Have you walked into Plaza Extra East lately and wondered something like, “where did the lemons go?” Then you’ve noticed the modern new produce stands as the store continues remodeling. I interviewed Plaza Extra East Managers Yusuf Yusuf and his brother Mike Yusuf, about what’s new and future plans for the store:
Q: What renovations have taken place in the last few years? [I personally noticed better lighting, an expanded liquor section and new produce displays].
A: M. Yusuf: Yes, we have modernized the produce, meat, liquor and health / beauty aids sections.
A: Y. Yusuf: We have been working from corner to corner throughout the store, renovating where things need attention. All the lights have been changed to LED bulbs. We remove and replace equipment like freezers as needed. We want our customers to know we appreciate them shopping here.
Q: Has the store gone under new management in recent years?
A: M. Yusuf: Plaza Extra East is under the same management as in previous years. But the management team has gained and lost some members.
Q: Have you recently changed some of your vendors? [I personally see better produce quality in general than in years past].
A: Y. Yusuf: We are approaching our sourcing somewhat differently. With something like grapes, for example, there are growers in both California and Florida and most grocery stores buy from only one. We buy from both, so that our customers have a choice in price point and quality.
A: M. Yusuf: We always look for deals from our existing vendors, so that savings can be passed on to the customer. We also look for new vendors that offer top quality items at reasonable prices.
Q: I see you’re now carrying more locally-grown produce and things like hot sauce made on-island. Do you plan to continue expanding this farm-to-table link?
A: Y. Yusuf: Absolutely. I currently stock a handful of locally-grown items like melon, beets, avocado, string beans, etc. But I recently attended the Farm to School events because I want to expand those offerings. I handed out my business cards attempting to bring in as many farmer products as possible to sell at Plaza Extra East and to help the local economy. I spoke with the Virgin Islands Commissioner of Agriculture that day, because I want to dispel the myth that major retailers don’t want to buy local produce. No farmer wants to keep the same hours as our store to sell their product after a long day’s work to produce it, so the connection is logical. My biggest challenge with sourcing local produce is that farmers aren’t telling me what they have available. Even if what they’re producing is small scale, I want to carry it.
Q: What is your plan to comply with the territory’s recently approved plastic bag ban?
A: Y. Yusuf: For many years we have been selling reusable bags for $0.99, trying to encourage customers to bring them back on every shopping trip. For some time we gave them away to any customer spending more than $100 in a single transaction. Our current plastic bags are even biodegradable. We are still discussing how we will comply with the plastic bag ban, but in April 2017, you will see paper and canvas bag options at our checkouts.
If you’ve made it this far reading this article, I saved the best part for last. Y. Yusuf says the absolute best day and time to shop Plaza Extra East is Sunday after 2 p.m. when restocking is underway and you get first choice of fresh produce.
Some people hesitate to make the leap to island life because they fear missing commercialism and conveniences of the states. But stores like Plaza Extra East make life on St. Croix feel similar to the states in the ways you want it to (but you’re still in tropical paradise!). If you’re ready to make St. Croix home, start by contacting Chris and Kerri Hanley to get their expert real estate recommendations on houses or condos on St. Croix. Then download their free St. Croix Event Guide to find the perfect time for a scouting trip: