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Chicago recommendations: local, cross-channel

Chicago recommendations: local, cross-channel

IdeaXchange 'Xpert' Neil Stern and McMillanDoolittle analyst Alex Kaufmann give their suggestions for retailers to visit while in Chicago for FMI Connect. See more retailers to visit.

Alex Kaufmann
Alex Kaufmann

2015 has continued to be a year of innovation for food formats in Chicago. Mature concepts like Whole Foods and Mariano’s in the supermarket spectrum have continued expansion throughout the city taking place of the long standing Dominick’s chain while there has been a continual stream of new entrants looking to make their market in the country’s third largest food retail market.

We’ve put together a quick-reference list to recommend during your time in the Windy City. Each of these stores offers something unique and innovative with a different take on tackling the market.

Many of these innovative hot spots are within walking distance from Loop hotels, while others may require a short cab ride or trip on the Metra. The majority are within 30 minutes of McCormick Place and well worth taking the time to see, and a few interesting ones in the suburbs if you’re in the mood to venture out.

Whole Foods, 1 North Halsted St., Chicago

Whole Foods has finally revealed their next wave of store openings, slowly taking over the vacant spaces of select shuttered Dominick’s stores. Their most recent West Loop location sits directly across the street from Mariano’s. When finished with the conversion of Dominick’s, Whole Foods will have 27 stores in the market, one of their densest overall.

Whole Foods demonstrates their typical high standards of product quality and communications while working within the confines of a once traditional supermarket space. The company continues to lead with “local” initiatives which are very much in evidence here, as well as instituting grading systems (now in place in meat and produce).

Walgreens Flagship, 410 North Michigan Ave., Chicago

Walgreens has been expanding its flagship footprint in Chicago, and recently opened their newest (14th) storefront inside Chicago’s iconic Wrigley Building. The 27,800 square-foot store features a unique design providing an elevated retail experience for health and daily living.

The LOOK Boutique at Walgreens' flagship
The LOOK Boutique at Walgreens' flagship.

The store follows Walgreens Well Experience format, featuring a first floor Upmarket Café with made to order juice, frozen yogurt, smoothies, and hand-rolled sushi. The Beer Cave is another highlight, featuring a walk-in cooler with a wide selection of craft beers and fine wines.

The LOOK Boutique catches the eye on the second floor with an expanded selection of skincare, haircare and cosmetics, including products from Boots No7, one of Walgreen’s most recent, and major acquisitions.

Green City Farmers Market
Green City Farmers Market.

Another unique aspect of the store is the way Walgreens has added a service component to their selling model. The Healthcare Clinic has been developed to provide more counseling and services to patients and is staffed by board certified family nurse practitioners, accessible to any visitor.

Green City Farmers Market, 1750 North Clark St., Chicago

The Green City Market, open Wednesdays and Saturdays, is a nationally recognized marketplace model with accolades for distribution, promoting, and educating consumers about local, sustainably-grown food. The market offers a variety of fresh produce, vegetables, juices, flowers and other offerings from local farmers, chefs, restauranteurs and other culinary professionals near the Chicago area.

This year marked the Green City Market’s 17th market season, and the market continues to grow and thrive as Chicagoan’s increasing concern for a more sustainable food system grows.

Plum Market, 1233 North Wells, Chicago

Fresh Thyme
Fresh Thyme

Plum Market, a Michigan-based retailer is unique in Chicago for their abundance of local options and offerings highlighted all throughout the store. From produce to Bloody Mary Mix, local items are highlighted with a blue sign , highlighting and recognizing all of the options in the store. Despite its relatively small size, Plum offers the most comprehensive assortment of specialty foods in the market and a great curated mix in fresh.

Fresh Thyme, 325 Ogden Ave., Westmont, Ill.

This is a notable entrant, in keeping with Fresh Thyme’s rapid Midwestern expansion and the location of their US headquarters not far from this newly opened store. In keeping with the farmer’s market model, the store features a strong, low priced produce department, supplemented by a large selection of bulk foods, organic and natural grocery products and a large vitamins and supplement offer.

A short drive away if the always wonderful Standard Market and a few miles further is the ground up Mariano’s in Westchester which showcases the chain’s full offer.

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