The Sun Sets on The Grand
A long-time customer of The Grand Food Center in Winnetka and Glencoe worried about the stores’ future when she learned the company had been sold to Sunset Foods.
“Don’t let them change a thing,” she said to a veteran employee of The Grand, her concern evident in the worried expression on her face. As it turns out, she needn’t have worried.
The Grand has been part of Sunset Foods since December 15, 2021, and minus the introduction of some of Sunset’s private label products, there haven’t been a lot of changes. Even the name and signage have remained the same.
John Cortesi, an Italian immigrant, opened the first Sunset Foods on the site now occupied by the Highland Park Post Office. Eighty-five years later, the company is still owned by the Cortesi family.
Ron Bernardi,79, one of John Cortesi’s nephews, started bagging groceries at the Highland Park store when he was in high school. His experience with community outreach began when he joined the staff at the Northbrook store more than fifty years ago.
“Locally owned businesses like Sunset and The Grand typically take an active role in their community,” he observes. “I was 23 when I started working at the Northbrook store, and one of my first assignments was to join both the Northbrook Rotary and the local Chamber of Commerce. But joining was just the first step. From the beginning, I was expected to take an active role in both organizations, which I still do.”
With more and more of our day to day interactions done either online or in big box stores, Bernardi says the emphasis Sunset-and The Grand- put on personal relationships is increasingly important.
“Because employee turnover in both companies is extremely low, customers have an opportunity to interact with the staff,” he continues. “If they want advice on cooking a particular kind of fish, for example, they’re comfortable asking the person in charge for advice. Every department in every store in both companies works the same way. It’s a successful marriage; there’s no reason to change the line-up.”
Sunset Foods stores are located in Northbrook, Highland Park, Lake Forest, Libertyville, and Long Grove. The Grand Food Company stores are located in Winnetka and Glencoe.