AUBURN GRESHAM — A South Side grocery store unexpectedly shut down earlier this month, removing a critical, low-cost option for fresh food in the neighborhood.
Aldi, 7627 S. Ashland Ave., permanently closed June 12. Neighbors said they weren’t informed about the closure until they visited the store, which was boarded up and had a “closed” banner along the side. The sign tells neighbors to visit the nearest Aldi at 620 W. 63rd St., a recently renovated location in Englewood about 3 miles northeast.
A spokesperson with Aldi said Monday company leaders made the “difficult decision” to close the store partly because of crime and poor sales.
“Our decision was based on several factors, including repeated burglaries and declining sales,” a spokesperson said in a statement. “Out of concern for our employees and customers, keeping this store open was no longer a sustainable option. All of our employees have been given the option to continue working at one of our other ALDI locations in the immediate area.”
Besides the Englewood location, the closest Aldi stores to Auburn Gresham are at 8500 S. Holland Ave. in Chatham and 2541 W. 95th St. in Evergreen Park.
Tim Thomas, an Auburn Gresham resident, said Aldi leaving the community is “another casualty of the failed leadership of the 17th Ward.” Thomas said Aldi’s departure joins a long list of closed stores in the neighborhood, including a Save A Lot grocery store, a CVS, and a BJ’s Market & Bakery.
Thomas said neighbors haven’t heard from Ald. David Moore (17th), whose ward includes the Aldi’s, or representatives from the store about the store closing. Moore could not immediately be reached for comment.
The shut down also highlights concerns many neighbors have shared as the city-backed Auburn Gardens project, a $39.9 million affordable housing development, moves forward on 79th Street.
Neighbors like Thomas have resisted adding more housing to the area before officials bring necessities, like a grocery store or pharmacy, to the community. But city leaders have argued new housing in Auburn Gresham will be a boon for the community, providing a customer base that will attract the kinds of businesses neighbors want to see. Other experts have said new housing has not historically spurred new retail in underserved, predominately Black neighborhoods like Auburn Gresham.
Thomas said Aldi’s departure speaks to neighbors’ points. Businesses are and have been leaving the community. Neighbors who have stuck with the community are getting tired, he said.
“We need to have an administration that is proactively working with businesses and developments in the area,” Thomas said. “The city needs to be able to communicate and have a plan and a vision for this community, and that vision needs to extend beyond the low-hanging fruit of putting up dense housing, which is not the answer.”
A Walmart Neighborhood Market and Food 4 Less are the closest grocery stores for neighbors. A Pete’s Produce Loom, 1411 W. 87th. St., is near Brainerd.
“Long-term residents are worn out,” Thomas said. “It’s one hit after another, and leadership has been totally tone-deaf.”
This isn’t the first time Aldi has abruptly closed a location in an underserved Chicago neighborhood.
Aldi also closed its 3835 W. Madison St. location in October 2021. Like in Auburn Gresham, West Garfield Park residents said they had little notice the store was closing before employees started removing the store sign and clearing shelves.
West Side organizers successfully pushed a back-up plan to allow city leaders to buy the store building to ensure it can be revived as a grocery store, and have arranged a neighborhood pop-up grocery store to support residents until there is a permanent replacement for Aldi.
The Aldi closing comes about two months after Whole Foods announced it would shut down its Englewood Square location at 832 W. 63rd St., six years after pledging to bring more healthy food options to the neighborhood.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot blamed the store’s high prices for its failure, and she and developers behind Englewood Square have vowed to replace it. No closing date has been announced.
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