More than 80 years ago, Strack & Van Til started as a single grocery store in downtown Griffith, Ind. Today there are 20 stores with all but one located in northwest Indiana. As the retailer continues to expand and cater to the changing demands of its customers, it goal is to remain true to its small town Midwestern roots, said Larry Malchick, the retailer’s deli director.
“We’re trying to stay one step ahead [of our competition] while staying truly who we are,” he said.
Related Story: Strack & Van Til stays true to its roots
Tried-and-true northwest Indiana means fried foods and Strack & Van Til’s fried chicken is a local legend. On Fridays it’s a go-to spot for fried fish, which the retailer offers to prepare onsite for customers. Deli salads are also a part of the tradition with some recipes in continual use for 50 years, said Malchick.
While tradition is important, merchandiser Brenda Wright said the retailer has modernized its grab-and-go sandwich selections to include fresh-baked bread and high-quality meats. It’s also supplementing its popular fried chicken with grilled and rotisserie selections for the increasingly health conscious consumer.
Strack & Van Til is a subsidiary of Central Grocers Cooperative with headquarters in Highland, Ind.
Captions by Cora Weisenberger
Photos by Steve Greiner
1. Classically modern
The deli and fresh food section at Strack & Van Til blends traditional Midwest comfort foods with healthier options.
2. Fried rules
The retailer’s fried chicken is an overwhelming best seller. An average of 50,000 pounds is sold per week.
3. Flour power
Fresh chicken is coated in a seasoning mix that was developed in-house.
4. Party favorite
In a poll conducted by an area newspaper, customers consistently name Strack & Van Til as the region’s No. 1 caterer. A single store can sell 10,000 pieces of fried chicken on Christmas Eve.
5. Salad days
Between 35 and 40 deli salads are available every day. Potato salad is the most popular.
6. Sweet success
“In northwest Indiana, we like our salads sweeter,” said Wright. “We didn’t know that until we started doing business in Illinois.”
7. Go fish
Strack & Van Til offers to prepare fish purchases, a service offered by few of its competitors.
8. Friday night specials
Fridays are always busy at the seafood counter. Fried is the most requested cooking method.
9. Sweet 16
In 2013, Strack & Van Til started creating new recipes for its grab-and-go sandwiches. Sixteen new sandwiches were introduced.
10. Fresh baked
The sandwich program emphasizes fresh ingredients, including breads that are baked in store every day.
11. Getting fresh
Recipes were developed in-house using the same meats and cheeses available in the deli section.
12. Veg out
Strack & Van Til meets the demands of health-conscious customers by including healthier options like vegetables.
13. Round up
Rotisserie and grilled chicken can be found along with fried. The rotisserie chicken is also used to make the Rotisserie Chicken Salad found in the deli case.