WBEZ | grocery stores http://www.wbez.org/tags/grocery-stores Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Chicago's shifting grocery landscape mirrors changing city economics http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/chicagos-shifting-grocery-landscape-mirrors-changing-city-economics-110695 <p><p>Once upon a time Jewel and Dominick&rsquo;s ruled the grocery game in Chicago with more stores than any other chain.</p><p>Now, Jewel, under its third new owner in 14 years, is facing stiff competition. And Dominick&rsquo;s? It doesn&rsquo;t exist anymore.</p><p>Today the most ubiquitous chain is a discount grocer that actually grew during the recent recession, attracting everyone from traditional discount shoppers to hipsters to middle-class families.</p><p>Aldi.</p><p>With 36 stores in Chicago alone, we wanted to understand what this says about Chicago&rsquo;s changing grocery store landscape and the shoppers who fill their carts.</p><p>To see what goes into Aldi&rsquo;s &ldquo;secret sauce,&rdquo; we took a trip to the chain&rsquo;s U.S. headquarters in west suburban Batavia.</p><p>Officials led us into a huge white industrial kitchen with tables full of various products. Aldi&rsquo;s main ingredient for success is its use of mostly in-house labels to keep prices down. No Betty Crocker or Cheerios here. But that only works if customers think those brands hold up to the national brands.</p><p>Like their national buyers do, we conducted blind taste testing with national brands and the Aldi brands. We sipped orange juice and Riesling, munched on blueberry muffins and party cheese, sampled yogurt and guacamole. In most instances, we could barely detect a difference between the national brand and Aldi&rsquo;s. Except of course, in price. The Aldi brand orange juice we tried cost 32 percent less.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/alditestkitchen.jpg" title="Aldi's test kitchen in the west suburb of Batavia. (WBEZ/Monica Eng)" /></div><p>The grocery business is super competitive. Profit margins are in the low single digits. So Aldi&rsquo;s other recipe for keeping costs down can be found in the stores themselves. Aldi stores occupy a smaller footprint than other big supermarket chains. You might almost miss it if you&rsquo;re driving by.</p><p>There&rsquo;s no music, no frills. Customers pay a deposit to use the shopping carts. Grocery bags aren&rsquo;t free. Everything is calibrated to be as efficient as possible.</p><p>&ldquo;For example when we look at the product in the store, you can notice it&rsquo;s all stocked in cases. If I didn&rsquo;t point that out, you may not notice it,&rdquo; said Aldi vice president Scott Patton.</p><p>&ldquo;They match the label of the product. They&rsquo;re the same color scheme. It has the brand on it. So we&rsquo;ve made the case and the box an extension of the product, which we can now stock eight to ten units of potato chips in two or three seconds versus unit by unit.&rdquo;</p><p>The rise of a low-end grocer like Aldi isn&rsquo;t the only trend worth noting. More upscale chains like Whole Foods have also seen serious growth. In 2001, there were three in Chicago. Today there are six. And that doesn&rsquo;t include the former Dominick&rsquo;s spaces the organic chain is snapping up.</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="400" mozallowfullscreen="mozallowfullscreen" msallowfullscreen="msallowfullscreen" oallowfullscreen="oallowfullscreen" src="http://cf.datawrapper.de/tOq67/1/" webkitallowfullscreen="webkitallowfullscreen" width="620"></iframe></p><p>We looked at the data for major Chicago grocery stores since 2001. In addition to Aldi and Whole Foods we tracked the numbers for Jewel, Trader Joe&rsquo;s, Mariano&rsquo;s, Pete&rsquo;s, Tony&rsquo;s, Save a Lot, and Food for Less.</p><blockquote><p><a href="#map"><strong><span style="font-size:16px;">Map: Tracking Chicago&#39;s shifting grocery stores</span></strong></a></p></blockquote><p>Ken Perkins, an analyst for Morningstar, said in some ways changes in the industry reflect changes in the city.</p><p>&ldquo;As the economy has really been difficult you&rsquo;ve seen people on the low end shift to discounters and a lot of people who are willing to pay for premium for in store experience and quality food. I think that polarization is what you&rsquo;ve seen not only in Chicago but across the country,&rdquo; Perkins said.</p><p>University of Illinois at Chicago researchers <a href="http://voorheescenter.wix.com/home#!neighborhood-change-project-/cjew">found much the same thing when they looked at income gaps in Chicago</a>. Higher-income households have increased -- so have lower-income households. But those in the middle have shrunk. Not unlike Jewel and Dominick&#39;s, the middle-of-the-road grocers that served them.</p><p>Food and retail researcher Mari Gallagher has a few theories about what happened to those grocers.</p><p>&ldquo;It used to be that the middle-market was about 30,000 sq ft. It was pretty ubiquitous in different neighborhoods. It might look a little different in Lake Forest than in it did in Roseland, a Chicago neighborhood for example. But it pretty much offered the same kind of cookie cutter thing and then stores got much bigger and as stores got bigger they tried to go a little bit upscale and they struggled with are we an upscale bigger store or are we a middle-market store. So they lost a bit of their identity,&rdquo; Gallagher said.</p><p>She also noted other players have grabbed a big chunk of the grocery business, such as gas stations, mini marts, dollar stores and big-box retailers like Walmart and Costco.</p><p>But customer taste has changed, too. Organic is more popular and, for some, pushing a cart around a grocery store became more of an experience than a chore.</p><p>&ldquo;We see more and more customers now even those customers with means shopping at multiple stores,&rdquo; Gallagher said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s not so uncommon for thrifty shopper to go to Aldi or Save A Lot for staples or key items and then go to speciality stores or high-end stores for organic produce. They might go to Whole Foods and Aldi&rsquo;s and two or three other stores.&rdquo;</p><p>Increasingly, that includes Mariano&rsquo;s. The fast-growing chain appears to be reinventing the middle-market grocery store. The stores aren&rsquo;t super premium, but there&rsquo;s also a focus on hospitality. The workers wear black ties, there&rsquo;s a wine bar, and on the weekends somebody playing a grand piano.</p><p>It&rsquo;s CEO, Bob Mariano, once worked for Dominick&rsquo;s. In fact, old man Dominick was his mentor. Company officials declined an interview on its strategy, but a few months ago the CEO spoke at a press conference to announce that a Mariano&rsquo;s was coming to Bronzeville. That neighborhood is a food desert and residents were excited by the idea of having a real grocery store.</p><p>After a round of applause, Mariano said: &ldquo;That&rsquo;s a lot of pressure because I&rsquo;m just a grocer. People sometimes ask me what do I do for pleasure, what&rsquo;s my hobbies? I tell them I don&rsquo;t golf, I don&rsquo;t sail. I just open grocery stores.&rdquo;</p><p>Three years ago there were no Mariano&rsquo;s in the city. Today there are 10 with more opening up all the time.</p><p>In Chicago today there are more grocery stores overall than there were a decade ago. But not everyone is sharing in this abundance. There are still large parts of the South and West Sides that are left out.</p><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/why-does-south-shore-still-not-have-grocery-store-110699">Part two of our series The Check-Out Line</a>, will explore whether race plays a role in determining where grocery stores are built.</em></p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Map: Tracking Chicago&#39;s shifting grocery stores<a name="map"></a></span></p><p><iframe frameborder="0" height="660" scrolling="no" src="http://interactive.wbez.org/checkout-line/" width="620"></iframe></p><p><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and co-host of the&nbsp;</em><strong><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/content/chewing-fat-podcast-louisa-chu-and-monica-eng">Chewing the Fat</a></em></strong><em>&nbsp;podcast. Follow Monica at&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng">@monicaeng</a></em>&nbsp;<em>or write to her at&nbsp;<a href="mailto:meng@wbez.org">meng@wbez.org</a></em></p><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/nmoore-0">Natalie Moore</a></em>&nbsp;<em>is WBEZ&rsquo;s South Side bureau reporter.</em>&nbsp;<em><a href="mailto:nmoore@wbez.org">nmoore@wbez.org</a> Follow Natalie on</em>&nbsp;<em><a href="https://plus.google.com/104033432051539426343">Google+</a>, &nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/natalieymoore">Twitter</a></em></p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="450" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/playlists/48706770&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%"></iframe></p></p> Mon, 25 Aug 2014 07:58:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/chicagos-shifting-grocery-landscape-mirrors-changing-city-economics-110695 Morning Shift: Memorable Oscar snubs and surprises http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2014-02-28/morning-shift-memorable-oscar-snubs-and-surprises <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Cover Flickr lincolnblues.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>We take a look at some of the biggest upsets in Oscar history. Also, the writer of a new play about cancer stops by to talk about his dad, games shows and aliens.&nbsp;</p><div class="storify"><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="no" height="750" src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-memorable-oscar-snubs-and-surprises/embed?header=false" width="100%"></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-memorable-oscar-snubs-and-surprises.js?header=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-memorable-oscar-snubs-and-surprises" target="_blank">View the story "Morning Shift: Memorable Oscar snubs and surprises" on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Fri, 28 Feb 2014 08:41:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2014-02-28/morning-shift-memorable-oscar-snubs-and-surprises Morning Shift: Task force weighs options for grocery starved areas http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2014-01-27/morning-shift-task-force-weighs-options-grocery <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Cover Flickr Mark 2400.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The polar vortex hits Chicago again, and we learn how city agencies are responding. We also find out the latest on future plans for the remaining unclaimed Dominick&#39;s grocery stores in Chicago. And, one man&#39;s story of being a foster dad.</p><div class="storify"><iframe src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-task-force-weighs-options-for-grocer/embed?header=false" width="100%" height=750 frameborder=no allowtransparency=true></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-task-force-weighs-options-for-grocer.js?header=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-task-force-weighs-options-for-grocer" target="_blank">View the story "Morning Shift: Task force weighs options for grocery starved areas" on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Mon, 27 Jan 2014 08:27:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2014-01-27/morning-shift-task-force-weighs-options-grocery Morning Shift: To code or not to code http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2013-12-20/morning-shift-code-or-not-code-109418 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Code cover Flickr QualityFrog.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Wired editor Brendan Koerner and tech writer Jathan Sadowski debate the merits of teaching computer science in public school. We examine Americans&#39; shifting belief in a higher power. And, Vic Miguel &amp; Friends bring their ukes down to Studio 6.</p><div class="storify"><iframe src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-to-code-or-not-to-code/embed?header=false" width="100%" height=750 frameborder=no allowtransparency=true></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-to-code-or-not-to-code.js?header=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-to-code-or-not-to-code" target="_blank">View the story "Morning Shift: To code or not to code" on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Fri, 20 Dec 2013 08:34:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2013-12-20/morning-shift-code-or-not-code-109418 Should you buy a tablet at Aldi? http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/should-you-buy-tablet-aldi-109369 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/TABLET size lead.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Earlier this week, I<a href="http://www.wbez.org/sections/food/monica-eng-why-foodie-loves-aldi-109350"> revealed my secret affection f</a>or Aldi food and home products. And, at the risk of sounding like some sort of Aldi freak, I&rsquo;m back today to tell you about another purchase from the discount store.</p><p>Yesterday I took the big plunge: I bought an electronic device there&mdash;the new $99 Aldi Medion Lifetab tablet to be exact.</p><p>It&rsquo;s not like buying sushi or a replacement heart valve at a discount store. But it&rsquo;s a risky purchase nonetheless. The thing is, my &nbsp;daughter wanted a tablet for Christmas, and I wasn&rsquo;t ready to spend super big bucks on a 10-year-old who &ldquo;forgets&rdquo; things at school, camp and her friend&rsquo;s house all the time.</p><p>So, while loading up on wine, cheese, asparagus and mushrooms at Aldi yesterday, I added a computer tablet to my cart. (Did you ever think you&#39;d read that sentence?) &nbsp;</p><p>Being unable to delay gratification of any kind, I gave the tablet to my daughter as soon as I got home. It serves as her &ldquo;big&rdquo; Christmas gift, a way to get the e-books she needs for school--and an opportunity to review this tablet for you the day after its release.</p><p>For those who don&rsquo;t already know the <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2013/dec/10/aldi-tablet-review-medion-lifetab-android" target="_blank">specs of this cut-rate device</a>&mdash;already sold-out in the UK&mdash;you can read these <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-25299602" target="_blank">reviews by overseas techies</a> who know their way around megapixels, RAM and gHz. What I will give you here is the verdict from mom and daughter who&#39;ve played with it for 24 hours.</p><p>Here are some things we discovered:</p><ul><li>The 7-inch screen gives you a much smaller picture than that of an iPad mini--and certainly a full- sized iPad--and the resolution isn&rsquo;t great. But it didn&rsquo;t stop the 10 year old from binging on her favorite videos right away.</li><li>You can download an Amazon Kindle app, but the device already comes with a &ldquo;Play Books&rdquo; app that my daughter used to read her download her books within 15 minutes of opening the box.</li><li>The charger uses a standard microUSB port, which already matches lots of other electronics in the house, including my Samsung phone. Yay!</li><li>At 8GB, the storage on this tablet can fill up fast, but you can add up to 64GB with a micro SD card--for which you often pay about a buck per GB.&nbsp;</li><li>You can use the finger-swiping typing style (standard on the Samsung Galaxy) on the keyboard here, making typing here a lot faster than on my iPad. You can also add a bluetooth-enabled keyboard.</li><li>The camera is not great. With 2 megapixels on the back and .3 on the front facing camera, you need to hold it very still and take pictures in good light to get a decent shot.</li><li>There is no 3 or 4G capability on the tablet so you need to be connected to local Wi-Fi to use any of the internet functions.</li><li>There don&rsquo;t seem to be a ton of accessories available for the Medion in the U.S. Most stuff I&rsquo;ve seen online comes from the U.K.</li><li>The tablet comes loaded with dozens of apps including a drawing and painting app that my daughter took to right away. And, hilariously, it comes with a prominent Aldi app that keeps her up to date on all the new and upcoming sales.</li><li>Is this tablet as good as even my old iPad 2? Nope. But it does a lot more than the tablet I had when I was 10--which was called an Etch A Sketch!</li></ul><p>And, at about half the price of its higher memoried twin, the Nexus 7, this Medion is just fine for its intended user.&nbsp;</p><p><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and the co-host of the <a href="http://www.wbez.org/content/chewing-fat-podcast-louisa-chu-and-monica-eng">Chewing the Fat</a> podcast. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng">@monicaeng</a></em></p></p> Fri, 13 Dec 2013 13:59:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/should-you-buy-tablet-aldi-109369 Shoe tax backer seeks quarter in Illinois http://www.wbez.org/blogs/charlie-meyerson/2013-02/shoe-tax-backer-seeks-quarter-illinois-105371 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/shoes.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/ct-met-shoe-tax-20130206,0,7935508.story" target="_blank" title="Shoes! by Keoni Cabral, on Flickr"><img alt="Shoes!" src="http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5209/5272762953_24eaf065bb_n.jpg" style="width: 300px; height: 179px; float: right;" /></a><strong>THERE&#39;S NO BUSINESS LIKE SHOE BUSINESS ...</strong>&nbsp;At least, for Illinois lawmakers looking for new cash. A proposal in the House would stamp gym shoes with&nbsp;<a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/ct-met-shoe-tax-20130206,0,7935508.story" target="_blank">an extra 25-cent tax</a>&nbsp;to help high-school dropouts get jobs. But that&#39;s not the sole issue on the General Assembly&#39;s agenda:<br />*&nbsp;<a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-senate-committee-approves-gay-marriage-105354" target="_blank">Bill to legalize same-sex marriage</a>&nbsp;moves ahead.<br />* Governor to call for&nbsp;<a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/ct-met-quinn-speech-preview-20130206,0,3073392.story">online voter registration</a>.</p><p><strong>GROCERIES CLOSING.</strong>&nbsp;Life&#39;s not getting easier for traditional grocery chains, squeezed between big-box retailers like Wal-Mart and specialty chains like Whole Foods and Trader Joe&#39;s. Latest to bite the dust: &nbsp;<a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/breaking/chi-jewel-to-close-3-stores-in-chicago-aurora-niles-20130205,0,6986361.story" target="_blank">Three Chicago-area Jewel stores</a>.<br />* Illinois companies warn of&nbsp;<a href="http://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20130205/NEWS07/130209908/companies-warn-of-nearly-1-200-layoffs-in-illinois" target="_blank">almost 1,200 layoffs</a>&nbsp;to come.<br />* Chicago area home&nbsp;<a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/ct-biz-0206-foreclosure-auctions-20130206,0,4902617.story" target="_blank">foreclosure auctions hit post-crisis peak</a>.</p><p><strong>FAT LADY NOT SINGING. </strong>The case of the actor burned in a stunt at the Lyric Opera isn&#39;t closed. <a href="http://www.dnainfo.com/chicago/20130205/downtown/fire-breather-burned-during-lyric-opera-performance-come-home">The Occupational Safety and Health Administration</a> is talking to witnesses, performers and other employees.<br />* Injured performer is&nbsp;<a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/chi-lyric-opera-fire-victim-wesley-daniel-recovering-20130205,0,4857550.story" target="_blank">President Truman&#39;s great-grandson</a>.</p><p><strong>&#39;WHAT IF IT HAD BEEN TERRORISM?&#39; </strong>When the blackout hit the Super Bowl, <em>The New Yorker</em>&#39;s Steve Coll asks of CBS News, &quot;<a href="http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/comment/2013/02/super-bowl-blackout.html" target="_blank">Why was there no ... information at all available beyond the no-commenting, self-protecting public-relations arm of the N.F.L. juggernaut</a>, to which we have become all too accustomed during its systematic campaign of denial about football-related concussions?&quot;<br />* Next, <a href="http://www.theatlanticwire.com/entertainment/2013/02/newtown-students-call-me-maybe-grammys/61834/" target="_blank">kids who survived the Newtown school shooting</a> may play the Grammys.<br />*&nbsp;<em>Slate</em>&#39;s Laura Helmuth: &quot;<a href="http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2013/02/danica_patrick_godaddy_ads_racing_s_fastest_female_is_throwing_the_women.html">People are right to be pissed at Danica Patrick</a>.&quot;<br />* WBEZ&#39;s Nico Lang:&nbsp;<a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/nico-lang/2013-02/catfishing-media-why-manti-teos-official-story-makes-no-sense-105344" target="_blank">Manti Te&#39;o&#39;s &quot;official&quot; story makes no sense</a>.</p><p><strong>STARTUP DREAMS UNLEASHED.</strong>&nbsp;&quot;For the first time in American history, <a href="http://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20130205/OPINION/130139925/why-obamacare-will-ignite-your-startup-life" target="_blank">your health insurance is going to get unhitched from your oversized, shuffling, bureaucratic employer</a>,&quot; according to lawyer Coco Soodek.<br />* <a href="http://observer.com/2013/02/journalists-take-refuge-in-the-world-of-branded-content/?show=all" target="_blank">Out-of-work journalists</a> taking jobs in world of &quot;branded content.&quot;</p><p><strong>FED HACKED.&nbsp;</strong>The Federal Reserve says <a href="http://news.cnet.com/8301-1009_3-57567824-83/federal-reserve-confirms-its-web-site-was-hacked/" target="_blank">one of its internal Web sites was hacked</a>. It&#39;s playing down the impact, but the incident -- which comes just a few days after reports <a href="http://www.zdnet.com/anonymous-posts-over-4000-u-s-bank-executive-credentials-7000010740/">thousands of U.S. bank executive accounts were compromised</a> -- raises questions about U.S. financial-system security.<br />* <a href="http://thenextweb.com/asia/2013/02/06/rupert-murdoch-claims-chinese-hackers-are-still-attacking-the-wall-street-journal/" target="_blank"><em>Wall Street Journal</em> still under attack</a>, Murdoch says.<br />* Fox News&nbsp;<a href="http://www.politico.com/blogs/media/2013/02/dick-morris-out-at-fox-news-156210.html" target="_blank">cuts Dick Morris</a>&nbsp;loose.</p><p><strong>WHO TURNED OFF THE WATER?&nbsp;</strong>Lake Michigan&#39;s level is officially at&nbsp;<a href="http://www.jsonline.com/news/wisconsin/lakes-michigan-huron-hit-record-low-level-dq8loc2-189903561.html" target="_blank">an all-time low</a>.<br />*&nbsp;<a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/what%E2%80%99s-causing-record-low-levels-lake-michigan-105262" target="_blank">Don&#39;t blame bottled drinks</a>.</p><hr /><p><em><strong>ANNOUNCEMENTS.</strong><br />* Music that got this edition out the door: The oeuvres of <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_Light_Orchestra" target="_blank">Electric Light Orchestra</a> and <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foo_Fighters" target="_blank">Foo Fighters</a>.<br />* If you&#39;re not getting this blog by email, <a href="http://feedburner.google.com/fb/a/mailverify?uri=feedburner/AELk&amp;loc=en_US" target="_blank">sign up here</a>. Just think how easy it&#39;ll make the next <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/charlie-meyerson/2013-01/its-news-quizzin-time-105270" target="_blank">news quiz</a> Friday.</em></p></p> Wed, 06 Feb 2013 05:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/charlie-meyerson/2013-02/shoe-tax-backer-seeks-quarter-illinois-105371 Why I can't resist Whole Foods http://www.wbez.org/blogs/claire-zulkey/2012-07/why-i-cant-resist-whole-foods-100619 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/WholeFoods1.jpg" style="float: left; " title="Ballis argues that for fresh produce, Trader Joe's can't hold a candle. (Flickr/swanksalot)" /></div><p>Okay. I am going to admit to something that I am sure will get me no end of hate mail. Or, since we were never allowed to say &ldquo;hate&rdquo; when I was growing up, strong-dislike mail.</p><p>I don&rsquo;t like Trader Joe&rsquo;s and I love Whole Foods.&nbsp;</p><p>There. I said it. I shall not be ashamed. And it isn&rsquo;t that I am some label queen, nor am I unfrugal. I am, in the annoying parlance of the day and for lack of a better label, a foodie, not a food snob. I know that there are insanely delicious burgers for $4, and juicy food-friendly wines for $7. But I also know that there are tiny, whole artichokes the size of the tip of your pinky finger marinated in extra virgin olive oil with herbs and chiles that go $25 a jar (roughly $1 per bitsy vegetable) that are TOTALLY worth the ridiculous expense. I like whatever tastes best, is freshest and hopefully is not participating in the desecration of our planet.</p><p>I have tried to like Trader Joe&rsquo;s, really I have. I have gone and spent money and eaten of their bounty, and I just, um, can&#39;t get it up for them. The produce usually makes me sad &ndash;&nbsp;wan, limp and lonely, and on more than one occasion, seething with fruit flies. The meats always seem vaguely suspect. They are great for random snack foods, and some canned and frozen goods. But the truth is every time I have ever been to a Trader Joe&rsquo;s, I have left the store and gone directly to a Whole Foods to fill out my coffers.</p><p>Which is not to say that WFM doesn&#39;t have its drawbacks. Obviously Whole Paycheck is eleventy million times more expensive. And things like an amazing cheese selection and delectable prepared foods sections are very dangerous for someone attempting to keep her butt smaller than Wyoming. I have been known to leave with two small bags coming in at more than $200 and gotten home to find that I don&rsquo;t actually have the makings for one complete Nutritional <strike>Pyramid</strike> Plate appropriate meal.</p><p>But when the über-Whole Foods opened at North Avenue and Kingsbury Street, I fell madly in love.&nbsp;</p><p>I don&rsquo;t do my regular big shopping there; I have a couple of wonderful local supermarkets that do not require one to hock a kidney in order to afford their wares. I would no more buy toilet paper or basic canned goods or other staples at WFM than I would order a gold-plated toilet. I go for specialty items, treats and organics, and often for produce, which I try to buy if not every day, every other day as a means of combating my natural instincts to hoard food, which results in endless melty fruits and vegs that need to be tossed out.&nbsp;</p><p>But then there is the clientele. I much prefer the gang at&nbsp;Trader Joe&rsquo;s&nbsp;for companionability. While it seems likely they are all stoned to the gills 74 percent of the time, and one sees a much higher incidence of the truly unfortunate &quot;white guy dreads,&quot; at least at TJ&#39;s I would never have overheard this conversation between a five-year-old and his mother.</p><p><em>Five-year-old (in very loud, whiny voice)</em>: &quot;But Mooooom, I don&#39;t LIKE the Merlot, I LIKE the CABERNET!!!! Nanny Suuuuusie knows that.&quot;</p><p><em>Mom (taking break from her iPhone to shift her Bottega purse to the other shoulder, rolling her eyes as best as one can with a Botox-immobile forehead)</em>: &quot;Lucien, precious, they are out of the Cabernet, you can have either the Merlot or the Chardonnay.&quot;</p><p>I stood there&nbsp;thinking that I had fallen down a rabbit hole into France, wondering if she was going to hand the kid a cigarette next.</p><p><em>Lucien (stamping little feet in little Toms and beginning to wail)</em>: &quot;I don&#39;t LIIIIIIKE the Merlot or the Chardonnay, I LIIIIIKE THE CABERNET AND NANNY SUUUUUUSIE ALWAYS BUYS ME THE CABERNET!!!!&quot;</p><p><em>Mom, with teeth clenched, causing little temple ripples in otherwise motionless forehead</em>: &quot;Lucien, if you do not stop this right now you will get regular grape juice AND a TIME OUT when we get home.&quot;</p><p>Since when is juice punishment? I mean, can you imagine YOUR mom saying such a thing? Punishment is no television (or a grounding I once suffered for a whole freaking year due to being a brat of gargantuan proportions). Punishment is extra chores, no dessert or having a favorite toy taken away. Or having your birthday party cancelled. (Which I also suffered through, again totally deserved, and someone please remind me to call my parents and thank them for putting up with me during my raging mini-bitch years and not selling me to gypsies.) But somehow the HORROR of REGULAR GRAPE JUICE eludes me. But I digress.</p><p><em>Lucien, weeping softly, and attaining the cadence of a caricature Jewish mother</em>: &quot;I&#39;m sorry Mommy. Never mind. I won&#39;t have any juice.&quot;</p><p><em>Mom, picking him up and cradling him</em>: &quot;Okay, little man, we can stop at the other store on the way home and see if they have your Cabernet. Okay?&quot;</p><p><em>Lucien, having learned important lesson about manipulation</em>:&nbsp; &quot;Thank you mommy. I love you!&quot;</p><p>In case anyone is curious, Whole Foods is now carrying varietal grape juices, regular old plain grape juice not being good enough for the delicate palates of today&#39;s toddlers, and in fact, apparently now considered punishment in some circles.&nbsp; Good thing they are closing Gitmo before the next truckload of Welch&rsquo;s arrives.</p><p>Now, I love that kids today are being exposed to more and more healthy, organic items not filled out with chemicals and extra sugars. My seven-year-old goddaughter loves a stinky goat cheese, bless her heart.&nbsp; But at more than $4 for 16 ounces, I have to call shenanigans.</p><p>It&#39;s almost enough to make me shop at Trader Joe&rsquo;s.</p><p>Almost.</p><p>*****</p><p><em>And now, a recipe:&nbsp;</em></p><p><strong>Stacey&rsquo;s Smoky Mac N&#39; Cheese</strong></p><p>The perfect partner for everything from an elegant roast to burgers straight off the grill. Buy the ingredients wherever you like, and feel free to serve with a the varietal grape juice of your choice.</p><p>Serves 2-4 as a main, 8-10 as a side dish</p><p>1 lb. &ndash; cavatappi pasta (gemelli or elbow macaroni are also fine)<br />5 T &ndash; unsalted butter<br />6 T &ndash; flour<br />5 cups &ndash; whole milk<br />4 oz. &ndash; fontina cheese, grated<br />4 oz. &ndash; smoked gouda, grated<br />8 oz. &ndash; extra sharp white cheddar, grated<br />1/2 c &ndash; sour cream<br />1 T &ndash; mustard powder<br />&frac12; tsp.&ndash; grated nutmeg<br />1/2 tsp. &ndash; smoked paprika<br />S/P to taste</p><p>Topping:</p><p>&frac12; cup &ndash; Cheezits crackers, crumbled<br />3 T &ndash; melted unsalted butter<br />4 slices extra thick bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled</p><p>Preheat oven to Broil setting.</p><p>Cook pasta in salted water according to package directions to just shy of al dente.</p><p>Melt butter in large saucepan over medium high heat until foaming stops. Sprinkle flour evenly over butter, and whisk to combine. Add mustard, paprika and nutmeg, stirring and cooking for about 1 minute. Whisk in milk briskly to combine, heating and stirring until the mixture thickens, about five minutes. Off the heat, stir in cheeses until melted, and then whisk in sour cream. Add pasta to pan, and put back on heat, adding a ladle of the pasta water. Cook over medium heat just a few minutes to finish cooking the pasta to al dente. Pour into a buttered baking pan. Toss the Cheezit crumbs with the melted butter and bacon and sprinkle over top of the mac n&#39; cheese.</p><p>Broil until topping gets golden brown and you can smell the bacon, about 3-4 minutes. Serve.</p><p><em><a href="http://thepolymathchronicles.blogspot.com/">Stacey Ballis</a> is a <a href="http://twitter.com/#!/staceyballis">Chicago-based blogger</a> and writer of foodie fiction novels. Her latest,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.amazon.com/Off-Menu-Stacey-Ballis/dp/042524766X">Off The Menu</a>,&nbsp;tells the story of a celebrity chef&#39;s assistant trying to balance work, love and a naughty dog named Dumpling. The book includes over 40 pages of original recipes for all the dishes mentioned in the story.&nbsp;</em></p></p> Thu, 05 Jul 2012 06:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/claire-zulkey/2012-07/why-i-cant-resist-whole-foods-100619 Crabby old lady list edition: items at the grocery store that there don't need to be so many varieties of http://www.wbez.org/blog/claire-zulkey/2012-02-15/crabby-old-lady-list-edition-items-grocery-store-there-dont-need-be-so <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2012-February/2012-02-15/2634513970_bf8fdafe4e.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-February/2012-02-15/2634513970_bf8fdafe4e.jpg" style="margin-right: 10px; margin-top: 10px; margin-bottom: 10px; float: left; width: 400px; height: 283px; " title="An Old Timey Grocery Shoppe (Flickr/Michael Rose)">Bread<br> <br> Shampoo<br> <br> Feminine products (you know what I mean)<br> <br> Razors</p><p>Shredded cheese</p><p>Juice<br> <br> Cold medicine</p></p> Wed, 15 Feb 2012 16:21:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/claire-zulkey/2012-02-15/crabby-old-lady-list-edition-items-grocery-store-there-dont-need-be-so Thanks for the feedback: How grocery stores should respond to customer comments http://www.wbez.org/blog/mark-bazer/2012-02-10/thanks-feedback-how-grocery-stores-should-respond-customer-comments-96266 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2012-February/2012-02-10/2328253365_d831f301d8.jpg" alt="" /><p><div class="inset"><p><span style="font-size:10px;">Listen to Mark Bazer discuss this post on <em>Afternoon Shift</em></span></p><p><audio class="mejs mediaelement-formatter-identified-1332731265-1" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/sites/default/files/AfternoonShift_20120216_Bazer.mp3">&nbsp;</audio></p></div><p><img alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-February/2012-02-10/casserole1.jpg" style="width: 300px; height: 402px; float: right; margin: 5px;" title="">There's no part of the grocery store experience more pleasurable than reading the comment boards. People find all kinds of wonderful ways to tell grocery stores that they're not up to snuff. But in this age of "the customer is always right," the grocery stores just take it. Their answers all begin, "Thanks for the feedback!" and typically end with an apology. Here, using real comments from area Whole Foods (but made-up answers) I recommend how grocery stores <em>should</em> respond.</p><p><strong>“Many of the foods made at Whole Foods are way too spicy for me —&nbsp;including the root vegetables I just tasted. Also the guacamole! People can add heat; I can’t remove it.”</strong></p><p>But you can remove yourself from our store!</p><p>In all seriousness, we do appreciate you telling us that not all of the thousands of items we offer are appealing to you. In that spirit of honesty, we’d like to take this opportunity to tell you we think your shoes are nice but your pants, shirt and hairstyle are horrible. People can avoid looking at your shoes; they can’t not look at the rest of you!</p><p><strong>“Last time shopping here! I used to be able to buy a small piece of Parm./Reg. Cheese but ‘Marty’ refused to cut a small piece, stating it must be cut in equal halves. F.Y.I.: Naperville W.F. will sell smaller pieces.”</strong></p><p>We’ve talked to “Marty,” and “Marty” says he’s perfectly willing to cut <em>you</em> into smaller pieces. Or you can go to Naperville, which sounds to us like a less enjoyable option. But it’s your call.</p><p><strong>“I really miss the shoygun (spelling?) tofu on the salad bar. Will it ever come back?”</strong></p><p>If you truly missed the shogun tofu, don’t you think you would have learned to spell it correctly when we had it around?</p><p><strong>“Thank you for your reply about how you pick samples and your openness for additional ideas. Could you use Pirate Booty as January’s featured item?”</strong></p><p>That is a good idea! Here’s a better one. How about you buy Pirate Booty?</p><p>We make it really easy. We have bags of them on shelves. You can fondle all of the bags and choose the one you like best. Then you can bring them to a person who will ask for under $5. Then you’ll own well over 50 pieces of Pirate Booty! Which you can use to set up a mock sample station at home! Arrr!</p><p><strong>“I went to get some of the King Ranch Casserole from the Hot Bar and it was very soupy. It seems as if they are always changing the recipe. One time it did not even have tortillas in it. Is it possible to keep the recipe consistent?”</strong></p><p>We’ve never had anything called "King Ranch Casserole," soupy or not. And none of our casseroles have ever had tortillas. And this comment board doesn’t even exist. Have you slipped on taking your meds again? Have you?</p><p><strong>“I don’t get why the buffet has the same things —&nbsp;or most of the same things —&nbsp;everyday. I see turkey, garlic mashed, mac ‘n cheese and wings nearly every time I’m here. How about switching things up?”</strong></p><p>Here’s how people typically go about “switching things up.” THEY GO TO DIFFERENT PLACES TO EAT.</p><p><strong>“Can you please add shredded chicken back to the salad bar? For us protein eaters, it is practical to have for a salad. Thank you!”</strong></p><p>“For us protein eaters?” You act like you’re part of some select group. Last time we checked, every person on the planet, along with, hmm, let’s see, <em>every single mammal</em>, too, eats protein. And yet, it’s funny: You’re the only one complaining about no shredded chicken in the salad bar. The walruses, for example, haven’t said a word. Nor, for that matter, have the chickens.</p><p><strong>“It would be awesome if you could consider vegans when you plan your salad bar. Maybe have a lentil or quinoa or any type of legume. There is legit no protein for me. It makes me very mad.”</strong></p><p>You know what makes us mad? Vegans, apparently having run out of everything else to whine about, are now complaining about <em>salad</em> bars. But because you’re a “valued” customer, we’ll tell you what: We’ll put "a lentil" in the bin where the shredded chicken used to be.</p><p><strong>“I was super impressed with the fantastic customer service I received this morning from Gary! He helped me with numerous items and even opened a bag of chips for me so I could try them! Gary deserves a bonus for his outstanding customer service.”</strong></p><p>Thank you so much for alerting us that Gary has been opening the food. Gary deserves to be fired, and he has been. And you deserve a coupon for 25 cents off a bag of chips! Come on in any time to claim it. Just don’t ask for Gary!</p><p><strong>“The turkey meatloaf has changed. I am assuming it has all dark meat or more dark meat. Is that true? I can’t stand the taste!”</strong></p><p>People change. Turkey meatloaf changes. It’s called life.</p><p>--</p><p>The next <em>Interview Show</em> -- our four-year anniversary -- is Friday, Feb. 17, at The Hideout (1354 W. Wabansia), at 6:30 p.m. Guests include WBEZ's Steve Edwards, Hot Doug's Doug Sohn, the Portable Models, Soup &amp; Bread's Martha Bayne and DePaul "embedded sociologist" and filmmaker Greg Scott. More info <a href="http://www.hideoutchicago.com">here</a>.&nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 10 Feb 2012 14:39:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/mark-bazer/2012-02-10/thanks-feedback-how-grocery-stores-should-respond-customer-comments-96266 Winning a referendum is no silver bullet http://www.wbez.org/story/200-cut-rate-liquors/winning-referendum-no-silver-bullet <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-March/2011-03-13/REFERENDUM_Rea_Woods.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>The idea behind a referendum is to give voters a direct voice in making their community better. These ballot questions can cover anything from stem-cell research to the fate of an empty lot. They may be binding or just advisory. Last month, referenda were on ballots in nine Chicago precincts. But it&rsquo;s not clear the voters will get what they had in mind &mdash; even if they were on the winning side. We&rsquo;ll hear now from WBEZ reporters in three parts of the city. We start with Chip Mitchell at our West Side bureau.<br /><br />MITCHELL: Kurt Gippert lives near a building here in Humboldt Park that seemed like a magnet.<br /><br />GIPPERT: Gang banging, loitering, drug sales, some prostitution, tons of urinating.<br /><br />MITCHELL: It was a liquor store.<br /><br />GIPPERT: In 2010, we had at least nine people shot in front of that store.<br /><br />MITCHELL: Under city pressure, the store closed last fall. Gippert and his neighbors wanted it gone for good, so they turned to a 77-year-old Illinois law that lets voters ban selling alcohol in their precinct.<br /><br />GIPPERT: It&rsquo;s the only power we had &mdash; the only surefire, effective thing that was going to last longer than six months or a year.<br /><br />MITCHELL: They petitioned to put the referendum on last month&rsquo;s ballot. And voters passed it about 4-to-1. Starting next week, the precinct will be dry. There&rsquo;s just one problem.<br /><br />SOUND: Car alarm.<br /><br />MITCHELL (on the scene): The place with the gang bangers in front wasn&rsquo;t the precinct&rsquo;s only store selling alcohol. I&rsquo;m outside a CVS a few blocks west. The clerks inside tell me booze accounts for about half their sales. But there&rsquo;s also a stream of customers who rely on this CVS for everything from prescription drugs to shampoo and milk. Without its liquor sales here, some of these folks worry CVS might close this store.<br /><br />CUSTOMER 1: Some of my family members get their prescriptions filled here. And it&rsquo;s really convenient that they can walk here instead of worrying about getting a ride or catching the bus.<br /><br />MITCHELL (on the scene): Do they have cars?<br /><br />CUSTOMER 1: No.<br /><br />CUSTOMER 2: I got three kids, so we need milk. If you get something for them from the corner store, it&rsquo;ll probably be old.<br /><br />CUSTOMER 3: Everybody around here, I guess, is poor. So they need to get to a place that most of them can walk to. Bus fare is high. Cab fare is high. So, yeah, it would hurt them.<br /><br />MITCHELL: CVS isn&rsquo;t answering whether it&rsquo;ll keep the store open once it quits selling alcohol. Ald. Roberto Maldonado (26th) supported the referendum. But he admits there&rsquo;s collateral damage.<br /><br />MALDONADO: We don&rsquo;t have a lot of retail in the area. And we have never heard complaints about CVS. However, if they depend on liquor to remain viable, then they should not be open.<br /><br />MITCHELL: I ask Maldonado about other precincts in his ward.<br /><br />MITCHELL (on the scene): Businesses that are selling alcohol and doing so responsibly, without a lot of problems out in front, do they have anything to worry about?<br /><br />MALDONADO: No, they don&rsquo;t have to worry as long as they are conscious about their own responsibility [to be] a good business neighbor.<br /><br />MITCHELL: And as long as residents don&rsquo;t vote the precinct dry. Reporting from Chicago&rsquo;s West Side, I&rsquo;m Chip Mitchell.<br /><br />MOORE: And I&rsquo;m Natalie Moore at our Side South bureau. The situation was different in a 3rd Ward precinct along East 47th Street. Voters didn&rsquo;t take aim at all liquor. They had specific targets: Night Train, Wild Irish Rose, Thunderbird &mdash; cheap, fortified wines that some residents say attracted low-end elements to the neighborhood. The referendum was nonbinding, nothing more than an opinion poll. Still, the majority voted to ban fortified wines at two stores. No more malt liquor either. But one of the stores took 22-ounce malt liquor off the shelves in July.<br /><br />MICHELIS: Took a hit on sales, between $20,000-$25,000 a month, but I gained it from the wines I put in the store.<br /><br />MOORE: Steve Michelis owns a store called 200 Cut Rate Liquors. Michelis says voters got what they wanted. He says the loitering and begging in front of his place stopped last year. Still, he didn&rsquo;t mind last month&rsquo;s referendum.<br /><br />MICHELIS: I don&rsquo;t care. I don&rsquo;t have anything to hide.<br /><br />MOORE: Maybe another reason Michelis didn&rsquo;t mind so much was because he was already getting other pressure &mdash; from Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd).<br /><br />DOWELL: You have people who stand outside, they drink it, they throw the can down, they beg for money or they go back in and get some money from somewhere and go back and buy another can.<br /><br />MOORE: Residents targeted Aristo Food and Liquor on the ballot, too. While residents gathered signatures for the nonbinding referendum, Dowell had her own approach. She&rsquo;s been working on getting the owners to sign agreements to stop selling the cheap liquor. She&rsquo;ll then attach them to their liquor licenses with the city. That would make them binding. The owner of Aristo says he plans to comply with Dowell. But the alderman says she&rsquo;s still waiting to hear back from him. Reporting from the city&rsquo;s South Side, I&rsquo;m Natalie Moore.<br /><br />YOUSEF: And I&rsquo;m Odette Yousef. Here on the North Side, one alderman and some voters are not on the same page. And, the issue isn&rsquo;t liquor. It&rsquo;s land use.<br /><br />GLAZIER: There&rsquo;s going to be three large driveways next to each other.<br /><br />YOUSEF: This is Josh Glazier.<br /><br />GLAZIER: Two for trucks coming in and out of the project, and one for several hundred cars that are going to remain inside the building.<br /><br />YOUSEF: Glazier lives behind this unused hospital garage in Lincoln Park. He&rsquo;s not happy about a developer&rsquo;s plan to turn it into a grocery store.<br /><br />GLAZIER: The community really objects to the grocer and the trucks.<br /><br />YOUSEF: Glazier says Ald. Vi Daley (43rd) has heard him out. He and others recall her saying she&rsquo;d stay neutral until the community reached a consensus on the project. But in spite of overwhelming opposition at public meetings. . .<br /><br />GLAZIER: We&rsquo;ve been hearing for quite some time that the alderman had this secret list, with the names of all the project&rsquo;s supporters and opponents. And increasingly she&rsquo;s been telling us the count was very close. And we didn&rsquo;t feel like a secret list should be the basis for any decision on the project.<br /><br />YOUSEF: So Glazier and fellow opponents gathered signatures to put the issue on their precinct&rsquo;s February ballot.<br /><br />YOUSEF (on the scene): So you knew going into this that this would not be a binding result?<br /><br />GLAZIER: Of course it was not going to be a binding result, but it was going to create some transparency.<br /><br />YOUSEF: And that&rsquo;s what Glazier says he got. Most voters opposed the project at the polls. So he was stunned to hear Ald. Daley&rsquo;s official position just days later. In a statement, she wrote, &ldquo;I will not delay this project any longer and I will vote to approve this project at City Council.&rdquo; Daley said only a narrow majority of voters opposed the development. She said she heard from many ward residents who do want it. They live outside the precinct that voted on it. I asked Prof. Christopher Berry of the University of Chicago if that was a legitimate reason to discount the referendum results:<br /><br />BERRY: Well, it&rsquo;s a legitimate tack to take, but the only way we would really know the answer is to have some sort of scientific public opinion poll that was done, that included everyone in the affected geography.<br /><br />YOUSEF: Berry says referenda are anything but scientific. They&rsquo;re often put together by self-selected groups on one side of an issue. And, usually, only a small fraction of voters come out to decide it. Berry says with referenda, the real story often isn&rsquo;t about how the vote came down. It&rsquo;s that an issue came down to a vote at all.<br /><br />BERRY: When you see a referendum, which means citizens have to be directly making this policy, it suggests some sort of failure or breakdown in the process between the citizens and their representatives.<br /><br />YOUSEF: Berry says those breakdowns are rare because politicians usually want to get reelected. But, in Lincoln Park, that&rsquo;s not the case. Ald. Daley retires in May. On Chicago&rsquo;s North Side, I&rsquo;m Odette Yousef, WBEZ.</p></p> Mon, 14 Mar 2011 11:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/200-cut-rate-liquors/winning-referendum-no-silver-bullet