Fox & Obel has closed its doors...
Just saw it on the news. It's a damn shame even if I couldn't afford anything there. Even if I once had quite a spectacular face plant in the cafe area when I slipped on their tiled floor. I didn't know I could do the splits before that.
It's been a long time coming, I guess.
It has been a long, sad swan song for Fox & Obel. When it opened its' doors in, about, 2001 it was an exciting place to shop. When they opened they were the only game in town for upscale quality food stuffs. Their only real competitor was Treasure Island which by then had become so tarnished by owner infighting and lack of quality control that I, at least resorted to the litany of buying meat at Gepperth's or Paulina Market, fish at the few remaining Burhops or the semi-whole sale markets in the now rich restaurant row centered at Randolph or, later That Fish Guy. Fox & Obel had it all. A dizzying array of great seafood and meats sold by butchers and fish mongers who knew their stuff. You could ask for real Dover Sole and they had it in stock that day. Anything could be ordered within a day or two of receipt. Langoustines for eight no problem! Want loup de mer for bouillabaisse with a variety of shell fish "happy to oblige". A bakery to die for with the very best baquettes in town, "whole or Demi s'il vous plait? No time to make shortcakes for strawberries and whipped cream "try our brioche with cream cheese center". "That should work especially if you make a simple sugar and soak the berries in that". The deli was amazing. four or five different imported Italian prosciutti, later, when legal, an equal amount of Iberico hams. At least five different smoked salmons. And the produce section was just wonderful. No dessicated morels in the flower of spring like you might find at Treasure Island where the price was the same or sometimes higher. No germy garlic, so many varieties of tomatoes both vine ripened, heirloom and otherwise, etc. etc...
Going there was a treat for the senses. The prices were quite high but so was the quality and the inestimable value of the workers who obviously knew and cared about what they were selling... I remember that even the checkout staff actually cared and would see a piece of fruit or vegetable that didn't quite pass muster and call for the produce guy to replace it and discard the inferior piece. Who knows maybe they sold them to Stanley's where the watch words were " use it today or don't buy it here".
The downfall began when the parking lot then located very conveniently across the street closed because a new building was about to be constructed. The store wintered this disaster but only just. People still went but they initially went to the store knowing that parking was gloriously easy and available and free. A painful dilemma for such a great establishment. So they tried this and that. Free parking with validation at a horrifically designed parking structure down the street where the new movie complex was located. Many of those who loved the store discovered quality groceries like the Whole Foods then on Sheffield that had dedicated not to disappear parking. We still went to Fox & Obel for their pastry, or meats or specialty items like rendered duck fat and duck legs when cassoulet season came around but... At F & B someone reasonably savvy said we are losing our base and they started Valet Parking in front of the store. Except for the gratuity it was essentially free and most shoppers in the area appreciated the convenience as opposed to the tortuous route through that maze like garage. Somewhere along the way the founders wisely decided to sell this parking cannibalised concern. When I heard that they sold out I thought "not a moment too soon".
The corporation that took them over came in at inauspicious time in the whole parking fiasco and opted to turn the place to one focused on ready to eat/heat at home goods for the well heeled and to expand the dining in option. Neither of these offered much better than "meh" results in the long run. The Valet parking was gone. The good staff left. Knowledgable staff became a "not necessary" on the new hires checklist along with pride and care for quality. Etc. etc. etc....
The last time I went there, maybe 8 months ago, the shelves were half stocked and everything practically screamed "Dirge Time".
A place like this as it began could happily exist without parking in many major metropolitan areas but it cannot prevail when you start with easy parking as a given and then steal it away. The steady erosion of quality and the influx of viable options made this a no win for the new management unless they had a clear vision to combat what made so many earliest fans run away.