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It’s the last day at the Englewood Whole Foods

The Whole Foods, which opened in Englewood six years ago to live music, TV-ready politicians and lines out the door, will close Sunday without much fanfare.

He was once a deli a point of optimism and pride in the South Side neighborhood, one of the most economically depressed areas of Chicago. But by Saturday, Whole Foods’ hot bar had cooled. The freezer aisle was empty except for a few fancy pints of avocado “frozen dessert” and low calorie ice cream.

Items still left in the store were marked down by 60 percent. Some shoppers took advantage of the deep discounts, pushing carts that looked more like mountains piled high with leftovers. Others mourned the store’s closing.

Barbara Harris, who follows a vegan diet, goes to Whole Foods almost every day for nuts and fresh fruit, she said. However, most of her regular items were sold out by the time she got there. She wished she had gone sooner.

“This is a good place for us. And now that he’s leaving, I’m just disappointed,” said the 61-year-old man.

Going forward, Harris will have to shop at the Hyde Park store, which she says is more expensive and further afield. The people who worked at the grocery store she made her own were always kind, she added.

“It seems like every time we get something good in our neighborhood, something happens to take it away,” Harris said.

The city spent $10.7 million to subsidize the construction of the mall that houses the store. When Whole Foods announced the closing of 832 W. 63rd St. in April, local activists said they felt betrayed, adding that the closure would limit access to fresh and healthy food in the neighborhood.

At the time, the company closed five other stores nationwide “to position Whole Foods Market for long-term success,” including one near DePaul. It also opened a nearly 66,000-square-foot facility in the Middle North area that same week.

There are a few grocery stores left in the neighborhood. The few grocery stores that remain include space for budget grocer Aldi next door and a smaller “Go Green Community Fresh Market,” hosted by the nonprofit Inner-City Muslim Action Network. Another nearby Aldi in Auburn Gresham closed suddenly in June.

It is not yet clear what will replace Whole Foods. A sales agreement with the city calls for a full-service grocery store to operate in the Englewood Square development by the end of 2027.

The agreement calls for the new store to open within 18 months of Whole Foods’ departure. Therefore, the deadline for opening a new grocery store is May 2024.

Chanda Daniels, who was shopping at the store Saturday night, is vegan, as is Harris, Chanda Daniels is also vegan. Whole Foods sold items that contributed to her diet. She has a car so she can get to other places, “but a lot of people don’t,” the 52-year-old said.

“This is one store that sells healthy food in a poor black neighborhood,” she said. “They had to find a way to get him to stay.”

Daniels moved west to Justice, but the former Englewood resident still occasionally shops for elderly family members in the neighborhood and still remembers when the store first opened.

“I was happy because I didn’t have to walk far,” she said, adding that it will probably be harder for seniors who live nearby to get quality products now. “We really need places like this in areas like this.”

Sehema Williams also remembered the opening of the store. She opened an organic juice production, so it was convenient to have fresh products nearby.

She was born and raised in the neighborhood but has since moved to Oak Lawn. Nevertheless, she went in to collect two liters of water, small pea soup and bread. Inside, the store she once admired felt sad, the 29-year-old said.

“If you want to eat healthy food, you might have to travel. It was definitely a great thing that we had,” Williams said.

Her grandmother lives nearby but doesn’t travel much, so she will get things for her. Her grandmother liked the juice, Williams added.

Derek Bassett, 70, recalled former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel pushing to open a store in the community. He wasn’t surprised to see it up close, he said, walking with his brown paper bags to the car.

“If you don’t have the fabric of the community, certain things, it’s not going to work,” the Englewood resident said, adding that he didn’t think the area had enough economic stability to support a typically expensive grocer.

Teresa Mack didn’t buy all of her groceries at the store because the prices were high, but she stopped by often to learn more.

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“I got brownies. The butcher and I were working on getting me enough short ribs that I could eat for a while for dinner,” said Mack, who bought a soda and juice at the store Saturday night.

The store was close to home on the border of Englewood and Auburn-Gresham, she said. Now she will have to drive further to get quality products, she said.

– I can’t get in the car and run here, – said Mack.

She buys some small items, like bananas, at Aldi two blocks down the street, but the grocer’s lower price doesn’t fill the hole left by the departure of the higher-quality Whole Foods.

“From what I understand, they got subsidies to come here in the first place, and that’s very important. I feel like they should have stayed here… They could have kept it open,” Mack said. “It’s a choice they made.”


Twitter: @jakesheridan_


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