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The creative mind behind the convenience store you didn’t know you needed

Mike LaVitola’s Foxtrot is a creative, modern updating of the neighborhood convenience store.

The creative mind behind the convenience store you didn’t know you needed
[Illustration: Agata Nowicka]

This story is part of Fast Company’s Most Creative People in Business 2022. Explore the full list of innovators who broke through this year—and had an impact on the world around us.

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Picture a convenience store. Now, instead of a dingy chain with harsh fluorescent lighting, imagine an inviting space with suspended greenery, sleek road bikes hung on the walls, a minimalist coffee menu, and black stools near polished-wood tables. It’s the type of place where you’d meet a Hinge date, sip a decaf CBD latte after a long day, or develop a taste for non-alcoholic botanical spirits. Its shelves feature an edited array of high-quality products with a local connection or a social-impact component, from Balkan Bites phyllo pies to Atelier Saucier burlap napkin sets. This is what Mike LaVitola has created with Foxtrot Market.

“It all started with just imagining, if we’re going to open a convenience store, what’s the one that I want to live next to?” says LaVitola, who started to develop Foxtrot while in business school at the University of Chicago. Inspired by the “high-low mix” of the legendary Parisian fashion warehouse Colette and Japanese markets where “the food is great, and they aren’t viewed as a place of last resort,” LaVitola opened his first Foxtrot store in 2015 in Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood. He expanded to Dallas in 2019 and Washington, D.C. last year, and he now oversees 21 stores across the three markets. In January, LaVitola raised $100 million to further grow the “millennial wonderland,” as one reviewer called it—with Austin, Houston, Miami, and Nashville next on his list.

In contrast to a 7 to 11 and its approximately 2,500 products for sale, a Foxtrot carries 1,200 items, each the result of intense debate and testing, and many created by a BIPOC founder. “Stores are like an incubation center for the future of food,” LaVitola says. (A bundle of his own favorite products, which Foxtrot sells in a $50 bundle, recently featured Bahlsen cookies, Graza olive oils, Goodles macaroni, and authentic Kolsvart Swedish fish gummies.) Customers can order ahead via the Foxtrot app or opt for 30-minute delivery; most visit one way or another approximately six times a month.

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LaVitola’s commitment to making “every store a reflection of its neighborhood” means that they all look almost totally different; he sources everything locally, from the furniture to the plasterwork to the baked goods. “Who’s brewing the best craft beer, who’s roasting the best coffee, who’s doing amazing things in donuts?” LaVitola asks. “All of the great makers within a city should be at Foxtrot.”

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