pile of broken-down boxes in the corner here.
The seafood department, I will admit, is actually quite nice. It extends along the side wall of this side room, with the butcher counter on the same wall in the next room...
I'd assume these service counters are brand-new after the renovation. I didn't find anywhere in the store where they could've been previously. And that wraps up our tour, sorry for the kind of depressing tour today! We've got a much more exciting one tomorrow over on The Market Report!