Without a grocery store, I wouldn't be where I am today.
My grandfather, a butcher, immigrated from the Ukraine. The Leshock family set up shop in Shamokin, Pennsylvania, opening a grocery store in the front section of the home. Leshock's would provide food for the town through good times and bad (think Great Depression). The store also put all of the children through school, including my father. A framed photo of that grocery store still sits in my living room today.
I'm not writing this to claim that I have expert opinion on the grocery business. My father became a chemical engineer, so butchering never really factored into our day to day life. But it was the hard work in that store, and the nourishment and service that it provided for the community, that shaped who we are as a family.
So when my career leads me into a grocery store, I'm always hoping to find a place like Grand Food Center. The Winnetka, and Glencoe, stores have been in business for a quarter century. They're currently owned by three men who grew up working there - two as baggers, the other as a butcher. If you're shopping there and can't find your favorite product, it's the kind of place that will probably order it for you, then make sure they have it in stock in case you come back.
They have two moderately-sized locations that employ a total of 180 people. In the short time we were there, we noticed one of the registers developing a good-sized line. Within moments, a phone was picked up, filling other registers with employees to move the line through in an instant. Again, the little things.
They also carry products from local providers, including one of WGN-TV's own reporters. Julian Crews produces a line of Cuban seasonings and frijoles negros (black beans) under Old Havana Foods. You can read more about it on his company's website. One of our writers, Jeff Sanders, makes Roadhouse BBQ Sauce that is sold at Grand.
We also spoke with one of their customers who has been shopping there for decades. She was hand picked in a random raffle, the winner of a $2,500 shopping spree. Instead of filling up her own cart, she split the winnings and donated both halves to two different local food pantries. Community first, she told us.
The store is open every day from 7am to 9pm, but if you live anywhere in the area, I didn't have to tell you that. You probably already shop there, because it just has that "my town grocery store" feel to it. But maybe you didn't know that those three helpful faces walking around the store answering your questions were the guys who own the business.
Their motto reminded me of the stories I had heard about "Pop's Store" all of these years. Customer first.
Here's more about the Grand Food Center....
Grand Food Center | 606 Green Bay Road, Winnetka & 341 Hazel Avenue, Glencoe | 7am-9pm Daily | GrandFoodCenter.com