LINCOLN SQUARE — A family that closed its Albany Park restaurant last year due to the pandemic recently opened a grocery store in the former site of Chui’s Food Store in Lincoln Square.
Salsa’s Family Market, 4852 N. Damen Ave., opened Monday. Owners Laura and Jorge Rosales plan a grand opening on Cinco de Mayo.
The timing of the market is fitting, Laura Rosales said. The couple met 20 years ago as teenagers attending Foreman High School in Portage Park and working part-time at Armitage Produce in Logan Square. They run their family market with their teenage son.
“I came to Chicago when I was 14 years old and my parents had nothing. While my parents were working I also decided I had to work to help them out which is how I got that first grocery job,” Laura Rosales said. “Now, nearly 20 years later, my husband and I have our own business and we want to offer that opportunity to other people.”
The couple previously ran Salsa’s Grill, 3808 W. Lawrence Ave., and were known for their popozole and tamales. But as the neighborhood became more expensive and the pandemic made it complicated to run a dine-in restaurant, the couple decided it was time to consider leaving the restaurant industry.
Then someone offered to buy the restaurant last year. The couple jumped at the opportunity because they’d already been thinking of opening a grocery store, Laura Rosales said.
When shopping for properties last year, they learned the longtime owner of Chui’s Food Store had died. The couple resolved to buy the space to continue the location’s tradition of a local market with their own family.
The couple closed in February 2021, and renovations took most of the year because of supply chain complications and delays in city permitting. Ongoing issues mean not all the shelves at the new market are full, but Rosales said this is an opportunity for her to ask neighbors on what kinds of products they’d like her to keep in stock.
“We want to be the convenience store people can easily walk to and while we don’t just want to carry Hispanic products customers will also be able to come by learn about Latin and Mexican culture with some of the products we do have,” she said.
As the couple gathers feedback from customers, they’ll also be rolling out a butcher’s department, as well as salad and juice bars. They also plan to have Laura Rosales’ famous pozole in stock on weekends.
“And since we had a restaurant before I know a few people out there, like local bakers who don’t have the ability to open a full bakery yet, so we’re partnering with them to offer their products here,” she said. “We want to be that place to give them that step up as they’re trying to build out their business.”
The couple also will start looking for more staff. Laura Rosales said they want to offer local high schoolers the opportunity for a part-time job within walking distance of their home and school — just as she and her husband did 20 years ago.
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