HYDE PARK — When Chris and Baily Klein moved to Hyde Park in 2010, they loved walking over to the Swann Avenue Market.
The corner convenience store was stocked with the usual: batteries, cigars, snack foods, beer and so on. But the Kleins knew it could be something even better.
“We thought it could be a really cool place,” said Chris Klein, 26. “It was kind of being under utilized.”
So in February, when the market’s owner approached the couple about buying the store, they jumped at the opportunity. On Valentine’s Day, the deal was finalized.
They have spent the past seven months trying to mold the store into something “more reflective of the neighborhood.”
“We wanted to make it more than a basic convenience store,” Chris Klein said.
The couple increased the store’s hours and re-opened the deli counter, which sells Boar’s Head sandwiches, Buddy Brew Coffee and fresh bread and pastries from Le Mouton Noir Bakehouse in Channelside.
They expanded the store’s beer selection and are shifting the focus to American craft brews, Chris Klein said. The market also has more than 400 fine wines for sale.
“Whatever you want is here,” said Dennis Diaz, the market’s wine distributor from Southern Wine and Spirits.
About 250 people came to a wine tasting at the market last week, Chris Klein said. They try to hold such events on Friday nights, twice a month or so.
The store delivers not only food, but beer and wine as well, Chris Klein said. A garden behind the market soon will yield fresh vegetables and produce that will be available for purchase.
“We really want to make it a nice neighborhood asset,” said Chris Klein, a former mortgage broker who now works full time at Swann Avenue Market. Baily Klein, 26, is a first-grade teacher at nearby Gorrie Elementary School.
“This is a really unique place,” she said.
They are learning as they go, Chris Klein said about the business. They increased their staff — Baily Klein’s father is among the employees — and have received lots of helpful advice and ideas, he said.
After nearby Wilson Middle School lets out for the day, the store is packed with middle school students who buy snacks and sandwiches. The neighborhood has been friendly and welcoming, Chris Klein said, and it is important to him that the store continues to be a good neighbor as it grows.
“We want to make this another gem in the Hyde Park area,” Chris Klein said.