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An Independent Opens a Store in a Most Unlikely Perch

An Independent Opens a Store in a Most Unlikely Perch

What's the proper location for supermarkets? Are they best located in urban areas, villages or rural areas?

The short answer is that a good location is one that produces traffic sufficient to support the enterprise. So, any location that works is a good location. More specifically, there are rudimentary fundamentals about location that are almost always observed: Supermarkets should be readily accessible to the public so potential shoppers can get some sense of the store from its exterior or by looking in. Most important, it should be easy for anyone to walk right in.

Although those are good location fundamentals to generally consider, Potash Bros. Supermarkets, Chicago, has found good reason to set them all aside. That independent operator has opened a supermarket that's not visible from a street, a parking lot or by pedestrians. Stranger still, the store isn't even open to the general public. The last feature alone may make this supermarket entirely unique.

What sort of location is this? It's the 44th floor of the John Hancock Center, on North Michigan Avenue in Chicago. It's there that Potash Bros. has opened its third supermarket, dubbed Potash Gourmet 44. The store, even at a tiny 5,200 square feet, is a full-line supermarket in miniature, since it includes full departmentalization, including basic groceries, perishables, frozens and a lunch menu. The store also includes a small seating area for 15 or 20 patrons, so it's possible to have lunch in the store. The seating area is next to massive windows that overlook Lake Michigan. For more on the store and several photos, see Page 21.

The store's venue, the John Hancock Center, is a 100-story behemoth. It's one of the tallest buildings in the world, rising more than 1,100 feet from the ground. An observatory on the 94th floor affords views 80 miles into the distance, including portions of four states. There's a well-known restaurant on the 95th floor.

Roughly the lower half of the building is used for offices. The top is in residential use, containing more than 600 condominiums. Those units are considered to be the highest residences in the world. The confluence of offices and residences in a single structure explains how the Potash Gourmet 44 store is likely to succeed even though it isn't open to the public, but, instead, is open only to those who work in the building or who reside there.

After all, the several thousand users of the building should constitute a more than sufficient traffic pool of a decidedly upmarket demographic to support the store well.

As might be expected, opening a store in such an unusual location posed more than a few problems. Company principal Arthur Potash told SN there were vexing problems moving equipment to the 44th floor. Some of it had to be dismantled to get it aboard an elevator.

It might seem that product supply would pose problems, too, but many of them are resolved by the fact that Potash Bros. operates a store on nearby North State Street, so supplies can be hand-delivered from there. Additionally, the store in the sky is supplied directly on a weekly basis by Certified Grocers Midwest.