GARFIELD PARK — A grocery store in West Garfield Park will get major renovations as its owners pledge to do better by the community.
Michael Nance and Joe Canfield, who own grocery company Yellow Banana, told West Side neighbors at a Tuesday night community meeting that they plan to renovate the Save A Lot at 420 S. Pulaski Road.
The store — under different ownership at the time — was closed by the city in February 2022 because it was infested with rats. It was the only grocery store in West Garfield Park at the time.
Yellow Banana took over the store’s business license later that month, records show, and it’s since reopened — though neighbors have complained about its quality. Now, Nance and Canfield are planning a slew of improvements.
“We want to make sure this area does not become a food desert,” Ald. Jason Ervin (28th) said during the meeting. “The city is going to make a significant investment trying to keep grocery stores in Garfield Park. The people should hold them accountable with the level of service and quality of goods in the store.”
Yellow Banana has received $13.5 million in city funding to improve six Save a Lots on the South and West sides, and the West Garfield Park location is getting more than $2 million in renovations, they said.
The Pulaski store will get new refrigeration units, on-site security, specialty carts for older people and customers with disabilities, new security cameras, new flooring, signs, decor and a rebuild of the building’s front facade, Canfield said. It will also offer better produce, he said.
“We don’t run from our problems; we run towards it to fix them,” Canfield said. “We are working hard on getting it right.”
Renovations are slated to begin next week, and they’ll close the store for three weeks for work, Canfield said. The rebuild should be done in 10 weeks, he said.
Nance, a Cleveland resident who moved to Chicago in 2021, said the Save A Lots Yellow Banana has taken over need drastic makeovers. Their goal is to provide customers with a totally new experience and not force residents to shop in a dilapidated building, he said.
“Where you grow up shouldn’t affect your access to high-quality food,” Nance said. “I am personally aware of health disparities as a result of a lack of good food access. They are not abstract stats for us, they are real people and change the course of people’s lives.”
Residents at Tuesday’s meeting were largely receptive to Yellow Banana’s plans — a contrast to how the company has been greeted in Englewood, where neighbors have protested the opening of a Yellow Banana-operated Save A Lot. South Side neighbors have said the stores aren’t clean and sell expired food.
Forty Acres Fresh Market founder Liz Abunaw attended the meeting to see the owners’ level of expertise and how they respond to the community. She said she walked away impressed with their plans to improve the brand’s reputation.
“There’s nothing that Joe said that made it seem like he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. He understands exactly what to do,” Abunaw said.
Resident and real estate investor Dominique Wilson said he came to the meeting to hear about what can be done at the shop after he saw cracked floors and poor-quality produce there.
“Too often, communities on the South and West side do not have quality food,” Wilson said. “Action is important.”
Several neighbors asked if community members will be hired to help with the renovations. Canfield said he cannot guarantee all the workers will be from the community due to city contracts, but there are jobs at the store available to residents.
Canfield said he wants to prioritize Garfield Park residents and people with criminal records once Save A Lot’s back open.
After the meeting, Ervin said the city is working to acquire the former Aldi’s at 3835 W. Madison St. and hopes to complete the process by this summer. He said there will be community meetings on the future of the property by July.
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