ENGLEWOOD — Jahari Fultz knows how difficult it is for some Englewood residents to find a nearby grocery store with healthy, fresh options. If families don’t have cars, it’s nearly impossible, making grocery shopping a burden, he said.
That could soon change with the Go Green Community Fresh Market, a nearly $5 million grocery store set to open March 8 at 1207 W. 63rd St.
The two-floor market will offer fresh foods, ready-to-eat meals and essential groceries. City Council approved plans to transform a nearby lot into a parking lot and green space for the market in July. It is part of the Go Green on Racine initiative, a multi-million-dollar collaboration among community organizations to revitalize the 63rd Street corridor.
Organizers broke ground on the market nearly two years ago and said it is critical progress toward food access and equity for Englewood residents, building upon the Inner-city Muslim Action Network Food and Wellness Center, which opened across the street last summer.
“I’m from this community, and I understand the work that needs to be done within these communities,” said Fultz, one of the market’s storekeepers. “I have family that lives right there down the street, and they have to travel. But now, instead of having to take public transportation, you can just walk up the street and get what you need. It’s a great opportunity for the community.”
The fresh market also is a step toward making the area a destination again, leaders said.
“Over the last few years, food is not something you’d think about when you thought about 63rd and Racine,” said Sana Syed, senior director of strategic initiatives at IMAN. “But now, with the Food and Wellness Center across the street and this market coming up, you can associate this intersection with food.”
The Go Green On Racine team — IMAN, Teamwork Englewood, Resident Association of Greater Englewood and E.G. Woode — long have envisioned a holistic overhaul of the area connecting Englewood and West Englewood. They want that overhaul to include new housing, amenities and businesses and improved public transit.
Go Green on Racine was a finalist for the Chicago Prize, a $10 million grant supported by the Pritzker Traubert Foundation in 2020. After losing out to the healthy lifestyle hub in Auburn Gresham, organizers said they would keep pushing to bring the market and other parts of their plan to fruition — including a long-term goal of reopening the 63rd and Racine Green Line stop.
“We are in this business because we want our neighborhood to thrive,” said Alia Bilal, IMAN’s deputy executive director. “We want our community to thrive. We want our community to have access to the things that it should, and ultimately be able to foster health, wellness and healing in the community.”
The fresh market will stock baking goods, condiments, meats and pantry stables, general manager Darren Jeters said. The staff also hopes to work with local vendors and entrepreneurs to carry their products, but community members’ health will always be at the forefront, Jeters said.
“We want to be focused on a lot of healthy or organic alternatives so that people can have the choice to make health-conscious decisions,” Jeters said. “The Black community has been on the lower end of receiving adequate support in the health as wealth category. I think this fresh market will be one step in the right direction in helping us close that gap of the health disparities between Black and Brown communities and our counterparts up north.”
Residents who typically shop at South Side corner stores might be used to wilting produce, unfair treatment and paying for their groceries “between bulletproof glass or bars,” Bilal said.
The Community Fresh Market isn’t that, Bilal said.
“We thought how we take the best of the typical corner store and come up with something that is going to be a dignified shopping experience that we deserve and is reflective of what you may find in a more affluent neighborhood on the North Side,” Bilal said. “But, at the same time, it will still reflect our values and our culture.”
Bilal said that in brainstorming ideas for the market, it became clear the space needed to be more than a hub for fresh food — it needed to foster community.
The market will accept federal payment from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistant Program. Storekeepers and staff will be well versed in the food they sell. Most employees, like Fultz, hope to learn customers’ names for a personable experience.
Some employees will come from the neighborhood, Bilal said.
“It’s not just a store, it’s a community space,” Bilal said. “We’re being really intentional about the community building that will happen here. There have been community residents that have been a part of this every step of the way. A huge part of how we run things is making sure that our community knows that we’re here for them and that they’re here for us.”
Organizers are hustling to put the final touches on the store before welcoming their first customers, Syed said. It’s thrilling to think about how the store could redefine how people think of their community, Syed said.
And maybe other businesses will finally understand what IMAN and fellow organizers have known all along, Syed said: Englewood is a healthy hub for businesses to thrive.
“We all know that retail begets more retail,” Syed said. “When you have a retail establishment, it only invites more retail establishments. So our goal is also to see this corridor develop economically because business is important. We need business in the community.”
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