Foxtrot founder Mike LaVitola eyes brand revival

Working on deals with landlords to reopen stores in Chicago, Texas, sources say

Mike LaVitola with 167 North Green Street (LinkedIn, 167 Green, Getty)
Mike LaVitola with 167 North Green Street (LinkedIn, 167 Green, Getty)

Foxtrot is poking its head back out of the den.

The high-end grocery and convenience store chain is aiming to reopen multiple locations in Chicago and Texas after suddenly closing 33 shops in those markets as well as Washington, D.C. on April 23.

Multiple Chicago landlords are considering deals with the new ownership group of Foxtrot, which several people familiar with the matter have said involves the brand’s founder Mike LaVitola. Some other Chicago property owners have already refused to work with the company to reopen some stores, opting instead to try to snag new tenants to come into their spaces.

A landlord of Foxtrot’s former Southport Corridor location, at 3334 North Southport Avenue, is among those moving on from the retail chain despite receiving an inquiry about reopening made by the former tenant, according to a person familiar with the property.

Among others potentially following suit is Daryl Carter’s Avanath, a major multifamily investor that bought an apartment complex with a ground-floor former Foxtrot retail space for $119 million last year.

“Avanath is currently exploring multiple options for the former Foxtrot space at 2801 North Broadway,” said Carter, who noted that the property includes a 256-unit apartment complex with ground floor retail. “This is one of the most desirable retail locations in Chicago’s Lincoln Park and has generated significant tenant interest.”

The new owners of Foxtrot are said to be trying to keep the Avanath-owned location, as well as its stores on the Gold Coast, in Fulton Market, at West Hubbard and North Wells streets, and in Old Town, Uptown and at the Willis Tower, according to the sources. But it’s unclear if the chain has agreed to new deals with the landlords of all of those properties.

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It has struck at least one Chicago deal to reopen, though it has yet to perform on the new lease’s requirements such as paying back rent that became delinquent in recent weeks, according to another person familiar with the matter. Foxtrot has a couple weeks to make good on its promises, the person said.

LaVitola, who founded Foxtrot in 2013, is believed to be working with New York-based Further Point Enterprises, which won an auction last week for the brand’s intellectual property, inventory and other assets, with a bid of $2.2 million. The auction was led by JPMorgan Chase over a Microsoft Teams meeting, and was criticized by at least one attendee, Marc Nathan, who told trade publication C-Store Dive that the financial institution entertained no other bids.

LaVitola declined to comment through a representative. Further Point didn’t return requests for comment.

The new Foxtrot ownership group is hotter for some Chicago locations than others, as it’s renegotiated at least one lease at higher rents than previously while pursuing others with less zeal, according to the sources. It isn’t planning to reopen any Washington, D.C. stores, sources said.

The Foxtrot closures also impacted two Dom’s Kitchen & Market stores in Chicago. It’s unclear what will become of those locations. The two brands merged less than a year ago under the company name Outfox Hospitality. At least two Chicago landlords, including a venture of the Podmajersky real estate family, have filed eviction lawsuits against Foxtrot or Outfox ventures since the closures, including for its Pilsen location that the Podmajerskys own, Cook County court records show.

The brand’s former workers have also filed lawsuits against the retail company, seeking class-action status in Illinois courts for being laid off without warning as mandated by the state.

Foxtrot has been marketing its 25,000-square-foot office space at 167 North Green Street in Fulton Market for sublease in recent months. It’s unknown how its office space lease will be handled under the new ownership.