Oliver’s Fine Foods in downtown Fort Worth, Texas was touted as the grocery store that downtown Fort Worth had been missing since its redevelopment in the 1980s. While it’s a nice little sandwich shop, it misses the mark in many ways.
Even as the number of condos and other residences in downtown Fort Worth increased in recent years, no one bothered to open a grocery store downtown. I’ve seen downtown residents at the Albertsons on I-30 at Green Oaks rummaging through bananas that they perhaps would have preferred to acquire closer to home.
The addition of the Super Target at Montgomery Plaza lessened the need for a downtown grocery store — if there really was a need all. Truthfully, those downtown homes are high-end places occupied by some of Fort Worth’s wealthiest citizens, so getting to a grocery store in another neighborhood isn’t really a problem for most of then.
Still, leaders, residents and more columnists and bloggers than I care to count have clamored for a downtown grocery store for years. Since the Eckerd store downtown closed, it has taken great creativity and a willingness to visit an office-building convenience store during business hours to get even a frozen dinner in downtown.
When Oliver’s Fine Foods, a Mansfield specialty shop, agreed to put a grocery store where the Fort Worth Convention and Visitor’s Bureau once operated — at the corner of 4th and Throckmorton — some thought that would change.
But Oliver’s isn’t a grocery store. It’s a sandwich shop with a fresh meat counter.
After studying online photos and the company’s website, I visited Oliver’s at about 6 p.m. on a brisk-but-nice Friday in November. The store was empty of customers except for a table of three eating sandwiches and a dozen or more employees. A couple of other customers walked in and around, but none bought anything before running along.
The floor space is mostly tables, and the grocery selection was both funny and sad.
I can’t offer a review of the sandwiches that seem to be this location’s primary reason for existing. I’d already eaten when I got there. I was, after all, visiting a grocery store, and it’s best to go on a full stomach to avoid over-purchasing. I didn’t know sandwiches were the main attraction.
My first thought upon looking around was that the place looked like a convenience store movie set, not a real, functioning establishment. Three heads of celery were perched in a bowl while two carrots kept each other company in another. The tomatoes were available in somewhat larger quantities.
I’m guessing they don’t actually sell veggies at Oliver’s, but they want to look as if they do. It was the fresh vegetable selection that made me sad, but the packaged foods and essentials made me laugh.
A bottle of ketchup, for example, is essential for some people, but only Annie’s is available at Oliver’s, and it costs almost $6. The only kind of white bread available when I visited was a large loaf that was apparently freshly baked, but it was offered at an astonishing $5.50. It didn’t even have little seeds on top or cornmeal on the bottom.
The selection of prepared foods is adequate, but with Central Market only a few exits down the freeway with similar prices and bigger selection, I can’t see the appeal. The fresh meat at the counter is even more expensive than Whole Foods or Central Market but in lesser supply.
Never mind, however, whether the prices are too steep or the quality is wrong for the purpose, there just aren’t very many groceries around. The poorly stocked store looked when I was there like it didn’t yet have all its merchandise, but it had already been open a few weeks by then, so I think the sparseness of the merchandise must be part of the plan somehow.
Oliver’s Fine Foods isn’t the grocery store leaders promised it would be. And it isn’t anything special either. Whether downtown even needed a grocery store is debatable, but it didn’t need another sandwich shop.
Downtown workers may enjoy the sandwiches, but I mistakenly thought the concept was being developed for downtown residents. Their needs seem to have gotten lost somewhere, although probably not among the groceries.