Long considered a grocery wasteland, Hyde Park is in the process of transforming itself into a food lover’s oasis with the recent expansion of Hyde Park Produce, the coming of Treasure Island, and the opening of the Zalesky & Horvath MarketCafe, a gourmet grocery store slated to open between late April and early May.
The Zalesky & Horvath MarketCafe, which will be located at East 47th Street and South Cottage Grove, is the project of Hyde Park couple Tim Schau and Karen McCarthy Schau, two foodies who say they want to bring high quality edibles to the neighborhood.
The Schaus’ passion for food and for their grocery store comes down to a basic philosophy.
“You only eat a few times a day. You should eat something that’s interesting and delicious and adds to the quality of your existence,” Tim Schau said.
Schau said that he hoped that establishing “a traditional neighborhood grocery store” will prevent the flight of Hyde Parkers to far-flung supermarkets. He said the store will specialize in local, sustainable products, brought in fresh and selected for their quality and their originality.
Schau said his motivation for selling locally grown, fresh food stems from “that concept of going to the corner and buying groceries.”
“And people in Europe still shop like this,” he added. “Buying what you need for the next few meals. It gives people more flexibility.”
In addition to supplying fresh foods, the co-owners hope to help people to spice up their pantries.
Schau said that Zalesky & Horvath’s will supply the neighborhood with a varied stock of eclectic foodstuffs. The Schaus are devoting themselves to finding the highest quality and most interesting foods on the market, and said that doing so requires them to eschew mainstream brands.
“In most cases, the best products are unknown,” Schau said. He and his wife have spent time building relationships with small-scale producers and distributors whose products are superior to mainstream items but who do not market them enough to be noticed by national chains.
“Cheeses,” Schau said, “are a great example. There are some great cheeses in the Midwest that you have to have a relationship with the farmer [to sell]. Those are the kinds of relationships on the retail level that we can build.”
“Our product selection is incredibly groomed,” he said. “If something is in our store, there’s a reason that it’s there. There’ll be a reason that a particular kind of pasta is in our store.”
“Hyde Parkers do understand quality. When you raise the bar on quality and service, people are very loyal. It’s so much easier to do things the right way, and in Hyde Park, doing things the right way is rewarded,” he said. “From a business standpoint that’s great. Customers get to vote. They vote with their business.”
Zalesky & Horvath is counting on business from the University community, Schau said. He added that the store will be particularly well suited to students’ needs, in particular because it will provide a variety of what he calls “diet challenge” foods for the University’s vegan members. Considering that many students have difficulty finding more than a bare bones selection of vegan foods at most grocery stores, the Schaus said that they will have a much broader array of such products available.