Strack & Van Til continues to grow in Northwest Indiana
By Carrie Napoleon For Sun-Times Media
Shaping up: A new Strack and Van Til is being built from the ground up in Cedar Lake. | Supplied photo
Strack and Van Til, and its parent company SVT LLC, continue to extend the grocer’s neighborhood reach throughout Northwest Indiana and beyond.
A new store in Cedar Lake is set to open soon and renovations of the Valpariso store, recently acquired in the purchase of the majority of WiseWay properties, are in various stages of completion.
Dave Wilkinson, president and CEO, said being part of the community is integral to the grocer, which now owns all Strack and Van Til, Ultra Foods, and Town & Country stores throughout Northwest Indiana and Illinois.
“Basically the Strack and Van Til, Ultra Foods and Town & Country consumers have a certain expectation,” Wilkinson said.
When the grocer moves into a new market through the purchase of an existing grocery store, the move involves a renovation that focuses on the brand appearance of the store and creates the atmosphere shoppers expect when walking into a Strack and Van Til, Ultra Foods or Town & Country store.
“It has to be rebranded as a Strack and Van Til or rebranded as an Ultra Foods. You just can’t change the sign on the building,” Wilkinson said.
Consumers continue to recognize that effort, naming the store their Neighbors’ Choice in the grocery, bakery, desserts, and butcher shop/meat market categories.
“We have to remodel and upgrade and make sure we provide all the products and services, selection and variety consumers expect from all our stores,” Wilkinson said.
As part of the most recent acquisition of WiseWay stores, SVT LLC will be closing the current 61st Street Ultra Foods store and reopening across the street in what was a PayLow. The former PayLow has been completely renovated and will be a newer, larger location for Ultra Foods. He expects the store will open around the end of April.
“Basically it is a brand new facility. It will be a whole new look with a brand new interior decorating design,” Wilkinson said.
While the new design will not be unveiled in Merrillville until the store opens, shoppers can get a preview of the look at the Portage location, where the remodel of the former Town & Country on Central Avenue is underway. The store is open during the remodel.
Taking the LEED
A new Strack and Van Til being built from the ground up in Cedar Lake at the location of the former Wilco Family Market is nearing completion as well. Wilkinson said the long-awaited store is expected to open in May.
The Cedar Lake store will be unique for SVT LLC and the region.
“It will be the first grocery store in Northwest Indiana that’s a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) store,” Wilkinson said.
The store will feature energy efficient design including LED lighting, state-of-the-art heating, ventilation and air conditioning, and energy efficient cases. Environmental work extends into how the building was constructed as well, including the use of recycled materials.
With the acquisition of WiseWay, SVT now has two locations in Valparaiso, which the company is calling north and south. The north store is currently undergoing a complete renovation that is expected to be complete by late summer.
“It’s basically a brand new building inside and out,” Wilkinson said.
Renovations included the addition of 10,000 square feet of space, a new façade and new roof along with almost all new fixtures inside.
Valparaiso south will see a major renovation in 2014.
“Our goal is to grow as responsibly as we can, finding good locations and good fits that make sense for us,” Wilkinson said.
Wilkinson said the company finds it important to have a varied number of locations where it can be a partner with the local community.
“We are committed to the communities we serve. We try to be part of the community and help out wherever we can. We hire all local people and create a great opportunity for all our associates to grow with us,” he said.