LOGAN SQUARE — A zero-waste grocery store with bulk goods and other home products is setting up shop in Logan Square, with a mission of making sustainable groceries more convenient and accessible to Chicagoans.
After a little more than a year of hosting pop-ups across the city, Christine Sorich is taking her business, tinyshop, to the next level and going brick-and-mortar. Sorich has taken over the former Gina Cleaners at 2659 W. Armitage Ave., and she aims to open tinyshop there within the next few months.
The store will carry organic pantry staples like nuts, seeds, honey, coffee and tea, as well as home and hygiene products, packaged in reusable jars and containers. Patrons will be able to place their orders online in advance or stop in for groceries. Jars can either be reused or returned for $2. The store will be open to people with SNAP benefits.
Sorich, 35, is stocking as many locally made products as possible — including Englewood-based Kusanya Cafe coffee beans and flour from Janie’s Mill in central Illinois — to support local makers and reduce the time and distance it takes for food to reach its destination.
“I think that placing value on the objects and the things that we buy is so important,” she said. “The impact they have on the Earth is much larger than perhaps everyone thinks when they just grab and go.”
The shop will also serve sustainably packaged meals through partnerships with budding local chefs. For the opening, Sorich is teaming with Japanese cloud kitchen Kororin on onigiri — Japanese rice balls with fillings — served in reusable bento boxes, rather than single-use plastic containers. The partnership may continue long-term, Sorich said.
Tinyshop took off during the pandemic. For years, Sorich worked in the film industry as an art director, but she found herself without a job when the pandemic hit. Without much hesitation, she switched gears and launched a zero-waste grocery business.
Sorich was inspired by her time spent living in Europe, where people had shown a greater commitment to sustainability, and a two-day food design and food systems workshop she attended at the Illinois Institute of Technology a few years prior, she said.
The idea for tinyshop “kind of just organically came out of me,” she said. “These are the things I care about, this is where my drive lies.”
The business started as an online venture, with Sorich hosting regular pickup events across the city and renting a space in Fulton Market for packaging. But about two months ago, Sorich found the perfect Logan Square storefront to grow her business.
Now, she’s securing city permits and renovating the former cleaners to have a minimal feel. Rather than pulling products off the shelves, patrons will mark down the product numbers — possibly on an app — and Sorich will grab the jarred items from the back.
“It’s focused on contact-free — no labor for the customer. The product is ready to go,” Sorich said.
Zero-waste shops and initiatives are becoming more common in Chicago. A zero-waste general store called Eco & the Flamingo opened in Lincoln Square last year. The Unwaste Shop, a “zero-plastic” store carrying natural beauty products and household items, popped up in West Town this year.
Beyond selling groceries, Sorich wants to partner with coffee shops on reusable coffee cups and use the store as a sanitation hub to keep the program going.
“We would supply the coffee shops with reusable cups, and if they don’t have a way to sanitize [them] on location, they’d bring them back to us,” she said.
Sorich also plans to serve coffee and tea once she secures the proper city license.
For now, though, Sorich is focused on building out the store and figuring out ways to sell organic products in the most sustainable way. For example, she’s talking to the team behind local tofu supplier Phoenix Bean Tofu about transporting tofu to the store in refillable food-safe containers and then selling it in reusable containers.
“I’m so invested in this, and I’m so excited to bring this to Chicago. It fuels me every day,” she said.
Follow tinyshop on Instagram for opening updates.
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