Pete’s Fresh Market

A community-centered grocer gaining ground in Chicago
Written by: 
Molly Shaw
Produced by: 
Elizabeth Towne

While remaining true to family ties and roots as a Chicago-centered community grocer, Pete’s Fresh Market (Pete’s) is steadily climbing toward tremendous growth and expansion. The family-owned and -operated company has been a Windy City landmark since the early 1970s when Jimmy Dremonas, owner and founder of Pete’s, and his brothers opened Pete’s Produce, a 1,000-square-foot, full-service produce stand on the city’s south side.

The Dremonas brothers named the business after their father with a vision to take the small stand and transform it into much more. Now, their dream has become reality with nine locations in the greater Chicago area and four more in the works.

Today, Pete’s offers a one-stop shop with a full produce department, meat, poultry and seafood, a deli and dairy cheese island, as well as an in-house bakery, hot-prepared foods section, catering menu, florist and liquor assortment backed by more than 1,400 employees.

Stephanie Dremonas, executive officer of Pete’s, says the company has experienced great success by understanding the Chicago marketplace inside and out, as well as by focusing on quality products at competitive prices.

“The first Pete’s officially opened in 1994, so we’re now in our 20th year of business operating as Pete’s,” she reveals. “Chicago is an ethnically and economically diverse marketplace, and it’s a matter of paying close attention to every location. My family is from Chicago, so we understand the need to serve the different pockets of diversity.”

A complete shopping experience in a close-knit community

Stephanie wears many hats at the company, working alongside sisters Vanessa and Marissa Dremonas, director of business development and human resources director for Pete’s, respectively.

“Our core values are quality, service, aesthetics and competitively priced items,” Stephanie notes. “With these as the driving force, we focus on the best quality for less and an environment that’s beautiful, clean and a place you want to shop.”

The idea is to transform grocery shopping from a task into a more enjoyable experience with products consumers are excited to eat, as Stephanie says, “From our dinner table to yours.”

“We try to offer everything in one store to save our customers time and money,” she continues. “You end up knowing the butcher and the store manager by name. It’s about a true sense of community. We’re small enough to achieve that, but big enough to grow and stay competitive on pricing and quality.”

Perimeter progress

While Pete’s has focused on outward geographical expansion, Stephanie says that goal isn’t attainable without inside improvement. “In recent years we have strengthened the center store departments to compete with the low price leaders, such as Walmart,” she reveals. “The perimeter is where we excel in providing quality, service, selection, price and presentation. In light of the recession, consumers are getting smarter. They demand the best quality for the price, and it’s our responsibility as an operator to be competitive with all of our items.”

One area Pete’s truly is developing is the freshly prepared foods section. “We’re working on building this department with more healthy, affordable prepared foods to go,” says Stephanie. “We want our customers to know they don’t have to turn to the frozen section to find a prepared meal and they can be confident it’s not filled with sodium or preservatives because it’s made fresh on premise.”

Pete’s is also expanding its in-store juice bars as another healthy go-to. Offering a range of quality items relies on a network of trusted vendors and suppliers such as Nealey Foods, a regional wholesale distributor and Anthony Marano Company, Pete’s largest produce supplier.

Slow and steady wins the race

With big players such as Dominick’s, a longstanding outlet of the grocery giant Safeway, leaving Chicago and a flood of new companies vying for that market share, Stephanie says the only constant in the industry is change. “The competitive landscape has evolved considerably in the last six months,” she reveals. “Our biggest challenge is to always be ahead of industry trends.”

Despite the changing landscape, Pete’s has found a solid footing for expansion, but not without growing pains. “People underestimate how difficult it is to grow,” says Stephanie. “There are a lot of growing pains when you’re a privately held, grassroots company. We are growing with a purpose, and good things take time. We don’t like to put our name on just anything, and we don’t believe in a cookie-cutter process. We want to be proud of every single wall, every countertop, every shelf; it’s not a quick turnaround to build a custom store like we do.”

“We’re keeping our eye on the prize and the next 40 years,” adds Stephanie. Slowly but surely Pete’s Fresh Market is gaining ground and more market share with the same authenticity and sense of community the Chicago grocer has been known for since 1970.

Strategic Partnership(s): 
Klaften and Burke
Sarnoff and Bacchash