Allow me to preface this review by stating upfront that Arena Produce is not your usual grocery store shopping experience. There are no shopping carts. There’s little signage. And really there aren’t even “aisles” so to speak. Being such a no-frills experience is probably the main thing that keeps Arena Produce as one of the best-kept secrets in Columbus. But if you’re willing to look beyond all of that, you’ll probably be surprised at what you can find here.
Arena Produce is located in a warehouse near the corner of Reynolds Avenue and St. Claire Avenue. If you’re familiar with the area, then you probably already know that it’s not quite the prettiest part of town. Being located just a mile east of the Short North does make it very easily accessible by most downtown neighborhoods though.
Signs along Reynolds Avenue will point you into their parking lot area, and a sign above the entry door reads “Cash & Carry” despite the fact that they also take credit cards. Upon entering, you walk into a room that is mostly empty except for the small grocery area tucked back to your left. There are several tables of non-refrigerated items such as potatoes, onions, tomatoes, squash, nuts, yams, and other items du jour. Most items are available either individually or in bulk. Which is great if you need a 25-pound bag of onions on the cheap.
To the side there’s a caged-off room (presumably so it can be locked up at night?) filled with boxed and canned goods. Some quality brand name items can be found here, and some generic brands too. Some things are sold in bulk, and some are sold in standard-size quantities. There are also several refrigerators and freezers located here with a variety of block cheeses, frozen meats, and other products.
The first time Anne & I visited Arena Produce we almost overlooked the giant walk-in freezer, which is really the crown jewel of the place. It’s located just past the checkout counter, and can feel a bit strange to let yourself in for the first time. This is where you’ll find the bulk of the fresh fruits and vegetables kept chilled. Everything from collard greens to broccoli to lemons to jalapenos to grapes to avacodos to berries and more.
Since Arena Produce is a wholesale company, the vast majority of their items are cheaper than what you can find in your regular grocery store, and the quality is usually just as good. For example: yesterday I purchased a couple of firm avacados (among other things) at Arena Produce for 79 cents each and noticed later that day at the Brewery District Kroger that their similarly-sized, softer avacados were on sale for a dollar each. Usually they’re closer to $1.50 at Kroger when not on sale.
Of course, that’s just one example, and I’m sure there are instances where some items can be found cheaper elsewhere, but I’ve personally found it very easy to walk out of Arena Produce with a canvas bag filled with a week-or-two’s worth of produce for my family for $12-$15.
If you’re willing to give wholesale warehouse grocery shopping a try, Arena Produce is a great place to do it.
875 Reynolds Avenue [Map]
Columbus, OH 43201
Hours: M-F 8am-4:30pm, Sat 8am-12:30pm, Closed Sunday