Store of the Month: Raising the Standard
By James Dudlicek
Fresh-focused Chicago-area market delivers a 'celebration of food.'
A"chef-driven" concept store that blends "a little bit of theater" with an open-air European-style market under one roof is setting a new standard for food shopping in suburban Chicago.
That's how Brett Verkaik explains the vision for five-month-old, hyper-fresh-focused Standard Market in Westmont, Ill., where an intriguing food stage is showcased by glass walls throughout to enable shoppers to behold the labors of love being created in the back of the house by a team of passionate, talented food experts.
to blur the
"We still are butchers, we still are bakers," says Verkaik who, along with his three partners, left the produce business to launch Standard Market with no previous retailing experience. "We love the interaction with the consumer," he continues, explaining Standard Market's prevailing goal to "blur the line between foodservice and retail." Indeed, while many retailers have striven to do the same in varying degrees for years, Verkaik says all too often, "they usually rely on someone's commissary to prepare it for them."
At the heart of the market is Standard Grill, a sophisticated fast-casual restaurant that showcases seasonal ingredients and the culinary talents of the pedigreed chef team.
To the contrary, Standard Market — which sources heavily from local farmers and producers, in addition to select suppliers from exotic locations around the globe — is all about authenticity, quality and a "celebration of food," as evidenced by the array of fresh choices ranging from handpicked produce to expertly butchered meats to top-quality seafood. Aiming to appeal to consumers who want to explore and discover a carefully curated selection of foods made in its own kitchens, the market offers a complete scratch bakery, an in-house delicatessen and an extensive wine and cheese collection, alongside choice dairy and pantry offerings.
Fresh New Standard
Joining the temperature-controlled islands piled high with fresh produce are fruit and vegetables pre-cut in-house for ease and convenience, as well as a collection of house-made salsas, hummus and other dips. A fresh-squeezed juice station offers a rotating variety ranging from Clementine orange to carrot. The floral section displays special offerings such as orchids and roses.
The market's wine, beer and cheese shop stocks more than 500 wines, including at least 150 selections priced below $15. The department showcases more than 150 cheeses and 150 beers from around the world, with a strong focus on American artisanal offerings. The shop includes a bar where customers can sample or purchase drinks by the glass, or enjoy wine, cheese and antipasti flights. The department hosts weekly events such as "Fondue Fridays" and features an innovative Cellar Club, allowing members to attend monthly tasting events before taking home two to three bottles, complete with tasting notes and pairing suggestions selected by the shop's wine experts.
The deli serves a range of prepared foods all made fresh on-site, running the gamut from classics like tuna salad and macaroni and cheese to chef-inspired fare such as beet and root vegetable salad and Thai coconut chicken tenders. Hot fare like baby back ribs and chicken vesuvio are also available, along with grab-and-go salads and sandwiches. Additionally, the deli offers quality meats and cheeses from domestic and international purveyors, an extensive world olive set and house-roasted meats.
The bakery's 35-plus varieties of artisan breads are baked from scratch daily, along with sweet baked goods like peanut-butter-and-jelly cookies, citrus cheesecake, and coconut cake drizzled with passion fruit sauce.
Standard's fully staffed butcher shop features a large selection of cuts of regionally sourced USDA Prime and Choice beef (wet- and dry-aged in-house), antibiotic-free chicken and Duroc pork. The department also prepares an ever-changing selection of house-made sausages and house-smoked slab bacons. Customers can choose from a wide offering of pre-packaged house-cut meats, along with gourmet items like bacon-wrapped brie-and-asparagus-stuffed chicken breasts and apple-and-cherry-stuffed pork chops, available at the counter or in ready-to-bake containers. (Read more about Standard Market's butcher shop in PG's December 2011 issue, at http://www.progressivegrocer.com/inprint/article/id2414/putting-the-labor-back-in-the-meat-department/)
Fresh whole fish and seafood are flown in daily from around the world. In addition to fresh domestic shrimp and sushi-grade salmon, the department also features more exotic fare such as parrot fish, mako shark and sea urchins. House-made items include smoked fish, seafood soups and recipes ranging from ceviche to frutti di mare to a seafood tapas set, all made in Standard Market's kitchens. A sushi station, hosted by restaurant-quality chefs, offers maki rolls, sashimi and nigiri made to order using the same sushi-grade fish sold in the store.
In Standard's Chef's Case, shoppers will find fresh pastas made on a pasta machine imported from Italy, accompanied by a variety of sauces, along with soups and stocks such as vegetarian black bean, creamy tomato basil and chicken spaetzle, all created using original recipes. Another popular feature is take-and-bake pizza, made with dough hand-formed in the store's bakery. Further, the market offers its "What's for Dinner Tonight?" fully cooked meal for two, which comes with an entrĂ©e and several sides and is priced at $15.99 to $16.99.
While fresh offerings dominate, Standard Market offers a limited selection of dairy, pantry and other center store items, many provided by regional producers and specialty purveyors. An in-store coffee bar, scheduled to open this month, will feature specialty coffees alongside in-house pastries.
Interestingly, while the food aspects of Standard Market harken back to the Old World, the venture makes a significant nod to a new age: The store accepts no cash, only electronic (credit and debit card) payments.
King of the Grill
"The chefs in our restaurant have access to amazing and unique food offerings in each department," Verkaik says. "Every department depends on transfers from other departments to create top-quality prepared foods and value-added products."
Though Standard Market has been open to shoppers since last November, its formal grand-opening open house was scheduled for mid-March. At presstime, the all-day event was to include a chili cookoff, wine tastings, "Meet the Farmer" sessions, vendor samplings and other activities.
Meanwhile, plans are already in the works for a second location, a few miles west in Naperville, which Verkaik expects will open sometime in 2013. "It's our home," he says in reference to his partners in the Chicago-area venture, "and it's where we intend to play."
570 Lake Cook Rd, Suite 310
Deerfield IL 60015
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