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Morningfield's Finds Competitive Edge in Bakery, Meats, Catering

For nearly three decades, the Park Ridge store has anchored the Devon Avenue business district. To set itself apart from chain grocers, owner focuses on its on-premises bakery, fresh meats and fish, coffee bar, catering and customer service.

 

Customer loyalty and a geographic niche in south Park Ridge have steered Morningfield’s, 800 Devon Ave., through tough economic times and withering competition from an array of grocery, produce and big-box stores.

Yet Rick Teliszczak, the latest in a line of the store’s owners, knows all too well he has to stay a bit ahead of the game to keep the three-decade retail institution thriving amid business challenges.

For instance, Teliszczak has some ideas for a 2013 improvement in the deli, which is a starring feature of Morningfield's, as well as the regionally-famous bakery and Devon Avenue Meats, a tenant. Teliszczak hasn't let out any trade secrets yet, though.

And, all the while, Teliszczak will take advantage of Morningfield’s strengths as the anchor of the Devon Avenue business district.

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“The store’s been here 29 years,” he said. “It’s all local traffic. A lot of the people like the convenience of not having to go to the bigger stores. Bigger isn’t always better.

“We have a coffee bar here, a liquor department, the deli, we have produce.”

Bakery, Devon Meats ‘like a marriage’

The bakery, featuring sinfully sweet pastries like bear claws, is noted for entirely producing its own line in the busy basement. That department and Devon Meats, the two store staples, can play off each other.

“It’s like a marriage, a partnership,” Devon Avenue Meats owner Vince Giardina said of his neighbor.

“We have a little bit of everything,” Teliszczak said. “We want to keep it simple. We’ll carry some gluten-free (items). We want to be a little more health-conscious.

“There a new Whole Foods coming to town. They carry a lot more products, but their prices are through the ceiling. They’re going to be fighting with Trader Joe’s, to be honest. I don’t think they’re going to affect us a lot.  If we can keep running good specials – bananas 39 cents a pound every day, chili at $2.99, milk on sale for three weeks at $2.59 a gallon – it will help us.”

Teliszczak has to skillfully negotiate with vendors to keep costs in line. As an individual store, he also cannot buy in bulk for savings like large chains.

Chains lurk nearby

“Or we have to break even on some of the products just to get the customers in here,” he said. “It’s competitive. I just went to Wal-Mart for something, five miles away. In between, there are two Jewels and a Tony’s. There’s too many stores, but we just have to keep pushing.”

Part of that effort is quality and distinction of each of the Morningfield’s departments. Even though Devon Avenue Meats leases a corner of the store, it’s as much an integral part of the presentation as any other facet.

Giardina moved in 25 years ago when Morningfield’s looked to lease out its meat department.  He has items like homemade Polish sausage and chop suey, while expanding his fish line.

“Just specializing in things, stay with the higher quality,” Giardina said. “We like to be known for quality and service. That always comes back to you tenfold. Our fish sales average anywhere from 650 to 700 pounds a week.

Nostalgic decor

There’s a nostalgic twinge in the presentation. The ice cream and coffee bar has a throwback décor, suggesting an old-fashioned soda fountain. The eat-in area on the other side of the bakery has a landscape mural to brighten the surroundings.

 

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BMG Media Services November 05, 2012 at 03:11 PM
Morningfield's has been one of our families favorite stores for decades. We wish it every success but what is the plan if that shopping center gets redeveloped as described in the local newspapers this week? Sounds like all the stores will be out for a new large Walgreen's.
Karen Lewandowski November 05, 2012 at 06:18 PM
I love Devon Ave Meats. They are graciously attentive always and there meat and fish is the highest quality. See you Saturday guys!
Ziggy November 05, 2012 at 08:05 PM
Greatplace, but if Mariano's comes to town, it might not survive. Mariano's would hurt many smaller food places in town.
SJKChicago January 05, 2013 at 11:24 PM
The best thing about Morningfields is the Meat and the Deli Area. The wine bottles are always collecting dust and the produce is disgusting. I have never seen a ripe banana there, they are always bruised and black. The woman that makes the coffee is typically the same person that is a cashier. (She has to leave her post to make coffee and then walk slowly to have you pay.) I think Morningfields (not Devon Meats) has lost a lot of business due to the lack to customer service. I hope the new plans are very impressive because we have never been impressed in the past two years.

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