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Strack & Van Til LEEDing the way

Dave Wilkinson, left, president of Strack & Van Til, and John Ritchie, director of facilities for Strack and Van Til, reveal the new LEED plaque for the Cedar Lake store Tuesday.

CEDAR LAKE | The folks behind the Strack & Van Til Food Market in Cedar Lake are giving new meaning to the term "green grocer."

Company officials, local government and business leaders, and representatives of construction firms involved in the building at 9603 Lincoln Plaza gathered Tuesday morning to celebrate the store's LEED Silver Certification.

Shoppers were in on the party as recipients of Earth-friendly goodie bags and Norway Spruce tree starts.

LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a green building certification program that recognizes best in class building strategies and practices.

"This is our first LEED store. We've learned so much, and everything we've learned we'll incorporate into future stores and remodeling," Strack and Van Til President Dave Wilkinson said. "We're very proud."

John Ritchie, director of facilities, said there are few LEED buildings in the state and fewer still with silver certification. Only gold and platinum levels are higher.

"A lot of it just makes sense," Wilkinson said of the LEED program. He said it has made fiscal sense for Strack & Van Til as well.

Wilkinson presented Cedar Lake Town Manager Ian Nicolini with a poster collage commemorating the effort.

"Thanks, Ian, for making that call," he said.

Wilkinson said Nicolini was quick to call when learning Strack & Van Til had bought the former WILCO property. He said the town manager was an early advocate of the project and assisted greatly.

Ritchie recognized participating contractors for the extras such as increased documentation required of them to make it a LEED project. Since the store had its grand opening May 15, evaluations and measurements were needed before the inspection, which granted the silver certification Dec. 20.

"Earth Day is a perfect time to celebrate," he said.

Waving his arms, Wilkinson said, "The former building is still here somewhere."

The store's concrete floor, which never needs waxed covers, recycled concrete from the razed Wilco building, for instance.

Partnering with NIPSCO, which distributed flyers on energy-saving residential programs to shoppers Tuesday, helped gain the certification, Ritchie said.

Natural sunlight fills the building.

"On a full sun day, half of the lights are off," Ritchie said.

That's terrific for shopper Tiffany Cravens who works at Centier Bank across the street. "I love the lighting here. ... Fluorescent gives me headaches."

Perusing the meats aisle, Sarah Perrin said she appreciates the atmosphere.

"I'd rather shop in this store than where I live," she said. "The people are very friendly and helpful."