BY ROSIE PIGA PIZZO
Bloomingfoods General Manager George Huntington recalls childhood memories of eating Sunday dinner at his grandmother’s house in Elm Heights. Many times, she would give him money to run down to the neighborhood grocery store and buy a chicken for the meal. “I’d get some candy, too,” he admits, “but I felt grown-up walking to the store on my own.”
With the quiet opening in late August of Bloomingfoods Elm Heights, neighbors can once again experience taking a short stroll—or a quick stop on the way home—to pick up fresh food and other groceries.
The new 5,000-square-foot structure is located at 614 E. 2nd St.—the site of grocery stores since 1917, including for many years Ault’s IGA, and, more recently, K & S Country Market. Vacant since 2007, the new store features many of the qualities customers come to expect from Bloomingfoods: fresh local produce, natural foods, a full line of local coffee, a bakery/deli, and a café with a hot/cold bar, as well as grab-and-go options. The canopy in the front of the store mimics the one at the Near West Side store.
“This is the first grocery store we’ve been able to design from the ground up,” Huntington says. “It’s a purpose-built grocery.” The building was designed by local architect Marc Cornett and the Kirkwood Design Studio.
One feature that makes the Bloomingfoods Elm Heights stand out from the other four locations is the mezzanine level, which includes a coffee bar and seating for about 30. “We had several meetings with the Elm Heights Neighborhood Association and having a coffee bar and gathering spot was part of their vision,” Huntington says.
A full-service meat counter is another new amenity for Bloomingfoods. “The meat section is ninety percent fresh, ten percent frozen,” says Fresh Foods Manager Alan Simmerman.
“It’s all about strengthening the local food economy,” Huntington says. “If more people are eating fresh, then we’re stimulating local companies.”
A plaza area on the east side of the property will allow space for seasonal items such as pumpkins, Christmas trees, and flowers. A large elm tree (it is Elm Heights, after all) provides shade for this area.
Hours for Bloomingfoods Elm Heights are 7 am to 10 pm Monday to Saturday and 8 am to 9 pm Sunday.