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Whole Foods ‘bad partner’ after closing

Days after Whole Foods closed its once-vaunted Englewood store, Chicago Mayor Laurie Lightfoot called the grocer “a bad partner, period.”

“They did not cooperate. They did not come to the table. We know who they are,” Lightfoot said Wednesday.

The mayor made the comments ahead of the City Council’s unanimous vote to allocate $13.5 million in additional taxes to private developers to reopen the Save-A-Lot in Auburn Gresham and rehabilitate five other Save-A-Lots on the south and southwest sides. .

Lightfoot called the lack of grocery stores on the south and west sides a “historic mistake.”

“The problem of food deserts in our city is real, and unfortunately it has been going on for far too long,” she said.

She then praised the variety of grocers already operating in Chicago’s disinvested neighborhoods before addressing Whole Foods, which closed its store at 63rd and Halsted streets last weekend after opening with much fanfare under the previous mayor. Rama Emanuel. .

This summer, the city announced a $13.5 million Yellow Banana grant. The company, owned by Cleveland-based investment firm 127 Wall Holdings LLC, said it plans to use the funds to reopen the Auburn-Gresham location, which has been closed since 2020. It also plans to acquire and upgrade five other stores that Yellow Banana will operate from 2021, but not own.

Grocers have faced fierce criticism from residents and local elected officials for closing supermarkets on the South and West Sides.

The funding from the city of Yellow Banana comes after a series of grocery store closings across the South and West that have frustrated residents and local elected officials who say grocery companies are leaving residents without adequate access to healthy, affordable food.

A closed Save-A-Lot grocery store in Auburn-Gresham in 2020.

“We want to be the grocer of choice for communities and cities struggling with food insecurity,” Yellow Banana co-founder Michael Nance previously told the Tribune. The company operates nearly 40 stores under the Save-A-Lot banner in several cities, including Milwaukee and Cleveland. Save-A-Lot announced plans to sell off its corporate retail stores in 2020.

Chicago’s Yellow Banana projects were valued at $26 million; the company planned to close the gap with private funds. The city’s contribution will come from tax increment financing, or TIF funds, which funnel property taxes back into redevelopment to help revitalize blighted properties.

At a community meeting this summer, before the city’s grant was announced, Nance said Save-A-Lot had “tarnished” its reputation in Chicago, pointing out that the stores’ physical conditions and product offerings were not up to par.

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At a press conference Wednesday, Lightfoot was asked about talks about rebranding the stores, saying, “I’m aware of those proposals for a different name, and I think they’re being actively considered.”

Nance and Yellow Banana co-founder Ademola Adewale-Sadik previously told the Tribune that the company would invest in the stores by installing new LED lighting, heating, air conditioning and cooling systems and experimenting with new products. Sixty percent of Yellow Banana-owned stores’ produce will come from Save-A-Lot, but Nance said the company has changed its produce supplier to carry fresher fruits and vegetables and is open to organic or local produce. .

This summer, Nance said Yellow Banana hopes to reopen the Auburn Gresham store by the end of the year.

Whole foods Englewood Store It opened six years ago with $10.7 million in city funding. An announcement about the store’s replacement is still pending, although the sales agreement with the site’s developer calls for the new grocery store to open within 18 months of Whole Foods’ departure.

Aldi closed a store in Auburn-Gresham in June, prompting a South Side mayor to criticize the company and call for city hearings on food access and grocery store closures. Lightfoot criticized the company this summer, saying Aldi should be “ashamed”.

“Aldi, hear me loud and clear,” Lightfoot said. “Sit at the table, talk and work with us, or Chicago is going to be in serious trouble.”


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