As he prepares for the grand opening of his latest store in Des Plaines, Paul Butera Sr., 75, said that while a decade ago he was planning to retire, today he just wants to keep on working.
"I'm in it for good," Butera said Saturday.
The Butera Fruit Market's soft opening was Jan. 19 to give staff time to get everything operating smoothly before the ribbon cutting at 8 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 7, Butera said.
The family-owned, Elgin-based company operates 13 Chicago-area stores and 104 Piggly Wiggly markets in Wisconsin. It has been in Des Plaines since 1983, operating two stores in other locations before opening the newest location at the northeast corner of Oakton and Lee streets, said Butera.
Butera acknowledges that the grocery business has become more competitive since he began in the business 61 years ago, with new operators such as Mariano's and Fresh Thyme coming into the market.
Rather than rest on his laurels, Butera has been one of the ones upping the ante, paying $32 million in 2016 to buy the real estate assets of Joe Caputo & Sons, which became overextended with its own expansion plans.
He's opened new stores in Palatine, Algonquin and now Des Plaines, where he took over space in the Oaks Shopping Center from Caputo. Butera said he spent $3 million remodeling the location.
The new Des Plaines store was busy Saturday morning and Butera said he's been pleased by the public response.
"It's really doing well," he said. "I know what people want."
The 63,000-square-foot store has aisles of produce, a bakery, a delicatessen, a meat shop and a liquor department, among other features.
As for his retirement plans, Butera said he set those aside as he realized he didn't play golf or travel.
"That's my hobby," he said of the grocery business.