By Dame Stacey Ballis
Michael Ruhlman’s new book Grocery, about the Cleveland-based family owned grocery chain Heinen’s, was already on Dame Judith Hines’ radar thanks to a recommendation from Dame Nina Barrett. So, when Dame Mary Kay Gill mentioned that she shopped frequently at one of the four Chicagoland outposts of the chain, and that her teenaged son had a wonderful experience at the store in his first job, the team was sold. Mary Kay was fortunate enough to mention it to Sherri Peiczynski, the general manager at the Bannockburn location, who said that Jeff Heinen, one of the two brothers who are the third generation to operate the business, was standing right there and volunteered to come speak to our group!
Judith and Mary Kay and Stacey Ballis all took a trip out to the Glenview location where they met with Laura Gregory and General Manager Steve Cilliak to make a plan and tour the store. Shopping followed the meeting and everyone was very impressed with the offerings, prices, and especially the attentiveness of the skilled staff, all of whom are clearly genuinely happy in their work and proud to be part of this company. The experience was so fantastic, that Judith and Stacey have been making regular pilgrimages to do their grocery shopping there, despite the 22-mile, round trip drive.
At the event, the Dames met at the wine section where store wine experts Chris and Joe were pouring four different bottles for us to taste. Jeff Heinen gave us a brief overview of the business his grandfather started in the 1930s, and then team then took us on a tour of the store, including introducing us to a new varietal of apple, the Evercrisp, which several Dames put on their shopping lists for later in the evening. Jeff’s discussion continued with a Q&A during the dinner, which was catered in-house by Heinen’s and included their famous salmon, shipped in fresh daily as is all of their seafood, chicken marsala, gluten-free shrimp ravioli, gruyere mashed potatoes, roasted root veggies and dinner rolls. Jeff was candid about challenges within the business, and he asked for some input from the group on issues that he is currently focused on. He even promised to look into some downtown locations for those city Dames who would love to open up a branch within the city limits.
Wonderful platters of house-baked sweets finished the meal, and then there was time to do a little shopping before heading home.
The event turned out to be a really wonderful and informative evening that was thoroughly enjoyed by all who attended. We cannot thank the entire team at Heinen’s enough for their hospitality, and especially Jeff Heinen for coming in from Cleveland to speak with us.
The next Dames Who Read meeting is February 6, and the book is Bread of Three Rivers by Sara Mansfield Taber. Details to come.
Photo Credits: Dame Toria Emas