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Warehouse-like Restaurant Depot big-box store expected to be a destination
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Warehouse-like Restaurant Depot big-box store expected to be a destination

A new 55,000-square-foot warehouse-style store will serve restaurant owners and other small businesses across the Region.

The new Restaurant Depot big-box store is almost complete in Griffith, not far from the Cine Avenue exit off the Borman Expressway.

The New York-based chain that touts itself as the nation’s premier cash-and-carry food wholesaler plans to open in mid-December at 627 E. Ridge Road in Griffith. The arrival of the airplane hangar-sized store is eagerly anticipated by restaurant owners who look forward to stocking up on everything from food to supplies there.

"I'm ecstatic that Restaurant Depot is coming to Griffith. I used to make runs to one of the Chicago locations on occasion," Grindhouse Cafe owner Gabriel Mauch said. "Having that around the corner from us is going to be huge for Grindhouse.

"The cost of goods is going up everywhere and having another option is going to be huge. I think it's also going to be great for NWI to hopefully attract some restaurant owners from Illinois and Michigan to come here and spend some money. Maybe they'll need a coffee while they're in town."

Griffith estimates Restaurant Depot has invested $6 million into the store, which it built on a stretch of Ridge Road near several auto parts stores after buying and demolishing four houses.

Restaurant Depot Regional Chief Operating Officer Tricia Snider said the stores, which are open to restaurants, nonprofits or anyone with a business license, typically draw from a range of 20 miles or 30 miles. The business particularly targets a market of independent restaurants and small businesses, including those just starting up.

"People are willing to come for the discounts and the amount of money they save," Snider said. "We are a warehouse store. You come in and you can buy a unit, you can buy a case, you can buy a pallet."

The store will sell food, cups, napkins, utensils, refrigerators, kitchen equipment and other restaurant supplies. A bulk of the business is fresh meats and produce.

New Oberpfalz Brewing owner and head brewer Dan Lehnerer said it would be particularly helpful when supplies are running low.

"We use food service distributors for 99% of the raw materials our kitchen uses, but in-stock issues are always a factor even without the supply chain issues we are still enduring due to the pandemic, so having another option locally is great if we get shorted by a distributor," he said. "I would venture the businesses that will see the most benefit of the new Restaurant Depot are seeing food sales that are significantly less than 50% of their total business. For taverns and specialty shops that have a limited menu or have logistical concerns to receive deliveries, it will be a lot more convenient than other options. Food trucks will probably use them a lot."

Founded in 1996 with roots dating back to Brooklyn in the 1970s, Restaurant Depot has more than 150 stores in 33 states. It has five other locations in Chicagoland.

"We are really tapping the greater Chicagoland market," Snider said. "In Northwest Indiana, there's a lot of opportunities here. There's a lot of businesses. We think we can bring a lot of value to the people in the communities around here."

Restaurant Depot has 51 locations in the Midwest. The Griffith store is just its second Indiana location after Indianapolis, but the chain is growing.

"We have really been there for our customers during the pandemic," Snider said. "During a time when many people need to make their dollars stretch a little further, people turned to Restaurant Depot. If it's Friday night and you ran out of hamburger buns, you can run to Restaurant Depot and we will be there."

Memberships are free. No minimum or bulk purchases are required. While many buy in bulk, customers can buy as little as a single roll of paper towels.

"We're not a retailer that you see on every corner. That's not what our business model is," Snider said. "This will serve a great need for the people and businesses around here. Our core customers are typically independent restaurant and independent business owners, but we have customers from any type of food and beverage establishment. Anything you could possibly need to operate a business, we have it. We're open seven days a week."

The Restaurant Depot will tentatively open Dec. 15 with promotions and sales to celebrate the grand opening.

For more information, visit restaurantdepot.com

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Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.

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