It wasn’t a typical grocery-store smell that greeted family members of Albertsons employees as they walked inside the company’s newest store, on Broadway Avenue.
The scent of smoked meat wafted through the store. In the cheese section, the sweet smell of freshly cut Parmigiano Reggiano from Italy permeated the air. A few steps away, pizzas pulled from a wood burning oven beckoned the guests. Toward the back, store-made sausage sizzled on a grill.
This store, which opens at 10 a.m. Friday at 1219 Broadway Ave., isn’t your Uncle Joe Albertson’s store. Instead of an emphasis on canned and boxed goods — although they’re there in abundance — this store focuses on fresh meats and produce; breads, cakes and other bakery items made from scratch; exotic Asian fruits such as dragon fruit and jackfruit; and even hand-crafted chocolates.
“This store is everything we talked about and more,” said John Colgrove, president of Albertsons’ Intermountain Division, during an open house for family members on Thursday. “If you’re looking for basic items, this might not be the store for you. But if you get excited about food preparation and want to find things that aren’t in every other store, this is the place for you.”
The store replaces an Albertsons that operated across the parking lot from 1959 until it was torn down in April. The new one still carries items sold at most other Albertsons, at prices comparable to theirs, a spokeswoman said, but many of the new, foodie-oriented goods come at luxury prices.
With its two stories, second-floor dining and high-end perishables, the store tears a page from the playbook of Whole Foods Market, which opened its first and only Treasure Valley store in 2012 three-fourths of a mile north on Broadway.
The store will test ideas that could make their way into other new or existing Albertsons stores.
“We’re at the cutting edge of innovation,” Colgrove said. “When we talk about how important this is, it’s really important to leap forward, to always find new ways to satisfy our customers’ needs.”
The $7.2 million building features an upstairs bar, Broadway on the Rocks, the Boise-based grocery chain’s first in Idaho. There are 36 beer taps, half dispensing Idaho-produced beer. Wine is available by the glass, along with mixed alcoholic drinks.
With seating for 200, customers can also order food tableside. The space includes several TV monitors and roll-up doors that let the air in when it’s nice outside, along with an outside deck that looks north toward Albertsons Stadium on the Boise State University campus.
“If you’re not at the BSU football game, this is the best place to be,” Holland said.
The store plans to have local bands entertain customers upstairs, especially on weekends.
There’s an upstairs meeting room for rent that can hold 26 people. That space will also be used for cooking demonstrations.
Downstairs, there’s an outdoor deck on the north side for people who want to buy a meal and eat it there.
Downstairs includes the pizza oven, a sandwich bar, a stir-fry station, a burger grill and Joe’s fried chicken. A carving station delivers meat cooked and smoked in the store. Another station offers store-made mozzarella cheese.
Saturday’s grand opening celebration, which begins at 10 a.m., comes 79 years to the day when Joe Albertson opened his first store at 16th and State Street, where a successor store still serves North End customers.
For the grand opening, the Broadway store obtained an 1,127-pound wheel of cheddar cheese from Henning’s Wisconsin Cheese. The wheel, packaged in a wooden crate, will be unwrapped, sliced and packaged for sale. Other cheeses, including asiago, casero and manchego, will also be cut in the store.
Years ago, Albertsons baked all of its bread from scratch. Over time, the stores came to rely mostly on breads that are partially baked and frozen off-site, then shipped to be finished in a store’s ovens. The new store features artisan breads created on the premises. A loaf of olive parmesan focaccia bread sells for $3.49, a small round loaf of French boule for $4.
The bakery features two warming ovens that also serve as display cases. One features croissants filled with bacon and eggs. The other, located next to a gelato station, is filled with oversized cookies.
“What’s better with gelato than a warm cookie?” Colgrove asked.
Cookies in the warmer sell for $2 each. Decorated cakes sell for $7 to $25 each.
Gleaming cold cases hold an extensive selection of seafood, including sea bass, lobster tails, shrimp, salmon and crawfish. Ahi tuna sells for $20 a pound, grouper for $24, lobster tails $9 for 4 ounces, crab cakes $7.49 each.
The store will make several varieties of sausage, including Italian sausage, a maple pork sausage and a cranberry orange sausage. There’s also Cajun boudin, a mixture of pork, rice and seasonings that is widely popular in Louisiana but rarely found elsewhere.
Several exotic meats are available packaged in vacuum-sealed bags. They include aligator tails, frog legs, elk, pheasant, venison and wild boar.
Nearby is a box to dry-age beef. Dry-aging beef adds flavor and makes it more tender. It is typically only found in high-end restaurants.
Plated-brand prepared meals are also available at the store. Albertsons bought Plated last year. Six other Boise Albertsons stores began selling Plated meal kits on Wednesday.
Like Whole Foods, the new store will emphasize local products. For instance, Oma & Popies, a Kuna company that sells bottled marinades at the Capital City Public Market, at the Boise Co-op and some small stores, will sell a brown bourbon sauce and other concoctions.
Joe Albertson died in 1993, but Colgrove said he will be looking down on the store when it opens.
“Joe Albertson was a man of few words, but I think he would look at this and say, ‘Well done,’” he said.