ENGLEWOOD — Jahari Fultz knows how difficult it is for some Englewood residents to find a nearby grocery store with healthy, fresh options. If families don’t have cars, it’s next to impossible, making grocery shopping a burden, he said.
That may soon change with the Go Green Community Fresh Market, a nearly $5 million grocery store opening March 8 at 1207 W. 63rd St.
The two-story market will offer fresh food, ready-made meals and essential groceries. The city council approved plans to turn a nearby lot into a parking lot and green space for the market in July. It is part of the Go Green on Racine initiative, a multi-million dollar collaboration between community organizations to revitalize the 63rd Street corridor.
Organizers paved the way for the market nearly two years ago and said it was a critical step towards food access and equity for residents of Englewood, in s building on the Downtown Muslim Action Network Food and Wellness Center, which opened across the street last summer.
“I come from this community and I understand the work that needs to be done within these communities,” said Fultz, one of the market traders. “I have family that lives just down the street, and they have to travel. But now, instead of having to take public transport, you can just walk down the street and get what you need. This is a great opportunity for the community. »
The fresh market is also a step towards making the region a destination again, executives said.
“For the past few years, food hasn’t been something you think of when you think of 63rd and Racine,” said Sana Syed, senior director of strategic initiatives at IMAN. “But now, with the Food and Wellness Center across the street and this market coming up, you can associate this intersection with food.”
The Go Green On Racine team – IMAN, Teamwork Englewood, Resident Association of Greater Englewood and EG Woode – have long considered a comprehensive overhaul of the area linking Englewood and West Englewood. They want this revamp to include new housing, amenities and businesses, and improved public transit.
Go Green on Racine was a finalist for the Chicago Prize, a $10 million grant backed by the Pritzker Traubert Foundation in 2020. After losing to Auburn’s Gresham Healthy Living Center, organizers said they would continue to push to bring the market and other parts of their plan to fruition – including a long-term goal to reopen 63rd and the Racine Green Line stop.
“We are in this sector because we want our neighborhood to prosper,” said Alia Bilal, deputy executive director of IMAN. “We want our community to thrive. We want our community to have access to the things it should, and to be able to support health, wellness and healing in the community.
The fresh market will stock baked goods, condiments, meats and pantries, said general manager Darren Jeters. Staff also hope to work with local vendors and entrepreneurs to sell their wares, but the health of community members will always be top of mind, Jeters said.
“We want to focus on lots of healthy or organic alternatives so people can have choices to make health-conscious decisions,” Jeters said. “The black community has been at the bottom of the scale to receive adequate support in the category of health as wealth. I believe this new market will be a step in the right direction to help us bridge this gap in health disparities between black and brown communities and our northern counterparts.
Residents who typically shop at South Side convenience stores might be used to withered produce, unfair treatment and paying for their groceries “between bulletproof glass or bars,” Bilal said.
The Community Fresh Market is not that, said Bilal.
“We thought about how we take the best of the typical corner store and come up with something that’s going to be the worthy shopping experience we deserve and that reflects what you can find in a more affluent North Side neighborhood,” Bilal mentioned. “But, at the same time, it will always reflect our values and our culture.”
Bilal said that while brainstorming ideas for the market, it became clear that the space needed to be more than a hub for fresh food – it needed to foster community.
Marketplace will accept the Federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program payment. Shopkeepers and staff will be familiar with the foods they sell. Most employees, like Fultz, hope to learn customer names for a personalized experience.
Some employees will come from the neighborhood, Bilal said.
“It’s not just a store, it’s a community space,” Bilal said. “We are really intentional about the community development that will happen here. There were community residents who participated in every step of the process. A big part of how we run things is making sure our community knows we’re there for them and they’re there for us.
Organizers are scrambling to put the finishing touches on the store before welcoming their first customers, Syed said. It’s exciting to think about how the store could redefine the way people think about their community, Syed said.
And maybe other businesses will finally understand what IMAN and its fellow organizers have always known, Syed said: Englewood is a healthy hub for businesses to thrive.
“We all know that retail begets more retail,” Syed said. “When you have a retail establishment, it only invites more retail establishments. So our goal is also to see this corridor develop economically because business is important. We need business in the community.
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