By G. Michael Dobbs
LONGMEADOW – A long-time business in Longmeadow is receiving more than a cursory makeover in its 50th year.
Armata's Market, located at 901 Shaker Road, has undergone both a physical and philosophical transformation leading up to its grand re-opening during the first two weeks in May, Store Manager Alexis Vallides explained to Reminder Publications.
Walking around the market, Vallides pointed out cosmetic improvements from painting to the redesigns of aisles to the addition of energy efficient cases and LED lights.
What has been strengthened is the dedication to customer service and providing the food items and services they need, she added.
The mix of the items carried at the market has been changed and Vallides said there is now more food than general merchandise. The goal is to have a shopper come in with a list of ingredients and be able to buy all of them here, she added.
Keeping with that idea, the store added the Boar's Head line of meats, cheeses and condiments.
The deli section is expanding with a greater emphasis on prepared meals to-go. There is a new cooler filled with a wide variety of take-out items and a serve-yourself hot bar near that.
"We have huge increases in prepared foods," Vallides said.
Coming soon, hot dinners to go will be added to the daily offerings, she added. These dishes will be "more upscale than lunch."
Other additions will be a soup station and a carving station for orders to go.
The new head chef at the market, Jose Rivera, is a graduate of the Lincoln Culinary Institute and has worked as a sous chef and baker.
"He makes everything from scratch," Vallides said.
She explained that the makeover has been done at night while the store was closed, but may present some inconvenience to customers.
"People were very patient," Vallides said. "We appreciate that."
In the highly competitive world of food marketing, Vallides said, "You have to differentiate yourself."
At Armata's the growing number of prepared foods to go, the fresh cut meat and the customer service are three of the factors that have provided the market its niche.
"Meat is the driving force of the market," Vallides noted.
Owned by the same company that operates 90 Meat Outlet in Springfield, Vallides said that Armata's customers benefit from the mutual buying power.
In an industry where markets have become larger and larger, Vallides said Armata's is "still a manageable size." Smaller is better, she added, as the staff of the market know their customers.
All of the market's remaining renovations will be completed within five weeks, Vallides said.