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Independent Grocers


tim
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Sad,

Last year we lost most of our beloved Bobak's groceries, and it was sad. I love that the butcher is conversant in English and Spanish but something is missing.

Now, we will be losing the lovable but frustrating Hyde Park Coop.

Will the Moo and Oink be next?

Tim

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Independents (in most lines of retail) are a fragile breed. When the big-box retail phenomenan gained traction about 15 years ago I used to joke that the only small retail concept still safe was the neighborhood pet store -- but that was before Petsmart and Petco.

Bobaks nearly vanished largely due to intra-family warfare. The same nearly happened to Treasure Island a decade ago. But occasionally others pop up to take their place. Caputo's Fresh Market has been expanding aggressively; Cermak is expanding; and Sunset (on the north shore) is adding yet another unit.

In the increasingly complex (and capital-intensive) field of retailing, the independent is increasingly at a disadvantage. But really creative independents -- those who build a better mousetrap -- can still carve out a niche for themselves.

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It seems to me that since Cub Foods pulled out and Dominick's scaled back, we have more independents and small local chains than ever.

Up in the northwest suburbs, I really like Shop & Save (Des Plaines, Niles and Schaumburg), Harvest Fresh (Arlington Heights) and Joe Caputo's (Des Plaines and Palatine) and the expanding Garden Fresh is pretty good, too.

There are also a whole lot of interesting independents in Niles.

Not much help for the South Siders, I guess, though a friend of mine is really happy with Pete's Market. There's one near 47th and Kedzie handy to where the Great American Cheese Collection is doing its biweekly open houses.

LAZ

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