In 1927, The Southland Ice Company’s icehouses were one of the few refuges from the searing Dallas heat and marauding bands of tumbleweeds. That same year, the company’s employees realized the frigid temperatures could also preserve items such as milk and eggs. Soon, as more items and services such as gasoline were gradually added to the operation, the company expanded to stores called Totem’s. To account for the boom in popularity, the stores were kept open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., and to reflect these new hours, the store name was changed to 7-Eleven.
Today, 7-Eleven has nearly 50,000 locations in 16 countries. The stores are now open 24/7 and sell everything from iconic Slurpee and Big Gulp drinks to coffee, hot dogs, baked goods, and signature 7-Select products. The store’s involvement in the community matches its commitment to convenience, with generous charity donations and a pledge to the safe sale of age-restricted products.
So established is Circle K Midwest that even brand-new vehicles recognize what its red-and-white logo stands for—fuel, snacks, and everything else a car might need to keep powering down the road with its driver. Circle K's story starts back in 1951, when Fred Hervey bought three Kay's Food Stores in El Paso, Texas. Under his guidance, these three little shops grew into the more than 3,000 convenience stores that crouch on our nation's street corners today.
After rolling up to a Circle K, drivers can pump their faithful roadsters full of high-octane fuel and send them skipping through a car wash to experience the cleansing touch of Blue Coral Beyond Green and Rain-X products. Then it's time to step inside the air-conditioned shop for a peek at the provisions. Rows of sodas hibernate behind glass doors, and snacks, candy, and their ATM guardians stand boldly out in the open. Some Circle Ks also offer the Take Away Fresh Café, which presents an appetizing lineup of healthy road fare including sandwiches, fruit cups, and fresh-cut vegetables. Drivers can gear up for a long drive with premium coffees or enjoy a cold Polar Pop, whose specially formulated cup keeps drinks colder thanks to the family of tiny snowmen trapped in its foam walls.
Less than two percent. That's how much of the nation's beef gets the coveted title of USDA Prime. Most of that goes straight to fancy restaurants, but the team at Chicago Prime Meats is looking to change that, much to the chagrin of white-tablecloth vendors everywhere. Here, butchers cut and sell more than 100 varieties of gourmet meats: filet mignon, Black Angus Certified Choice, and everything in between. They can also wrap up fresh Atlantic or Scottish salmon, Alaskan halibut, and other seafood. The butchers happily chat with customers to help them find the perfect item, though easy online ordering means patrons need not travel to the store.
Once their butcher shop proved successful, the team at Chicago Prime Meats looked for a way to show off the full range of their culinary skills. They found the answer in catering. Their chefs cook entrees such as chicken florentine, sides such as fresh garlic bread, and desserts such as cannoli.
Before they were moms with six children between them, Simply Homemade owners Cindy and Stephanie were food-industry professionals, studying nutrition and food-product development. Now, they've combined both experiences to create a company that supplies healthy, handcrafted meals to busy families. Working off of a monthly menu of 22 entrees, the duo whips up mouthwatering pastas, burgers, and kebabs chock-full of whole grains, hand-trimmed chicken, and natural beef from Heartland Meats. Then, they either preassemble meals for customers to pick up or set up ingredients for customers to assemble themselves onsite. The latter option, which takes about two hours, makes it easier for customers to tailor dinners to a child's love of mushrooms or a dog's disdain for cilantro.
Zeppe's Italian Market is modeled after the diverse, gourmet-focused markets found in Italy. Dedicated to bestowing customers with the freshest ingredients they can find, Zeppe's staff painstakingly prepare handmade take and bake meals, cannoli, and slice deli meats and cheeses at the moment they're ordered to keep them as flavorful as possible. The market also sells five homemade sauces that star a bevy of flavors, including the portobello mushrooms and bell peppers of the garden sauce and the creamy tomato notes and strident requests for a martini olive radiating from the vodka sauce. Zeppe's team of culinary masters also features freshly baked goods from Palermo Bakery and specialty grocery items imported from across the pond.
Adi Mor opened the first Garden Fresh Market in 1980, selling fresh produce from a 1,000-square-foot lot in Skokie, which he would stock by taking 2 a.m. trips to Chicago's South Water market. Today, Garden Fresh Market sprawls over six suburban locations, where fresh produce from apples to zucchinis is still procured daily.
Grocery items range from fresh meat from Midwest famers to a wide selection of ethnic foods and national brands. The deli slices meats and cheeses both domestic and imported, and house-made seasonal salads and main courses make bringing dinner home easier than stealing it from a neighbor's windowsill. Many of the market's online recipes have even made it onto NBC5, giving its cooks their share of 15 minutes of fame.