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A sneak peek at the new Dash's Market on Hertel

When customers walk into the new Dash's Market Wednesday, the only thing they may recognize from the old Hertel Avenue store will be the service desk counter. Owner Joe Dash had workers preserve it before the store was demolished, then install it in the new store as an homage to his roots.

"It has my father's DNA on it," he said.

That's where the similarities end.

For starters, the new store is more than double the size of the former location. That gives it more room for more of everything.

The new store is aimed at modern customers who are more concerned with grab-and-go foods, prepared meals, healthy options, craft beer and upscale experiences than they used to be with cans of soup and cleaning supplies. It also provides wider grocery options to consumers in the surrounding area, who don't have as many full-service grocery stores to choose from in farther-flung suburbs.

Dash had wanted to update the former Hertel Avenue story, the chain's oldest, for years. Being hemmed in on all sides by neighboring buildings, he didn't have the chance. After some real estate purchases, including a former bank branch on the corner of Hertel and Starin avenues in 2016,  he was finally able to make it happen.

While the old store had a three-foot wide ice table for frozen seafood, the new store has a 16-foot, full-service fresh seafood counter. The dairy coolers have enough space to devote equal shelving to traditional milk and plant-based milks, the sales of which are growing in double digits every month, Dash said. While there was once a single small case devoted to grab-and-go food and drinks, there are now 10 cooler doors to peruse.

Jeremy Weidner stocks yogurt at the Dash's store on Hertel Avenue. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News)

The beer selection will be three times the previous size, including 16 extra feet on the aisle end caps, one of which will have a pick-your-own-six-pack option. The old Hertel Avenue store was No. 1 in beer sales, even though it was the smallest store in Dash's four-store chain. It will also have an expanded selection of alcoholic seltzers, which have risen in popularity.

Its 24-foot-wide, full-service meat department is staffed all day with butchers. USDA prime beef ages in a machine behind the counter, and a window to a back room shows workers grinding and cutting meat as well as making fresh sausage.

Its deli counter is twice its former size, and will offer store-made mozzarella. A window behind the counter will show off 80-pound wheels of parmigiana cheese. There's a full Mediterranean bar. Natural and organic options are expanded throughout the store, along with national brands and upscale specialties.

The white and grey subway tile behind the counters was inspired by the backsplash in his son Joey's home. Sleek black cooler cases frame products and make colors pop. Organics are set apart with bright green plexiglass tabs. One wall is adorned with a photographic timeline of the Dash family business going back to Fillmore Avenue in 1923, and was put together by daughter Alexa. Everything in the store – furnace, lights, cooler fans, equipment – was chosen with high-efficiency standards in mind.

The store has added more than square footage: Shelving in aisles and coolers reach higher toward the ceiling and lower toward the floor to maximize space.

"In an urban footprint, you have to go vertical," Dash said. "We tried to go as high as we can to get more variety in."

Every additional foot of vertical space adds two to three feet of shelf depth for merchandise.

The new store includes a tile mosaic pizza oven that bakes a pizza in 90 seconds. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News)

Perhaps the biggest expansion is in the store's prepared foods section. The centerpiece is a pizza oven that reaches 800 degrees – hot enough to cook a pizza in 90 seconds. The outside bears a tile mosaic that spells out the store's name. There will be 10 different pizzas behind glass on wooden boards at any given time. One slice of pizza equals one quarter of a pie.

A pasta kitchen in the back will serve four to five kinds of pasta with three or four sauces, as well as grilled shrimp, salmon or chicken. Nearby will be sushi, next to Hawaiian poke, and Friday Fish Fry. A sub, sandwich and panini counter will feature a carving station for slow-roasted prime rib, turkey breast and cured corned beef. Instead of four fresh soups, there will be 10, and there will be a fresh-chopped salad bar patterned after the popular one at the Dash's store in East Amherst.

Customers will order their food at a kiosk and get a printout that will be scanned at a register in the front of the store when they cash out.

The front will have a café serving Spot coffee, pastries, acai bowls and breakfast sandwiches. There will be outdoor seating on both the Hertel and Starin Avenue sides, and dumbwaiters will carry orders upstairs to an enormous indoor seating area.

To get people in and out faster, there are registers throughout the store; five self-checkouts, six regular checkout lanes, plus multiple registers at the café, Dinner in a Dash section and floral department.

Customers can get upstairs via elevator or a twisting open staircase that bends past a chandelier from the now defunct Park Lane restaurant. Dash expects customers to be wowed by what they find once they get to the top.

This is the upstairs dining area in the new Dash's store opening Wednesday. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News)

The vast eating space and lounge are surrounded with arched windows. The floor features three different tile mosaics. There is a mix of tall wooden booths, couches, love seats and wide wooden tables that can seat as many as 18 people at once. There are two fireplaces, one of them double-sided. There is space for live music on Friday and Saturday nights. USB ports and free Wi-Fi are everywhere.

"People who work from home can come in and they won't want to leave," Dash said. "They can come use the free Wi-Fi and have breakfast, lunch and dinner."

In a section at the top of the stairs, a server will bring food orders to tables. A glass garage door can be opened on nice days and an outdoor patio gives a view across the neighborhood as far as Parkside.

Set farther back are two giant community rooms that can be closed off with sliding wooden doors. Together they can accommodate about 200 people. Dash's will donate the meeting space to local groups and nonprofits. It will also host free yoga classes.

Over budget and behind schedule, the store has finishing touches and unique details Dash says make it all worth it.

The grocer's latest store is an homage to his ancestors, who began the grocery chain nearly a century ago, and a tribute to future generations to come.

"I want to give back to the city and the people that have been so good to me and my family," Dash said.

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