CHICAGO — A private investment group including veteran supermarket executive Bill Bolton last week said it will buy the Fox & Obel store here and invest in expanding the gourmet market to new locations around Chicago.
Bolton is a 36-year veteran of the supermarket industry and an investor in Vulpes LLC, the Chicago-based private investment firm buying Fox & Obel from Midwest Gourmet Foods. Bolton is a former executive vice president and chief operating officer for Supervalu's retail operations who at one time ran Supervalu's Cub stores here. Previously, Bolton served as chief executive officer for Bruno's Supermarkets. Since leaving Supervalu in late 2000, he has served as a board member to food and retail companies and as a consultant for private equity firms.
The deal is expected to close shortly. Financial terms were not disclosed.
In an interview with SN, Bolton said he was attracted to Fox & Obel because the store brand plays to broad trends in food retail, including “a passion for quality foods and service,” set in a convenient, 20,000-square-foot box.
“We like the brand, and the customer acceptance of the brand,” Bolton told SN. “We look at the investment in terms of being able to assist the current management team with some additional expertise and to bring in some capital to start looking at some expansion.”
Set in a restored warehouse in Chicago's Streeterville neighborhood, Fox & Obel was founded in 2001. It has become known as a destination for fine food, including imported groceries, local produce and eggs, and “gourmet-to-go” meals. It also includes a cafe and catering services.
“The original founders were influenced by Dean & DeLuca's Soho [New York] store and wanted to bring some of that feel to Chicago, but it's more than just a copy of that,” Bolton said. “It's upscale with a good variety of products that make a lot of sense for the consumer. The bakery products are extremely good; the meat department has aged, prime beef and Kobe beef. It's a place where you would find truffles and caviar and a variety of unique and different packaged goods. People like to wander around the store.”
Keith Montague, CEO of Fox & Obel, who came to the retailer from Whole Foods three years ago, told SN he will continue to oversee daily operations of the company under the new owners.
Bolton said he will serve as managing director, offering “hands-on” assistance in the early stages and eventually assuming an advisory role.