Though neither of the neighborhood’s two stores operated under the Foodsmart name until 1996, part owner John Mourikes explains that the stores have been open for more than 45 years.
In the Beginning
Mourikes was born in Logan Square and was raised in the business. Throughout the ’60s and ’70s, his father owned six corner stores, all in Logan Square, and all under 1,500 square feet.
In 1970, his uncle opened a 12,000-square-foot store on Lawrence and Kedzie. Then the family bought the Jewell Super Market at 3415 W. Diversey Ave. They were now in the supermarket business.
Twenty years later, when his father retired, Mourikes went into business with his current partner and brother-in-law Mike Spiratos. Mourikes and Spiratos tore down and rebuilt the store on Diversey. They bought the property at 2901 W. Armitage Ave. and opened up the two Foodsmart stores that operate today.
A Neighborhood Staple
“It’s about choices,” Mourikes says, of what makes Foodsmart different. “There is not another store like ours. We offer the corner store, convenience store, supermarket and boutique market experience all in one place.”
Visitors to the stores will indeed see traditional impulse purchase items, such as generic condiments, paper plates and personal care products, to name just a few. But they’ll also see organic produce, grass-fed steaks, vegan ready-made meals and a very large liquor selection. So how do they pack in so much for so many?
About 18 months ago, Foodsmart added 3,000 square feet to the Armitage location, making the store 8,000 square feet. The addition allowed them to expand their shopping lanes from 16 feet to 52 feet.
“We added 3,000 feet, but tripled the number of choices for our customers,” Mourikes says.
And about their slogan, “Delivering the Art of Living Well”? Mourikes says it’s about giving choices to every kind of shopper. “No one is excluded when they shop here,” he says. “We have an organic choice with an organic price, and we have a standard choice with a standard price. We offer gourmet right next to generic.”
This approach has to do with making sure his business evolves along with customers’ evolving needs.
Responding to Demand
A few years ago, Mourikes saw a vegetarian restaurant open and thrive across the street. He quickly began offering and advertising vegetarian and vegan products. It worked—and worked fast. A large offering of vegetarian, vegan, organic and locally sourced products have been in stock ever since.
But stocking such a large quantity and variety of choices is no easy task. In fact, Mourikes says it’s probably their biggest challenge. Foodsmart doesn’t freeze perishables and they don’t have a huge warehouse for dry goods and supplies. Mourikes says this means produce will never be more than two days old, and says they pride themselves on rarely being out of stock on any standard products.
Sourcing products and pricing them is also tricky business. Large manufacturers put all stores into certain categories; corner stores get soda for a specific price, while supermarkets get their own price. Foodsmart doesn’t fit into any of these compartments, making price navigation an art.
“I can’t offer impulse buys at ‘insult prices’ like most convenient stores, even if I take a hit on margin. I want the guy buying impulse products to come back and buy groceries. I can’t turn that guy off,” says Mourikes.
Foodsmart has been a great friend to local suppliers. They currently work with A La Carte Foods from Glencoe, and received one of their first deliveries from Fulton Market’s Passion House Coffee Roasters while we spoke. Mourikes says he likes to “give the little guy and the local guy a chance.”
Foodsmart consistently sources custom requests from clients. If they don’t have it, just ask for it. Often such requests become regularly stocked items. They regularly post on their Facebook page, and encourage feedback and suggestions for new products.
New for Foodsmart
At the Armitage store, customers can shop from the new “almost-ready island,” which offers items that are either ready to eat or can be made quickly—ideal for busy clients who want a real meal without the hassle of cooking. Almost half of these items are organic or vegetarian.
You also can expect an even stronger emphasis on craft beers. Mourikes has noticed that younger beer drinkers are less likely to stick to one brand of brew, and want to shop at a place with new suds to sample.
Foodsmart may be a hard place to categorize for the large manufacturers it buys from, but it’s not for many Logan Square residents. For them, it’s one of many businesses in the neighborhood that offer an authentic yet progressive experience.
You can text “FOODSMART” to 77948 for special offers delivered to your mobile phone. Have suggestions for the store? Email them.