Two local grocery stores in progress on West Side | Chicago News

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After decades of divestment, two new grocery stores are being built on Chicago’s West Side, something residents have long been waiting for as other grocery chains have closed.

Four years ago, Liz Abunaw started hosting pop-up markets in Austin, a community area on the West Side with few fresh food options. The shop, Forty Acres Fresh Market, also delivers fresh produce throughout the Chicago area. But the dream was to open a physical store.

When the former Salvation Army building at 5713 W. Chicago Ave. was put on the market, Abunaw approached Western coast Health authoritya local organization she worked with, on developing the building with her.

“I said, ‘It needs some work, but there’s parking. It is a corner property. It’s quite close to Oak Park so it will be in an area [where] we will have a diversified clientele. I think it might be the Forty Acres Fresh Market site. Do you want to develop it with me? »

Tracy Smith has been with Forty Acres since the beginning.

“It’s very exciting,” Smith said. “I’ve never been a part of anything like this…I’ve seen Liz do everything from early events to finding a location where they wanted the store…Every time we go there to buy something, someone one asks when it’s going to open.

With a similar vision in mind, Albert Person is working to make fresh food more accessible in nearby North Lawndale at 628 South Pulaski Road.

“I saw the first effects of the disadvantages of the West Side compared to other communities,” Person said. “Growing up, I always had the aspiration to do more… It was always a struggle.

He plans to source most of his food and produce from black farmers and black-owned businesses, including Kankakee farmers. Person says her store will be the first black-owned and operated market offering a full line of fresh groceries and meat in the North Lawndale area.

Albert Person meets a farming family to pick up fresh produce in Kankakee, IL. (Courtesy of Albert Person)

“Here I am now, able to fulfill my dream of helping my people,” Person said. “I call it the ‘Healing the Neighborhood Through Healthy Eating’ initiative.”

Abunaw and Person say residents are excited about what’s to come and store owners support each other.

“I’m so excited for Lawndale, they need another grocery store. Al cares about this community. He’s very intentional about what he tries to create,” Abunaw said.

Princess Shaw, a third-generation resident of Lawndale, says she knows firsthand the need for better access to food in the area.

“There are at least 6-7 blocks east of us, 6-7 blocks west of us, north and south. There are no real grocery stores,” Shaw said.

Shaw does community outreach for the market to ensure residents know they can access food and produce. She relies on her existing relationships with residents to do this.

“I know Mrs. Johnson is staying there, and she’s probably around 80… We want to try and get a system in place for the elderly…doing this weekly check-in like, ‘Hey, Mrs. Johnson, have you had enough? bread? Do you have enough mayonnaise? Shaw said.

Community relations and trust are essential in the plans of Person and Abunaw. It’s something West Side community leaders say is essential to opening a business that can sustain itself for the long term.

“I think it’s essential – if you see this type of local operation – that the community supports it. Because at the end of the day, that’s what’s going to keep it going,” said Ayesha Jaco, executive director of West Side Unitedan organization that fights inequality on the West Side.

Abunaw hopes to restore trust with residents who have experienced decades of disinvestment — and she sees the grocery store as much more than just a place to access food.

“It’s a place where people can meet and be together and be human beings, and I think that’s so important for a community. When a community doesn’t have social infrastructure and people don’t have a place to go, you see it’s harder to maintain that cohesion within a neighborhood,” Abunaw said.

Abunaw also plans to bring a similar experience to grocery stores like Whole Foods, Trader Joes, or Mariano’s in Austin — from the music on the speakers to the smell of the hot bar and friendly employees.

“I feel like a lot of times in Austin it’s seen as a transactional relationship…is there a grocery store where they can get their groceries? But how are you feeling?” Abouna said.

North Lawndale Meat and Fresh Produce Market should open this spring. And Forty Acres hopes to start construction this year.


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