WhatsGood Farm Shop celebrated its grand opening Tuesday at 1712 N. Halsted St. Credit: Jake Wittich/Block Club Chicago

LINCOLN PARK — A Rhode Island-based online delivery service that connects local farmers with their customers opened its first brick-and-mortar shop in Lincoln Park this week.

The WhatsGood Farm Shop, 1712 N. Halsted St., had its grand opening Tuesday. It’s the first of what will be about two dozen Farm Shops planned across Chicago over the net few years, CEO Matthew Tortora said.

WhatsGood, which has operated in Chicago since 2018, grew exponentially during the pandemic, going from about 2,000 to 30,000 customers. It started off serving just a few Chicago farmer’s markets, including Lincoln Park’s Green City Market, to working with 27 different markets by June 2020, Tortora said.

It proved a critical lifeline for many local farms during the pandemic, like Alejandra Finn, who owns Michigan-based Finn’s Ranch with her husband. With farmer’s markets shut down during part of the pandemic, WhatsGood offered a platform for farmers like the Finns to continue selling their products to customers.

“Without them, our farm would have never survived the pandemic, and thanks to them we’ve been growing exponentially and can bring our products to Chicago, which has embraced us in an amazing way,” Finn said.

Matthew Tortora, CEO of WhatsGood. Credit: Jake Wittich/Block Club Chicago

The Lincoln Park store will serve as a local distribution hub and retailer for local farmers’ products.

The small-footprint grocery store offers an array of locally curated products like eggs, grass-fed or pastured meats and other proteins, as well as locally cultivated mushrooms, handmade pasta and various sauces and condiments.

“We’re bridging that gap between farmers and consumers to make things super convenient so they can keep producing more food and go back to their farms to continue doing the things they’re meant to do,” Tortora said. “And then consumers have a more convenient way to support their local farmers.”

The new storefront doubles as a center where farmers can drop off products for employees to prep and pack orders for WhatsGood’s larger home delivery service, Tortora said. That has also allowed farmers to increase their sales compared to when they were selling only at farmer’s markets, Tortora said.

“So they’d be earning anywhere from two to three times the revenue they would get from spending all day at a market, and all they had to do was drop their products off to us and go home,” Tortora said.

“Now with a brick-and-mortar store, we can reach more customers and keep the local food movement growing in Chicago,” Finn said.

The WhatsGood Farm Shop is open 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday through Saturday. It’s closed on Sundays.

Jake Wittich is a Report for America corps member covering Lakeview, Lincoln Park and LGBTQ communities across the city for Block Club Chicago.

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