Dozens of shoppers eager to check out new Price Chopper stores in Potsdam and Canton braved opening-day crowds Monday, some just browsing while others filled their carts with groceries and snacked on free food samples.
Doors at both stores opened to customers about 8:30 a.m., immediately after Price Chopper and local officials gathered outside on a sun-soaked morning for ribbon-cutting and flag-raising events.
Today, Price Chopper was scheduled to open its store in West Carthage, followed by stores in Massena and Gouverneur on Wednesday. All five north country stores are scheduled to operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
In Canton, the opening of Price Chopper, 111 E. Main St., provides the full-sized grocery store that's been lacking since P&C closed April 9.
"I think it's a great thing," said Jerri A. Kingston, Judson Street Road, Canton. "I got tired of going to the other stores to find what I needed."
Although Potsdam offers other grocery options, the new Price Chopper, 201 Market St., was equally busy Monday with shoppers curious to explore the new store and replenish their cupboards.
Staffing levels at both stores are significantly higher than six months ago, when the stores were still operated by Penn Traffic Co., parent company of P&C Markets.
The Canton Price Chopper has 125 full- and part-time employees while the Potsdam Price Chopper has a staff of 104, according to Mona J. Golub, the company's vice president for public relations and consumer services. The Canton P&C had 79 employees and the Potsdam P&C store had 63 people on staff.
"We are a healthy, growing company and we recognize it takes more people to provide great customer service than what P&C could provide during its dying days," Ms. Golub said. "We expect to maintain those staffing levels."
Ms. Golub said she could not provide a breakdown of how many Price Chopper employees at each store are employed full time and part time. She also could not offer a ballpark figure on how many of the new hires previously worked for P&C and applied for jobs with Price Chopper.
"Many of them were former P&C employees. Many came to us from P&C," Ms. Golub said.
About 600 employees will staff the five new north country stores, including about 130 Price Chopper workers who were promoted within the company, she said.
Michael F. Davidson, vice president of store operations, said all five store managers were promoted within the organization.
"We are thrilled to have all these stores in the north country. You can be sure we will operate all these stores to our standards," Mr. Davidson said.
Steven E. Bowers, formerly of Syracuse, is now manager of the Canton store. Robert C. Kennedy has relocated from Burlington, Vt., to manage Potsdam's Price Chopper.
Neil M. Golub, the company's president and chief executive officer, praised employees for the hard work involved in converting the five stores into Price Choppers over the past six weeks.
"It's amazing what we've been able to accomplish over the last few weeks," Mr. Golub said. "People are going to come here and get the same great food they can get in big cities, the kind that is not always available in small towns."
Based in Schenectady, the Golub Corp. owns and operates 122 Price Chopper stores in New York, Vermont, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania. The family-managed company has more than 25,000 employees who collectively own 52 percent of the company's privately held stock.