What If The Corner Store Was A Gathering Place?

Chicago-based Foxtrot looks to expand their new convenience store concept with a nationwide roll-out.

While Amazon has opened a general store with no employees or checkout lines in Seattle and Silicone-Valley upstart Bodega claimed that vending machines would replace mom-and-pop convenience stores , Chicago-based Foxtrot has quietly developed a scalable corner store model that soon may appear in dense, walkable, commercial corridors throughout the U.S.

It’s called the ‘next-generation corner store’. And while that sounds lofty, it’s really just a hybrid storefront selling a curated assortment of local goods (craft beer, wine, spirits, food, gifts and everyday essentials), that also serves as a distribution center for an on-demand delivery service. Each store is beautifully designed with soft lighting, airy spaces, comfortable seating and good music piped in that creates a “coffee shop vibe.”

The company initially started as strictly an app-based service delivering groceries and alcohol for a nominal fee of $5. As services like Amazon Instacart and UberEats began to expand, Co-founders Mike DiViola, Brian Jaffee and Taylor Bloom realized that a service didn’t yet exist that offered a pared-down service that offered just the few items people used on an everyday-basis… and nobody was focusing on local goods. They opened their first location on Clybourn Avenue in Chicago’s Fulton Market neighborhood to serve as a delivery hub.

It turns out, that people with disposable income really gravitated towards an upscale but casual corner store where they could pick up a six-pack of local craft beer, Jenni’s ice cream, a bottle of bourbon and a toothbrush. If a trip to the store wasn’t convenient, those same items could be delivered to your door within 60 minutes. The result was a multi-use space that is both digitally native and rooted in a highly engaging retail experience. Sales at each of the company’s four stores are almost evenly split between delivery and walk-in foot traffic.

“Over the past few years we’ve been able to take the curated, on-demand Foxtrot experience and truly tailor it to our neighborhoods and customers here in Chicago, and are eager to do the same for communities across the country,” says Foxtrot co-founder and CEO Michael LaVitola. The stores have introduced the company to new customers. Existing customers have migrated into the stores to browse the curated selection of goods in person, ask for advice and enjoy a hot cup of coffee or scoop of ice cream in the process. And the company benefits from both sides of this physical/online transaction loop by capturing valuable data necessary to keep product mixes relevant to hyper-local neighborhood needs.

Partnerships with commercial and residential landlords, put Foxtrot stores in anchor retail locations. The Foxtrot team then prioritizes products and integrations that are local – a significant portion of Foxtrot’s inventory comes from local purveyors. Examples of these partnerships include:

· Bush Temple of Music: In a historic building that has recently been brought back to life in River North, created a space that combines a coffee shop and market, bringing this amenity to a refurbished residential building and the neighborhood.

· Jeni’s Ice Cream: In partnership with local ice cream favorite, Jeni’s, built a unique retail space at the Lincoln Park location that is a hybrid of a corner store and an ice cream shop.

· FEW Spirits & CH Distillery: Collaborations with local Chicago distillers provide unique and highly localized gifts, delivered on-demand through the Corporate Gifting Program.

Buoyed by a $6 million venture capital investment led by Fifth Wall, the company is now planning to open additional retail stores in Chicago later this year with a national expansion planned for early 2019. “We believe Foxtrot is paradigm of what the next generation of retail looks like. The retail shopping experience is becoming increasingly digital, but brick-and mortar retail is far from dead and is instead becoming critically important to omnichannel brands like Foxtrot – Mike and the team have combined a beautiful, elevated in-store experience with a seamless digital purchasing UX and the convenience of on-demand delivery,” said Brendan Wallace, Co-Founder and Managing Partner at Fifth Wall. “Fifth Wall is excited to partner with Foxtrot to bring the real estate expertise of our team and our partners to the Foxtrot team to scale the business in Chicago and beyond, expanding the reach of the unique experience they have created to neighborhoods and city centers across the country.”

Images courtesy of Foxtrot

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