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Good piece in the Chicago Tribune about Pete’s Fresh Market there, which “recently opened its 14th store, in a former Whole Foods Market in Wheaton, and has new stores coming to Glen Ellyn and Lemont this fall. Four additional stores — in Matteson, New Lenox, Oak Park and Oak Lawn — are slated to open over the next two to three years.”

This expansion, the story suggests, “is aggressive for an independent grocer competing with deep-pocketed chains like Albertsons-owned Jewel-Osco, Kroger-owned Mariano's, Amazon-owned Whole Foods Market and fast-growing discounter Aldi.”

What’s working for Pete’s?

According to the Tribune, “Pete’s, which focuses on produce and other fresh food but still offers a full lineup of groceries, has the wind at its back in part because consumer tastes are favoring fresh fare. That also makes it less vulnerable as grocery delivery becomes increasingly popular, though Pete’s also offers delivery … Pete’s also is proving to be among the best in the business, industry watchers say, standing apart from its rivals with a lively assortment, attractive stores, good value and keen focus on what its customers want … Its employees are friendly, its products are interesting and the experience makes grocery shopping not feel like a chore.”

In addition, “Pete’s is meticulous about specifying its product selection for the neighborhood it is in and listening to its customers,” the Tribune writes. “In Oak Park, where it already has one store, it has a customer service concierge, a position it created for a chatty and helpful stocker, because the shoppers there like that kind of thing. In Pilsen, which used to have a Hispanic focus, it has introduced a greater variety of unusual fruits and vegetables because the hipsters moving into the neighborhood like to try adventurous meals.”

Stephanie Dremonas, who with her sister Vanessa Dremonas is running the business founded by their father, James “Jimmy” Dremonas, explains their success this way: “It’s a classic business model: Sell good stuff at a good price and make the environment nice to shop in. There’s no secret to it … The execution is where the secret is.”
KC's View:
It is enormously satisfying to me as an interested observer to see independent retailers that manage to be competitive and growth-oriented even in times like these … and they do it by focusing on the stuff that makes them different, not the stuff that makes them the same.