UPTOWN — A grocery store that started in suburban Plainfield has expanded into Uptown, bringing its health-conscious offerings to a prominent storefront.
Peter Rubi opened Sept. 2 at 804 W. Montrose Ave., taking over a retail space in the 811 Uptown building that was to house a Treasure Island grocery store before the chain went out of business in 2018.
On top of selling produce and grocery store staples, Peter Rubi also makes healthy versions of baked goods and ready-to-eat items. There are plant-based bakery items, homemade vegan chocolate, and no-dairy and no-preservative soups. They don’t sell booze but do stock alcohol-free versions of some drinks.
“That’s what Peter Rubi is all about, making healthy food available to everyone,” said John Graves, who owns the stores with his wife, Maria. “We want to become a source of healthy products, that people can trust us. Every vendor gets checked out, and every vendor has a story.”
Peter Rubi was founded by Brandon Graves, John and Maria’s son. The store’s name comes from an Italian immigrant couple who sold produce in Chicago in the early 1900s.
The husband and wife, who were already investors in the business, took over the store in 2017, after John’s battle against cancer showed him the benefits of eating fresh, unprocessed foods.
In 2013, Graves was diagnosed with pleomorphic high grade undifferentiated sarcoma, a rare form of cancer. Though he was given just eight months to live, Graves beat the cancer through a combination of medical treatment and healthy eating, he said.
So when the couple took over their son’s store, they transitioned it into a health-forward business, Graves said.
“Our main mission is to change lives,” Graves said. “Part of the [cancer] regimen was [working on] mind, body, spirit. If you eat healthy, you’ll feel better. Then you can work on mind and spirit.”
Graves said he has been approached many times by landlords and local officials about opening a second Peter Rubi. The couple decided they wanted “something different” for the second store, including a “beautiful building” in a prominent location, he said. Another stipulation was financial help with the store build-out.
A real estate agent suggested the 811 Uptown building, of which the Graves family was quite familiar. That’s because one of their daughters lives around the corner from the building at Montrose and Clarendon avenues while their other daughter lives in Lakeview.
“We’ve been coming to the area for two years and we just really loved it,” Graves said. “We like to say it was a miracle.”
The 15,000 square-foot store takes over a portion of the commercial space on the ground floor of 811 Uptown, an apartment building completed in 2018.
The retail space remained vacant until Peter Rubi moved in. About half of the building’s retail space remains vacant with the addition of Peter Rubi.
Peter Rubi has access to two floors of the building’s parking lot totaling 74 spaces.
The building’s owners, JDL Development and Harlem Irving Companies, helped finance the store’s build-out, Graves said.
The Graveses announced their Uptown store in late 2020.
This summer, the Graveses put the Plainfield store up for sale, saying in a Facebook post “To sell healthy groceries is not working. In Plainfield, it seems like they all just want cheap strawberries and deals. That’s not our mission,” according to Patch.
Graves said he received offers for the store but they were too low. After hearing from the Plainfield community, Graves later said that the store would remain.
Graves said he is betting the healthy grocery store concept works better in Uptown, and that so far the reception has been good.
“Uptown has been very welcoming to us,” he said. “We’re blessed because we’re the newbies on the block. We’re excited to be here.”
Peter Rubi is open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.
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