HIGHLAND PARK, Ill. -- Jewel-Osco has opened a full-service kosher store here with expanded frozen and grocery sections, featuring more than 550 new kosher items throughout the store -- including kosher wines for all occasions.
The grand opening was held Aug. 2, at exactly the right lead time to shop before the Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur holidays, according to Jewel spokeswoman Karen Ramos.
Albertson's, Boise, Idaho, the parent company of Jewel, has 13 designated kosher stores chainwide, including this one. Six have presentations similar to this store and six more, mostly in New Jersey, have some of the elements, such as a kosher bakery, deli or meat department. At least one is not yet open, Ramos said.
The original store here was opened about a year and a half ago, and it is large -- at 70,000 square feet -- which was one of the reasons it was chosen to be retrofitted as a special kosher store, Ramos explained.
"We knew these were additional services that we could bring to our customers who keep kosher," said Ramos, whether these customers are Jewish or prefer kosher products for other reasons. "Albertson's has a lot more expertise," she said, including an ongoing relationship with the Orthodox Union.
The OU was instrumental in siting the store, telling Jewel management that Highland Park was underserved in terms of kosher foods, Ramos said.
The kosher meat department is located at the end of the regular meat department. A freezer case out front, with dual temperature control, has kosher frozen meat and fresh. Adjacent to meat is 60 feet of grocery, dairy and prepacked deli kosher items. The frozen section contains 12 feet of kosher items, including desserts and some frozen entrees. People with lactose intolerance are looking for nondairy desserts, which are often found among the kosher offerings, she said.
"It is really geared to the customer who shops kosher on a day-in, day-out basis. It has kosher candy, kosher condiments, a huge variety, even more than what you would see in a Jewish neighborhood store. The majority of the 550 new items are in grocery. A lot of the brands are brands that people who buy kosher food recognize," Ramos said.
And the liquor department includes a section devoted to kosher wines. "You won't just see Mogen David and what I think of as kosher wines. There is a lot of variety, from different wineries," Ramos said.
The store here remained open and operating during the renovations, which took two months. This turned out to be a great way of advertising by word of mouth, Ramos said. Fourteen other areas of Chicagoland served by Jewel stores have significant Jewish populations, and ads for this new "kosher experience" store were included with circulars in those stores, as an additional way of spreading the word, she said.
Since its grand opening, this store has maintained its sales base and gained incremental sales, Ramos added.