Notebook: Canning’s son opens grocery store

By Becky Yerak
Posted Aug. 31, 2010 at 11:50 a.m.

In 2006, Madison Dearborn Partners LLC Chairman John Canning told the Tribune that he’d love to see his son, then a chef in Boston, return to Chicago to start his own business.

The private equity executive has gotten his wish.

Tim Canning, 34, has opened Lemon Tree Grocer about 100 yards from the Metra stop in Downers Grove. The high-end market has more than 40 full- and part-time workers, including a butcher that can work his way through a whole cattle and explain cuts of beef. It’s the first business that the younger Canning has started.

“I decided to move back home to my family,” he said.

Canning and his partner, Shaun Black, own most of the business, which cost more than $1 million to launch. Local chain Michael’s Fresh Market has a small stake, as does an investor group. Canning’s stepmother, Rita, is among the backers.

His dad isn’t, but he did put Tim in touch with Chicago restaurateur Richard Melman of Lettuce Entertain You.

Melman “was a great adviser to us,” Canning said. They were able to observe the Lettuce test kitchen and were also urged by Melman to not be afraid to delay opening until they had things right.

Nicholas Alexos, a Madison Dearborn managing director, also provided “extreme critical analysis on the whole project,” said Canning, who has a bachelor’s in culinary arts from Kendall College. Canning is the creative mind behind the Lemon Tree’s kitchen and runs day to day operations of the store.

Alexos “wants us to have a budget and to have all the numbers on a monthly basis to all the investors so we’re really honest about how we’re doing,” he said.

Lemon Tree’s menu includes such items as grilled turkey meatloaf, sushi and made-to-order salads, sandwiches and wraps.

On the schedule: Banking and real estate practitioners from Loan Workout Advisers LLC, MDI Investments, Jameson Real Estate, Rick Levin & Associates, Holliday Fenoglio Fowler and the Community Bankers Association of Illinois will participate in a free luncheon on Wednesday, Sept. 8, at the Union League Club for bank managers and owners. The discussion will include such topics as raising capital and reducing levels of bad loans. Register at

Meanwhile, Fifth Third Bank and Catholic Charities are offering free financial literacy training and public benefits screening. The programs will be held 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays in September. For information call 312-704-5955.

Rarefied air: Northern Trust Corp. topped Fortune magazine’s “Most Admired Companies” list in the category of superregional banks, edging out U.S. Bancorp and Bank of New York Mellon. The Chicago-based financial services firm previously placed third.

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One comment:

  1. Bill Bolton Sep. 13, 2010 at 1:01 pm

    Went to Lemon Tree this weekend.

    Mulch smells terrible when approaching the front door.
    Wonder why the outer set of doors are automatic, but the inner doors aren’t?

    I have experience with highend grocery operations. There are too many employees. End of analysis.

    Ok, a little more…the cheese counter floating in the middle and the different service areas around the perimeter means that a more limited number of employees won’t be able to cover all the stations (easily) during slow and/or busy times. This design was vetted by “experts”?