Free samples add that special element to any grocery shopping experience: if a smiling employee offers up a toothpick-speared cube of cheese, the chore suddenly becomes a bit more fun. So imagine the fun that the Portage community had when they gathered at the brand new Strack & Van Til store on April 11th. Not only were there free samples throughout the entire store—they were celebrating the opening of the store itself.
Residing off of Central Avenue, in the space formerly occupied by Town & Country Market, the converted Strack & Van Til location consists of entirely fresh contents. Everything from the shelves to the produce to the aprons that Strack & Van Til employees wear is new and improved.
“After a few months of renovations and completely redoing the inside of the store, we have our newest Strack & Van Til to the family,” said Jeff Strack, owner and CEO of Strack & Van Til. “We’re excited about all of the changes we’ve put into this store.”
Strack went on to detail the ways in which this new location stands out, and how it will impact the people of Portage.
“We’ve put much more emphasis on customer service, on our perishables department, and more importantly, on meal solutions for our customers—how we can help them decide what choices to make and to feed them throughout their days,” Strack said. “We have a whole section of different solutions throughout each of the perishable departments to help make [our customers’] lives easier.”
Strack stood alongside the store director and Nancy Simpson, Executive Director of Portage Chamber of Commerce, in cutting the ceremonial ribbon, ushering in another era of happy customers and employees.
</>Kim Mrak, a Portage Chamber of Commerce member, was thrilled with the event’s turnout.
“This is huge for the Portage community,” Mrak said. “This store has always been here, but Stracks really stepped it up with this remodel. It’s attracting more people into the store. Lots of people are talking about it, right now—lots of people are here today. We’re very excited!”
Emery Kostelnic, another Portage Chamber of Commerce member, seconded Mrak’s enthusiasm.
“This [Strack & Van Til store] represents a new beginning,” said Kostelnic. “People are making their way out here more, and more people will stay within the community. And that’s what we want at the Portage Chamber of Commerce—we want people to stay in the community and we want to continue to do business with new people.”
Alongside representatives of the city and the store were dozens of vendors representing various products and brands Strack & Van Til distributes. Brand representatives themselves were passing out samples to customers and attendees.
“Lots of sampling going on today,” Mrak quipped, gesturing to the shoppers, vendors, and city officials connecting over cheesecake bites.
Kim Cox, a representative from Dutch Farms, knew almost everyone in the crowded store.
“Today, ninety to one hundred percent of our products are represented in this store,” Cox said. “Stracks is one of our best accounts, because we’re all really like family here.”
The amount of mingling, networking, and munching taking place made for an excellent afternoon of shopping.
“I love seeing the people that really make our company tick,” Strack said, glancing at all of the different conversations taking place around him. “The associates in the store and how excited they get to see good things happen…To see the positive nature in everybody and to see things going well within our organization since August has been very rewarding.”
Strack added, “I also love seeing the customers. I love finding ways to help them. We want to provide everyone a great shopping experience, and we challenge our team every day to think of different ways we can achieve that for our customers.”
Judging by today’s event, everyone behind the Portage Strack & Van Til is off to a great start.
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