A few weeks ago our friends over at Grub Street posted this article about artizone and how our initial group of vendors “respects Chicago’s old-fashioned heritage producers.”
Of all the press coverage artizone was fortunate to get in our first few weeks, there was something about this line that grabbed me. For the 6 people who read my initial blog, these next few sentences will be repetitive. For everyone else, my family has been in the produce business in Chicago for close to 100 years now. From the produce market that was actually on South Water Street, to the original South Water Market, to what is now the Chicago International Produce Market I’m just the latest in a 4 generation line of Greeks in my family to make his way in food.
It got me thinking. Gepperth’s Market- 1905. Italian Superior Bakery- 1933. Hagen’s Fish Market- 1946. The Spice House- 1957. Great American Cheese Collection- 1986.
Now, I would agree that Great American Cheese Collection is a bit of a stretch, but for some reading this 1986 counts as “old school”!Let’s make a little time line of Chicago History in each store’s founding year:
1905- Gepperth’s Meat Market opens. And the International Workers of the World was formed. The Wobblies, people. At least 2 of you remember that from American History 101. The everyman’s union. Some serious Pete Seeger stuff, and the founding of a store that still sits and thrives at 1964 N. Halsted.
1933- Italian Superior Bakery opens. Mayor Anton Cermak dies, the unintended victim of an assassination attempt on FDR… or a plot laid out by Al Capone- who bristled at Cermak’s attempt to rid Chicago of organized crime? Either way, now you know who the street was named after. Oh, and the first MLB All-Star Game was held at Comiskey… for those that call 1986 “old school”, that’s where the Sox played before the Cell.
1946- Hagen’s Fish Market opens. Papa Bear George S. Halas and Sid Luckman lead the Bears to their 4th NFL title of the decade. Bear down. The T-formation, my friends.
1957- The Spice House opens. According to my exhaustive research, nothing of note happened in Chicago in 1957 outside of The Spice House opening. Though in 1958, the last Chicago street car was retired. Did The Spice House’s opening spell the demise of old timey transportation down Chicago’s many boulevards? (Cue ominous piano music!)
1986- Great American Cheese Collection opens. Bears!
All kidding aside, these 5 vendors have seen it all. Recessions, Depressions, diets, fads, low-carb, no-carb, The Other White Meat, Atkins, South Beach, you name it. And they’re all still here making or selling great food in Chicago.
That’s really something.