Newsday: Wild Fork, grocer that delivers meats from alligator to ostrich, coming to Long Island with 3 stores
By Tory N. Parrish
A grocer that specializes in delivering frozen, hard-to-find meat — including ostrich and alligator — will make its New York state entrance with three Long Island stores.
Wild Fork has signed leases to open stores in Lake Grove, Plainview and West Hempstead, according to Breslin Realty Development Corp in Garden City. Breslin owns the West Hempstead property and co-owns the other two sites with Manhasset-based real estate firm Colin Development LLC.
The three Wild Fork stores will open in late 2024, and each will employ an average of eight people to start, said Alex Bord, head of development for Wild Fork.
All of the food items Wild Fork stores carry are frozen except for spices, he said.
The Doral, Florida-based chain, which opened its first U.S. store in 2018, has been on a big expansion push for the past several years, he said.
“We want to make sure we can get our products out to customers as quickly as possible,” said Bord, who added that the U.S. stores average 4,000 square feet.
The specialty grocer has 38 stores in California, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin, according to its website.
Also, there are 30 planned stores in the “active signed-lease pipeline,” Bord said.
Wild Fork also sells items online that customers can pick up in stores or have delivered to them from stores or distribution centers.
The retailer’s plans for the stores on Long Island are:
- Lake Grove: A 4,500-square-foot store at 2075 Moriches Rd. in Smith Haven Plaza. The space is a portion of the unit that was occupied by home goods retailer Pier 1 Imports before it closed in 2020 after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, said Robert Delavale, Breslin’s vice president and director of leasing. He represented the landlord in the Wild Fork leasing.
- Plainview: A 4,700-square-foot store in a space formerly occupied by lingerie store Victoria’s Secret, Delavale said. The grocery store will be located at 409 S. Oyster Bay Rd. in Woodbury Plaza.
- West Hempstead: A 3,000-square-foot store at 603 Hempstead Tpke. in a space vacated by a Boston Market eatery.
In addition to selling frozen meat and seafood that is common in traditional grocery stores, Wild Fork sells alligator, ostrich, rabbit, goat, elk and other specialty meat. On Friday, the chain’s website was offering three-fourths of a pound of ground ostrich for $16.48, and 1 pound of alligator tenders for $21.98.
The chain also carries frozen fruits, vegetables, prepared meals and bakery items.
Carrying mostly frozen products “allows us to have the broad assortment that we have in our stores without worrying about throwing away food every couple of days,” which reduces costs and improves the consistency in the quality of the products, Bord said.
Wild Fork is owned by JBS Foods USA, a division of JBS S.A., which is based in Brazil and is one of the largest meat processors in the world.
Wild Fork launched as an online-only retailer in South Florida in 2018, then opened its first brick-and-mortar store in the United States the same year in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. There are now about 80 Wild Fork stores in Mexico, Canada and the United States, Bord said.
There are also 600 sister stores in Brazil operating under the Swift name, but some of them are located inside traditional grocery stores, he said.
A ‘niche’ retailer
Wild Fork is in a narrow retail niche, but it benefits from JBS’ ownership, said Jeff Metzger, publisher of Food Trade News, a Columbia, Maryland-based publication.
“It’s unique in the fact that they do have both the supply chain wherewithal from JBS and the revenue leverage of being [part of] a big company,” he said.
To compete and grow, most grocery retailers these days need omnichannel presences — seamlessly integrating marketing and sales on multiple platforms, such as on desktops online, apps on mobile devices and brick-and-mortar stores, he said.
“You’ve got to find a balance on how you sell your products. Online does not give you the full opportunity to market and sell your products,” especially food, Metzger said.