Foxtrot Will Rise Again — Sort of: Here’s What You Need to Know

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It’s official: the co-founder of Foxtrot on Wednesday, June 5 announced plans to reopen select stores in Chicago, Dallas, and Austin, Texas, this summer. Rumors have swirled for weeks that Mike LaVitola was plotting a comeback. Some former Foxtrot workers, the same employees who weren’t given any warning when parent company Outfox Hospitality suddenly ceased operations on April 23, have been asked by managers about their interest in coming back.

When Foxtrot’s assets went up for auction on May 10, speculation mounted that the $2.2 million winning bid was from a firm connected with LaVitola. Observers who attended the online auction pointed out that only one party, Further Point Enterprises, made a bid. Little is known about Further Point. Since the auction, the firm’s website has since gone private. But before that, it had already listed Foxtrot as part of its portfolio. Likewise, an email account linked to the site didn’t respond to a message requesting a comment.

After weeks without comment, other than a statement posted to social media and Foxtrot’s website, a news release sent Wednesday morning confirmed the speculation: “Reopened stores will maintain the same layout and merchandising, focusing on small and local makers.” LaVitola tells Crain’s that the venture is a totally new company, as they’ve secured the original intellectual property and new/renewed several leases.

But conspicuously absent from the statement was any mention of the Washington, D.C. area, where Foxtrot had seven stores scattered across the District proper, Virginia, and Maryland. There were 33 Foxtrot stores in Chicago and eight in Texas. A list of which stores would reopen wasn’t immediately available. Additionally, last month’s auction didn’t include the properties’ leases with inventory still on the shelves.

But this doesn’t mean there’s a cohesive plan for all of the former locations. A Foxtrot in Lincoln Park along Armitage Avenue, which shared space with Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, is a special case. Jeni’s has vacated, and there have been rumblings about angry former employees who may have taken a few souvenirs as parting gifts after losing their jobs.

LaVitola, a University of Chicago graduate, co-founded Foxtrot in 2014 with a focus on delivering snacks to customers via an app; the properties the company owned were more or less mini-warehouses. The company evolved toward a shoppy-shop corner-store model, carrying upscale goods from local vendors. It built a chic brand and drew the attention of customers who regularly spent money at trendy restaurants — Bang Bang Pie & Biscuits, Tortello, and Mindy’s Bakery were among the vendors who sold products at Foxtrot. Eventually, the brand opened locations in prestigious spaces like Fulton Market, Wrigley Field, and inside Willis Tower. Just before the closure, they inked a deal with La Colombe Coffee Roasters for its cafes.

The company combined with Dom’s Kitchen & Market in late 2023 and formed Outfox Hospitality. Previously the two companies weren’t direct competitors, but they shared space in the retail world. Dom’s, with locations in Lincoln Park and Old Town, positioned itself as a challenger to shops like Whole Foods, an upscale traditional grocery store with a modest food court and a cafe. No bids were placed on Dom’s assets during the May 10 auction. That leaves the two existing locations, plus a planned River North entry, in limbo. Dom’s, like Foxtrot, sought to continue extending reach and influence. Foxtrot pushed aggressive expansion, with LaVitola and company securing nearly $194 million in funding.

Though the new Foxtrot aims to supply customers with what seems to be largely the same coffees, ice creams, chips, and condiments from local vendors, it may take time to rebuild trust. Eater spoke with several former Foxtrot vendors; none of those interviewed were contacted by the company at the time of publication. They saw the reopening news through a post on Foxtrot’s Instagram shared Wednesday morning, which reads, “a new Foxtrot with some old friends. Coming soon.”

The account disabled comments on the post, likely to avoid becoming a soapbox for frustrated workers and vendors, as formerly employed workers had on previous social media announcements. Foxtrot remains the defendant in several lawsuits alleging the company violated the state WARN Act, which mandates companies to notify workers if they plan mass layoffs.

There are still unanswered questions about the future of the company’s product inventory and unpaid invoices. There are also ethical questions about Foxtrot, a company that offered no severance to workers and took away their jobs without warning. Some vendors worry that working with the new Foxtrot will damage their brands.

This post will be updated later Wednesday with more information.

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