NORTH LAWNDALE — A West Side entrepreneur plans to open a supermarket in early 2022 that will become North Lawndale’s only full-service grocery store that is Black-owned.
The grocery store, North Lawndale Fresh Meat & Produce Market, is being developed by Al Person at 628 S. Pulaski Road. Person will also launch a cafe and ice cream shop, Sugar Rush, next to the supermarket.
The two businesses are expected to launch before spring. Person said the goal for both shops is to provide basic goods and services that more affluent neighborhoods typically have but Lawndale has lacked.
“We don’t have fresh food. We don’t have a Black-owned coffee shop,” Person said. “These are the things that our community is supposed to have, also. We shouldn’t have to go to another neighborhood to sit down and have a nice cup of coffee. Our community deserves those same benefits.”
The supermarket will have a full butcher as well as a produce section with a wide range of fresh fruits and vegetables, Person said. The grocery store will “offer our people of the community better quality food with better prices,” he said.
Person’s goal is to source at least 85 percent of the food stocked at North Lawndale Fresh Meat & Produce Market from Black farmers and Black-owned suppliers. He is working with the Black Farmers Association to partner with farms that can bring in high-quality, affordable food.
Many small, Black farmers and distributers have trouble selling at major grocery chains, Person said, so it is vital for local businesses “to be an outlet for them to distribute their products.”
In addition to the produce on the store’s shelves, Person is making plans for the warmer months to host “a farmers market where people can buy fruits and vegetables … at a cheaper rate because it will come directly from the farmer.”
Like much of the West Side, North Lawndale is considered by many to be a food desert, an area where residents must travel miles to buy to fresh food. Lawndale has only one grocery store, a Freshway Market at 3240 W. Roosevelt Road.
The importance of local grocery stores and Black-owned businesses became increasingly evident during the 2020 protests after Minneapolis police killed George Floyd. At that time, it was extremely difficult for many residents to get basic necessities like food, Person said.
In surrounding neighborhoods Austin and West Garfield Park, supermarket chains like Save A Lot and Aldi have closed suddenly within the past year, worsening the food scarcity for West Siders. The best way to ensure the community has necessities like food is for locals to own the businesses that provide those goods and services, Person said.
“In this particular time, Black people especially, we need our own stores. We need to be able to feed ourselves,” Person said.
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