ST. CHARLES – The 91-year-old Blue Goose Market is fighting for survival.
Blue Goose Market President and CEO Paul Lencioni sounded that warning during a news conference Wednesday in front of the store, which has been in the Lencioni family for 91 years. The store, which first opened in 1928, celebrated its 90th anniversary last year.
"No, I'm not talking about putting chains on the doors tomorrow," Lencioni said. "This summer, we have seen a level of sales that is not sustainable."
He has conveyed that message to the store's employees as well, while remaining optimistic.
"I've been telling our employees, 'We're in danger, but we're still in the fight,' '' Lencioni said. "We're here to fight."
In 1928, Annunciata “Nancy” Lencioni – his great-grandmother – opened the Blue Goose Fruit Market in what had been Gartner’s Bakery, 201 W Main St. The store moved to its current location at 300 S 2nd St. in downtown St. Charles in 2008.
Despite the store's dire financial conditions, Lencioni said the store has no plans to lay off any of its employees. The store has 111 full-time and part-time employees.
"We are committed to serving the best way we know how," he said. "On the labor side, we have to be here to take care of people. We are at the size that it takes to get everything done."
Lencioni said the store's mission remains "being here for customers."
"If you love the Blue Goose, let everyone you meet know what you love about Blue Goose," Lencioni said. "People new to St. Charles have never heard of Blue Goose. And if you just moved to St. Charles, come by and check us out. I'm excited personally, as well as all of us here, to welcome you to St. Charles and show you how great we are and how much we care."
The store continues to expand its offerings. For example, it recently added a wine bar. Lencioni said the wine bar is already helping to create more of a sense of community at the store.
"It's given me the opportunity to have great conversations with people that I didn't know before this," he said. "In a community like this, you have to have things that generate community, you have to great experiences, you have to be able to show people what's special about you do. We want to show them cool experiences and we'll go the extra mile. It's one way we can show we're not standard."
Blue Goose also plans to soon add grocery delivery. He said the service could start in the next month, if not sooner.
He noted that Blue Goose is mistakenly labeled as a "specialty store."
"We have 48 cent bananas every single day," Lencioni said. "It's a line that we use all the time because people are like, you're a great specialty store. We're a great everyday store that does special things. We sell great food. We don't cut corners. We don't sell things that I wouldn't want to feed to my family. We don't cut corners."
Jill Card, owner of Jeans and a Cute Top Shop, which is located on First Street near Blue Goose, attended the press conference to support Lencioni as a fellow small business owner.
"Paul and I, we live very similar lives," Card said. "We don't clock out, we are thinking about our businesses, our customers and our families all at the same time."
She called Blue Goose "the heart and soul of St. Charles."
"To lose Blue Goose, I can't even imagine," Card said. "I can't even imagine looking over here and seeing an empty parking lot or an empty building. This is the heart beat of St. Charles, I really believe that. We are lucky to have that treasure here."