This time last year, there was a gaping hole on Southport where the Jewel used to be. On Wednesday, members of the press (bloggers included) were treated to a preview of the gleaming new replacement store, which officially opens October 21, with seemingly every suit and pantsuit from Jewel-Osco headquarters on hand for the occasion. Acknowledging that for many customers, absence may have made your heart grow fonder for a competitor, Jewel is prepared to woo you back.
“This is a very custom store,” said architect Peter Theodore. “This design doesn’t exist anywhere else in the Jewel family.”
Here’s the scoop: For starters, the new store is bigger. Way bigger. At 62,000 square feet—including roughly 17,000 devoted to a second-floor wine and spirits shop—this Jewel could eat its former self and still have room left for dessert. Yet the super-sized building, at 3630 N. Southport, has the same footprint as its smaller predecessor—the expansion was largely made possible by moving parking from street level to underground, where there’s room for 125 cars.
So how are they filling all that extra space? With a lot of things you might expect from … Whole Foods.
Among the more unique ideas, Jewel is testing small-batch baking at Southport. Hot-from-the-oven cookies and bread will be available throughout the day, a concept that, if successful, may roll out elsewhere. There’s also an in-store sushi chef, and another chef to man the CK Grill, which prepares ready-to-eat meals like meatloaf and mashed potatoes. Paninis go without saying but if you don’t like what’s on the menu, mosey on over to the build-your-own sandwich bar. The idea is to provide convenient, portable food for time-pressed consumers.
Now if you still think of a grocery store as a place to buy groceries, never fear, they’ve got plenty of those items, too, many of them gourmet (cheese!), gluten-free and/or organic. Leading straight out of the produce section, where some of the offerings are not only organic, but, depending on the season, possibly even local, is the Wild Harvest store-within-a-store. Stocked full of natural and organic products, including Jewel’s Wild Harvest private label, this section is a bid to keep shoppers from defecting to that other eco-friendly mecca referenced above.
To keep folks from trotting across the street, the new and improved Southport Jewel is also a hyphenated Osco. There’s a full-service pharmacy located off the northern entrance, offering enhanced services such as health screenings (for $19.99, less than a lot of co-pays), vaccinations and diabetes education. Game on, CVS.
But no tour of the new store would be complete without referencing perhaps its most unique characteristic—and I’m not talking about the pending silver LEED green certification. The Southport Jewel has a kosher butcher.
Yakov Yarmove, business development manager of ethnic marketing and specialty foods for Jewel’s parent company SuperValu, oversaw the dramatic expansion of kosher items in the store; in addition to freshly-butchered kosher meat on Sundays and Thursdays, there are dedicated kosher dairy and cheese sections, as well as 10,000 kosher-certified items sprinkled throughout the store. After meeting with members of the local Jewish community, Yarmove was surprised to learn of the 400-500 kosher families living in the store’s vicinity, tired of trekking to Jewel’s kosher havens in Evanston and Highland Park. “No one likes to schlep,” Yarmove said.
You heard it here, Southport shoppers: the schlep is over. Your Jewel-Osco is open for business.