CEDAR LAKE | After hungering in a food desert for three years, residents of this lakeside community happily converged on the first-of-its-kind Strack & Van Til grocery store Thursday following grand opening ceremonies.
Cynthia Seng, of Cedar Lake, said she's shopped the St. John, Broadway and Crown Point Strack & Van Til stores while awaiting the new local grocery outlet.
"Nothing compares to this," she said. "By the deli, they've added a salad bar and soup bar. ... It's amazing."
Julie Zasada, one of many people lining the sidewalks waiting for the opening, said she is impressed with the store's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification effort.
"It's exciting that's happening in Cedar Lake," she said.
Dave Wilkinson, Strack & Van Til president, presided over the ceremony. He said the LEED certification will come following a federal inspection.
"So many things in LEED make good business sense," Wilkinson said.
The floor is concrete, so it doesn't need to be waxed, and underneath it is recycled concrete from the razed Wilco building. Insulation in the new building's roof and walls is 20 percent greater than required, and the infrastructure is designed for low water consumption, Wilkinson said. Because it is a new building, not a retrofit, it lent itself well to LEED, he said.
"Companywide, we're trying to reduce our energy stamp. It makes sense now to spend the extra money," said John Ritchie, director of facilities for Strack & Van Til. The toughest part was the increased paperwork, but a LEED consultant eased the way, he said.
The Cedar Lake store was the first of the company's 36 locations to seek LEED certification.
Shopper Don West, of Cedar Lake, said he admired the layout and assumed the angling of cases, for instance, is a trend.
"There's a salad bar. I love that. I'm absolutely getting fresh fish for the weekend," he said.
Cedar Lake Chamber of Commerce President Robert Carnahan said he's always looked at the lake as a gem. "Now, we've added a diamond," he said of the new store. He commended Strack & Van Til leaders for joining the Chamber and becoming active shortly after buying the Wilco store in September 2010.
Wilkinson said the property was unique in that there were seven owners in the plaza, a fact which drew out the process. He credited the town and the chamber for working to bring the project to fruition. He also credited Cedar Lake Town Manager Ian Nicolini, owner of an electric car, for inspiring the charging station for electric cars at the building's east side.
"This project brings so much of what Cedar Lake is trying to do," Nicolini said. He said the new, upscale business and its environmental approach reflect the town's goals.