There was a big to-do at the Strack & Van Til location in Schererville. The store just went through major renovations and a grand reopening was under way on August 5 to celebrate the occasion.
Photos by Anna Hanson
This remodel follows suit with the upgrades at the Munster and Highland Strack & Van Til stores. Tons of new features were added to the already top-notch offerings at the store. The changes were made based on what the customers requested. Randy Gootee, Store Director, and his staff asked what they wanted, and then made it happen.
“Our customers are number one,” Gootee said. “We had a lot of requests for more natural and organic items, more convenient items that they could come and just grab and go, and some other things. We listened and added on everything that they need.”
Upon walking through the doors to the store, you were welcomed by the energetic and cute Lake Central Cheerleaders. The main entrance, also the produce section, was teaming with people. Strack & Van Til employees, customers, family, and friends, were excitedly waiting for the big event to begin.
Chris Bengtson, Vice President of Public Relations, Corporate Affairs, Customer Service, Corporate Inventory Control, and Warehouse Operations stepped up to a podium in the middle of the floor and got the event started. Standing by proudly were notable figures: Chief Marketing Officer Jeff Strack, President and CEO Ken Diehl, President and CEO of Central Grocers Ken Nemeth, CFO Tim Kubis, as well as others.
“Thanks to everyone for coming out to support us. We set out to create a unique experience that allows for unbelievable shopping and I think we definitely delivered,” Bengtson said. “We’re going to celebrate today!”
And celebrate they did. There was music pumping outside, free food and drink samples, door prizes, giveaways, and performances from the cast of “All Shook Up”, Lake Central Cheerleaders, and the one and only Blackhawks National Anthem singer Jim Cornelison. It was quite a grand spectacle that Northwest Indiana won’t soon forget. On top of the performances, $500 donations were made individually to Kahler Middle School, Schererville SWAT Team, Piefer Elementary School, and the Schererville Civic Fund.
“I want to thank everyone who helped make this happen and welcome you all to this outstanding store,” Gootee said. "We committed to being good neighbors and community partners, and we will continue to strive to be the best that we can be to satify our customers. Myself, my management team, and my associates are committed to being the best store in Schererville... The best store in the Midwest... We are going to be the best store in the country!"
The original store opened across the road in 1970, and in 2003 a move was made into a new building. From there, upgrades and renovations brought Strack & Van Til of Schererville to where it is now. The renovations took 18 weeks and involved hundreds of people. There were two construction crews, local UFCWs 1546 and 881, who worked their hardest to get things done and the staff and associates from Strack & Van Til were there the whole time helping the process along.
One such employee, Evelyn Schwitters, is the new Concierge at Strack & Van Til. Schwitters has worked with Strack & Van Til since she was 19 and has loved every minute of it. Her job as Concierge is to help customers with their shopping excursions and then she takes it a step further. With tablet in hand, she assists people with recipes, wine and beer pairings, she takes customer suggestions and complaints, helps people navigate the layout of the store, and overall makes the experience easier and more pleasant for people who come to Strack & Van Til.
“We wanted another way we could set ourselves apart with the customer experience,” Bengtson said. “As we went to decide who would be the best fit for the position, we went to our customer feedback. The person who received the most positive customer feedback was Evelyn. And after spending time with her we knew why. She truly loves her customers.”
“These people are my family,” Schwitters exclaimed. “I love them and the people I work with. I’ve been here for many years and I’ve made so many friends. I get really excited about my customers.”
New additions to the store include, but aren't limited to: a brand new juice bar where guests can drink over 180 combinations of freshly squeezed fruit and vegetable juice, there is an expansive selection of craft beer and high end wines, more organic produce and locally grown products were brought in – an entire new organics department was added, dairy and meat selections were expanded to add more to the already large inventory, there's a sushi and hummus bar, and the region’s largest selection of artisan cheeses resides in this store.
“We ramped it up and set the bar as high as it’s ever been,” Bengtson said. “It’s unique because you can’t get all of these things in one place anywhere else.”