McCaffrey’s is a favorite of Princeton shoppers. In fact, when you stop in at this popular market in the Princeton Shopping Center, you are almost certain to run into someone you know.
On the other hand, it attracts many out-of-towners.
“If I had McCaffrey’s where I live, I’d never cook!” said a visitor from Michigan. She was captivated by the variety and quality of McCaffrey’s prepared foods. Just heat and eat — a boon for those getting home late after a long day.
But there is much, much more. Take note of the quality produce (including a large organic section); gourmet cheese; the outstanding meat, poultry, and fish departments, featuring special cuts and made-to-order platters; the bakery with its custom cakes and crusty bread, (“best donuts in town,” says a customer); the deli, the floral department, gift baskets, the center aisles with the crackers, cookies, cereal, condiments, and staples of every kind; and the busy catering department.
Now celebrating its 20th anniversary, McCaffrey’s has grown and evolved since it opened in August 1992. At that time, manager Steve Carney was working in the store’s highly regarded meat department.
“I was here two days before we opened, and it was phenomenal,” he reports. “People liked it right away, and it was a great match with Princeton.”
Princeton was the second McCaffrey’s store to open under the guidance of president and owner Jim McCaffrey. The first is in Yardley, Pa., a third is in West Windsor, and a fourth opened in Newtown, Pa. in July.
“Jim McCaffrey is a great owner,” says Mr. Carney. “He is very hands-on, and he is very respectful of the staff and the customers. He always has an open door policy. He is also very community-minded, and supports many charities and organizations.
“And, very important, we now have 160 employees at the Princeton store, and 80 percent of them are full-time with benefits. People can build careers here with opportunities for advancement. We’re giving them a living wage, and when customers shop here, they are not only purchasing the value of the product, they are helping the staff.”
Each store has its own personality (“Of course, Princeton is the best!”), he notes, with different items more popular with different customers and locations.
“One of the important things at Princeton, too, is that our staff have all built relationships with clientele. Many times, they know their names. Also, many of our customers are ‘European-style’ customers. They come in every day for fresh produce, meat, and bread.”
“The food at McCaffrey’s represents quality,” says a longtime Princeton shopper. “They always stand behind everything they sell, and you can count on it.”
And, adds another: “I especially like the wonderful selection in the flower department and the helpful staff there. I also like the colorful display of the produce. It is pleasing to the eye, and makes shopping a pleasant experience.”
Produce is a very important department at McCaffrey’s, representing 19 percent of sales. The store focuses on local and regionally grown produce, including more than 100 fresh organic produce items.
“Organic has become very popular,” says Mr. Carney. “Our customers want this. We have dedicated and aware consumers, who want to eat healthier. This is an educated community, with educated consumers.”
In addition, customers can find unusual items such as fiddle head ferns, ramps (baby wild leeks), French wild asparagus, pluots (hybrid plum and apricot), Charantais melons, as well as the best-tasting heirloom tomatoes.
McCaffrey’s emphasis on offering the healthiest products is evident in the meat and fish departments too. “We have meat from Simply Grazin’, where the cattle are grass-fed. And we now have certified Angus all-natural beef, raised without biotics or growth hormones, on a 100 percent vegetarian diet.
“Also,” he continues, “Our staff will do special cuts of meat if customers request them, and they will help customers make a selection out of the case. We don’t pre-cut meat as other stores do. Everything is cut and packaged here, and we grind our own meat on the premises. I believe we have the best meat in any store. The meat staff has a real relationship with customers. The trust factor is very high.
“We also have chicken and pot pies from Griggstown Farm, and we work on bringing in sustainable fish. We are very conscious of the over-fishing problem and what is happening in the oceans.”
The deli is another popular spot at the store, with the cold cuts and McCaffrey’s homemade salads (without preservatives) always in demand. “We offer Boars Head, and this is a big item. Many customers want it.”
A variety of platters is also available from the deli.
“Our prepared food section has grown tremendously over the years, and the salad bar and hot bar are extremely popular, especially Monday through Friday. Interestingly, that drops by two-thirds on weekends, when more people are cooking at home.”
McCaffrey’s also has a very busy catering department, which prepares full dinners for events, especially during the holidays, when orders come in full-force, says Mr. Carney. “We do them for everything — Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’, Easter, Passover, Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur. People can place an order on-line or in the store.”
The bakery department is also in demand. “Our specialty cakes are enormously popular,” he says. “We have our own decorators. I’ve said to the bakery, ‘cake to me is the centerpiece of a gathering. If that is wrong, it spoils the party.’ People always say ‘who did the cake?’ It’s so important for it to be right. During May and June, with all the graduations, celebrations, and other events, we had our biggest cake sales ever.”
Because Jim McCaffrey and his staff want everything to be “right”, they have been remodeling the Princeton store during the past two years. It is expected to be completed this month.
“One of the things I really like about McCaffrey’s is its manageable size,” says a Princeton customer. “It’s not too big — just the right size to get around and see everything easily.”
“We are remodeling to enhance the shopping experience and make it more comfortable, convenient, and inviting,” explains Mr. Carney. “We are rearranging sections and departments to make them more accessible. We have a new coffee bar, too, with McCaffreys own coffee — Java Jim!”
“In addition, we are replacing all the light bulbs with energy-efficient, environmentally-friendly lighting. We’ve updated the refrigerator with high-efficiency evaporators and fans. We are always trying to be aware of protecting the environment.”
Changes and challenges are a part of any business, and the food industry is no exception, points out Mr. Carney. McCaffrey’s is not only faced with competition from the traditional food stores and supermarkets but also from such companies as Target, WalMart, and Sam’s Club.
“Some of these stores, including Wegman’s, have private label products now, offered at lower prices. We are a national brand store. We try to do our best for our customers. We have always been very conscious of our price structure, especially since the problems began in the economy in 2008.
“We are also involved in environmental programs to eliminate waste, and we donate many products to food banks. We are a big supporter of Crisis Ministry and other organizations helping people in need. Jim McCaffrey has always supported many charities in the area and beyond.”
Last year, two major storms disrupted power in the area, leaving McCaffrey’s without electricity for three days during one storm, resulting in a $150,000 loss in perishables.
“During the storm, it was rewarding to see what a capable staff we have, and the customers were so supportive. They were overwhelmingly happy to see us reopen,” says Mr. Carney. “The staff spends a lot of time together, and we’re really like a family here. When there’s a problem to be solved, we solve it!
“The most challenging episode we had was at the same time as the storms, when a person drove a car through the front door, right up to Register 6. Two people were hurt, but we were so lucky that no one was killed. It was very frightening.”
Now, McCaffrey’s looks forward to the 20th Anniversary Celebration, including the Food Fair, September 29th and 30th. “We’ll have all kinds of food, a band, door prizes, and lots of surprises. It will be a great event,” reports Mr. Carney.
“We love the Princeton Shopping Center. It’s a village community center, just right for us. And, we want our customers to know how much we appreciate their business and how important they are to us. We have an unlimited customer base, which continues to grow. And we have this great hometown store in Princeton. We’re the only real ‘super’ market in Princeton, and we have to take care of it.”
MCaffrey’s is open seven days 7 a.m. through 9 p.m. (609) 683-1600. Website: www.mccaffreys.com.