Caputo's opens today, bigger and greener

Elmwood Park grocer stakes new foothold at Harlem and Grand

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By HELEN KARAKOUDAS

First reported 2/16/2010 9:29 a.m.

As of
8 a.m. this morning, a drive up Harlem for groceries at Caputo's won't mean sweating how to approach the market, wheel your cart in or out of it, or find a place to park.


Today there's a new location, and a new leaf, for the compact
Elmwood Park grocery store that for decades has been drawing Oak Parkers and River Foresters a mile north of village lines. In an eye-popping makeover of the Circuit City building at Harlem and Grand, Caputo's produce, prices and ethnic finds now fill triple the selling space of the original store. Yes, the move from two blocks away affords turning radiuses for carts and cars. Parking has almost quadrupled, from 60 spots to 210.


"This is an investment. We're very proud," says Robertino Presta, CEO of Angelo Caputo's Fresh Markets, who started out as a stock boy 30 years ago at 2560
N. Harlem. Directing a set-up crew of dozens Sunday afternoon, and pausing to check in with his father-in-law, the founder, Presta pointed out feature after feature of a state-of-the-art green store: energy-efficient lights in the freezer cases, a terrazzo floor, induction lighting for the parking lot, and an environmentally friendly refrigeration system that, he says, is one of only five in the country.


By local standards, Caputo's new 30,000-square-foot store can compare with the chains: Whole Foods Market in
River Forest is 29,000 square feet, Dominick's in Oak Park is 45,000 square feet, Jewel in River Forest is 60,000 square feet. By Caputo's standards, it's the third largest in the small regional group, after the Naperville location, which is 70,000 square feet, and South Elgin. The family-owned company, founded by Angelo Caputo in 1958 in Elmwood Park, also has stores in Addison, Bloomingdale and Hanover Park.


Presta won't give an exact figure for the move and the expansion 10 months in the making. He says that neither the $7 million price tag reported by The Chicago Tribune nor the $14 million price tag reported by Pioneer Press is correct.


"I don't know where they got those numbers. I've still got bills coming in. I'm not sure myself of the total. But if you look at 10 million, I think it won't be too far off," Presta said.


To run the new location, 80 more people have been hired, doubling the staff to 160. And they're working in departments old and new.


Produce still rules. This is where you'll find everything you recognize plus black radishes, bitter melons, and artichoke cousins named cardone. Beyond this department, which could fit almost the entire old store, specialties abound.


In the dry goods aisles, there are four kinds of wheat flour from
India and another four kinds of wheat flour from Poland. In the drinks aisles, alongside Italian sparkling water there are bottles of the dark citrus chinotto. In the freezer cases, boxes of plain phyllo dough sit beside boxes of shredded phyllo dough.


The new Caputo's has a full kitchen, where such traditional fare as heat-and-serve meals - and mozzarella - will be made daily. Also coming out of this kitchen: sushi. At the in-house bakery, fresh loaves of breads will be ready every three hours. The pastries will continue to be brought in from
Addison, home of the company's headquarters and bakery. "My mother-in-law's recipes," beams Presta, referring to such all-Italian treats as cartocci and zeppole, and to the late Romana Caputo.


To the right of the pastry showcases is a coffee and gelato bar. And next to that grab-and-go area is a serving station and a seating area, should you need to nosh before you leave the store.


For all the excitement about the bright and big new place, mention of 2560
N. Harlem, now up for rent, gets a few Caputo's folks wistful.


"To me, that's always Caputo's. That's where my ma brought me as a kid," said one employee stocking the coffee shelves.


"That's where I met my wife," says Presta, referring to his teen co-worker, Antonella Caputo.

Reader Comments

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Frank from Addison  

Posted: November 23rd, 2012 10:59 PM

Very nice Family, very good people to work for. Robert is a very hard worker. I worked there many years ago and I learned so much about life from The Caputo family.

vito from addison  

Posted: January 19th, 2012 1:57 AM

this company was good,20,years,back...now,look,only profit,for save,few,dollars,build,false accuse,against,employees.for fired people,hi,start,to writher,all my case,totake.the,case,on the court....