Tradition of quality has steered store's success for over 90 years
ST. CHARLES – Choice food and service – and plenty of choices – have drawn shoppers to Blue Goose Market for the past 90 years.
Blue Goose CEO Paul Lencioni takes particular pride in one of those choices for customers – high-quality fresh produce requiring careful selection.
“You have to go and select by hand and sample – how do you buy good produce without tasting it?” Lencioni said.
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Paul Lencioni's grandfather, Vasco Lencioni, who ran the store for nearly 50 years, went to the huge produce market on Fulton Street in Chicago several times a week. There, in the wee hours of the morning, he inspected and chose fresh fruits and vegetables for Blue Goose.
The store has continued that practice to this day at the Chicago International Produce Market on the city's lower west side.
“Six days a week, we're down there at 2 a.m., cutting and eating, and we have it delivered by 9 a.m.,” Paul Lencioni said. “We're looking for the best produce at the best price.”
Aside from the produce, many people go to Blue Goose expressly for its quality meat including Karen Campisi, who lived in St. Charles for many years. Although she moved to Chicago, Campisi still goes back to the store whenever she is in the area, for the meat and for the service.
“It's very personable, and their meats are prime,” Campisi said. “The butchers are the old-school butchers that know what they're doing. There's more expertise in that butcher department than any I've seen.”
Campisi said the Blue Goose butchers will take time to tell customers how to cook a particular piece of meat.
“It's like like having a real small-town butcher store within a grocery store,” Campisi said.
Customers can find any kind of meat at Blue Goose, from duck to ground beef, which Paul Lencioni said is one of the store's best products.
“We cut so much steak here – it's that trim that goes into our ground beef,” Lencioni said. “But we keep it super affordable [less than $4 per pound].”
Just because Blue Goose is only one store rather than part of a supermarket chain, doesn't mean the food isn't affordable.
“The idea that one store can't get good pricing is not true, you just have to know what you're doing,” said Lencioni, who worked in accounting and retail development before becoming CEO of Blue Goose after his father, David Lencioni, retired in 2012.
A wine section that has grown over the years due to popularity has bottles with a wide range of prices. Paul Lencioni said the store makes sure even the least expensive ones are good.
Quality, affordable products are only part of why customers choose Blue Goose.
“It also has helped to have world-class people running the store,” Paul Lencioni said.
Blue Goose seeks those people and makes them part of the store's team, said Lencioni, who does a lot of staff team building. He holds team meetings regularly and promotes a customer-first mentality.
“We know our customers by name,” Deli Director Jeanne Tennis. “It's very homey.”
Paul Lencioni tells his staff, “What you do matters, and I'm counting on you.”“Paul's great at pushing the envelope,” said Tennis, who started as a deli slicer and within a few months became an inventory specialist. Soon afterward, Paul Lencioni promoted her to deli director.
Because of Paul Lencioni's faith in her, she “hit the ground running,” said Tennis, who has been the deli director for several years.
During that time, the deli has offered an increasing number of ready-to-eat homemade foods such as spiral stuffed pork roast, an array of fresh salads and a customer favorite – the guacamole. Customers can just buy a sandwich or order a full menu of fresh food for parties.
Blue Goose soon will offer online grocery ordering, in keeping with its commitment to meet community needs and expectations.
In 2017, Blue Goose was named Outstanding Independent Center Store by Progessive Grocer magazine.
Being progressive while maintaining an old-fashioned appeal always will be Blue Goose's focus, but most of all, it's about the food, Paul Lencioni said.
“We're in love with food – we dig it,” he said.
For more on the store's history, visit the Blue Goose web site at bluegoosemarket.com.
Story originally published online May 7, 2018.