Once on the verge of closing, Dunning’s Market continues legacy as one-stop diner and catering hub
Maureen Mader was ready to close the six-decade old Homewood-based business over a year ago, but when she stumbled upon an empty storefront in Flossmoor, she was reinspired. “I love it all over again,” she said.
Maureen Mader was ready to close shop.
“I started losing the passion for the business,” Mader said, describing how she was losing steam while running Dunning’s Market in Homewood several years ago.
“I couldn’t continue without that love in my heart for what I do....I was set to close, I was going to retire, I made the announcement to my closest customers. I had my swan song set up.”
But one day, on her way to work, Mader decided to forgo her usual route and cut through downtown Flossmoor. On the drive, she noticed an empty storefront that had last housed a bakery.
When she got to Dunning’s Market later that morning, the storefront’s owner was in the shop, telling her he was hoping she’d move the now 61-year-old business into the empty space.
Mader said she’d think about it. But when she stepped foot inside the vacant business, she felt a spark.
“I love it all over again,” Mader, said with tears in her eyes.
Later this month, Mader will be celebrating Dunning’s Market’s one-year anniversary at the new location, at 1050 Sterling Ave. in Flossmoor.
“We try to be all things for all people even though you’re not supposed to,” Mader said, adding that all items on the menu,including stocks, soups, dressings and salads, are homemade. “We do it in the best way that works out for us. We’re kind of, like, everything.”
“Everything” includes being open for coffee, pastries and breakfast in the mornings. Hot breakfast items include corned beef hash, sausage or vegetable skillets, French toast or avocado toast.
Lunch includes a variety of hot and cold sandwiches, soups and salads. A full deli counter allows for meats and cheeses to be sliced for take away. Signature sandwiches include an Italian sub, ultimate Reuben or turkey supreme. There also are seafood options: fish tacos, a salmon sandwich and shrimp po’boy.
The best seller “Jerk Chicken Burger” is a fresh chicken patty seasoned with Jamaican jerk spices, topped with raspberry chipotle sauce, served on a pretzel bun.
The “Chicken Italian Sausage” features housemade Italian chicken sausage, sautéed peppers, onions and mozzarella on fresh baked Italian bread.
An ever-changing deli case showcases prepped salads with tuna, kale, fruit, broccoli, lemon orzo, smoked salmon and bow tie pasta.
Prepared to order salads include the salmon salad — Scottish salmon fillet on a bed of mixed greens, apples, cranberries, red onion and strawberries with apple dijon dressing.
Dunning’s chicken salad has developed a cult following — on average, 200 pounds are sold weekly. The chicken is cooked, hand shredded and mixed with Hellmann’s Mayonnaise, dried cranberries, finely diced celery and red onion. And then there’s one additional secret ingredient that Mader won’t divulge.
Because the shop started as a butcher shop (but no longer does in-house butchering), Mader takes meat and seafood orders to be delivered to the store. She also carries a finely curated roster of dry and canned pantry goods from imported pastas to local seasoning mixes.
One of the more inventive offerings is her “Supper Club”— a subscription-based, takeaway meal service kit for two to four people.
“Nobody wants to go home and peel potatoes. If you’re going to make it easy it needs to be easy. If you don’t want to cook at all, we’ll make it all for you,” said Mader.
The “Supper Club” menu changes based on seasonal ingredients and feature mains with sides and accoutrements. A sampling of entrees: stuffed chicken or pork tenderloin with prosciutto, provolone and spinach; chicken enchiladas with homemade mole sauce, and cod Veracruz style.
At her small business that prides itself in accommodating shoppers, Mader will go out of her way to oblige dietary requests, special order an item or make a recipe from a customer’s childhood or memories.
A customer who grew up in Memphis requested jerk barbecue spaghetti, starting a trend that now is requested by many shoppers.
The success of the eatery is remarkable when you realize that Mader, a registered nurse, didn’t have a background in food when she purchased the business in April 1997 from owners Jack and Fran Dunning.
Mader was looking for a brand of linguine her late mother used to cook when she came into the shop. She eventually became friends with the Dunnings and they encouraged her to take over the business they opened in 1958. Jack Dunning died the evening after the paperwork was signed.
“It seems kind of crazy but it was really serendipitous, some might say it was divine intervention,” Mader said.
Mader still keeps mementos from the Dunnings to decorate her store — the most noticeable a massive mounted pair of longhorn steer horns.
One of 11 children in an Italian and Irish family, Mader said food was the centerpiece in the household with her mother and grandmother the hub of the spokes. She still feels their presence in her shop.
Dunning’s Market is located at 1050 Sterling Ave. in Flossmoor. Call (708) 799-5151 or visitwww.dunningmarket.com. Closed Sundays.