ENGLEWOOD — A new grocer is expected to move into the Englewood Whole Foods Market when it closes this fall — and an announcement about who it could be is coming soon.
The Englewood store at 832 W. 63rd St. will close Nov. 13. Employees received a 60-day notice Tuesday and were told they could transfer to other Whole Foods locations in Chicago, a store supervisor said.
Whole Foods Market announced in April the Englewood and Lincoln Park stores were among six closing in the nation, but it did not specify the date when they would shut down. The chain operates 530 locations, a company spokesperson said at the time.
Leon Walker, the managing partner of DL3 Realty, which developed the $20 million Englewood Square project that houses the neighborhood’s Whole Foods, said he heard about the closure “pretty much with everyone else.”
But the decision didn’t come as a blow, Walker said.
Developers have “three good options” to replace the market, ranging from a regional operator to a franchisee to a national grocer, Walker said.
Whole Foods is “leading the discussion” with potential grocers, Walker said. DL3 Realty is the landlord of the building, but Whole Foods Market is a “tenant with the state” for the next eight to nine years.
Those discussions have been fruitful, Walker said. Developers will “have something to report in the next 30 days or so,” he said.
“We’re working with [Whole Foods], and we have discussions weekly,” Walker said. “There’s still a lot of optimism, and I think we have some deals that are being traded on paper and negotiated and finalized.”
The process will be similar to “moving out of your house and someone moving in,” Walker said. There will be new signs, fixtures, stocking and hiring. It takes time, Walker said.
But developers hope to have the grocer up and running early next year, Walker said.
“We’re committed to that happening as soon as possible, and we’re doing everything to support Whole Foods,” Walker said. “The city has been tremendous in making sure we get access to all the different retailers out there that could take on this challenge and opportunity. It’s been all-hands-on-deck.”
The next operator might have a “fresh market approach,” with baked goods, pizzas and fresh meat services, Walker said.
They will also focus on customer service and pricing to “meet the community’s needs and be successful,” Walker said.
“There’s a science to being a successful grocer,” Walker said. “Whole Foods is more of a gourmet grocer, and they focus on a certain demographic. As a result of that, they have certain programs, customer experience and product offerings. Not every store works in every community. You have to have a program that meets the needs of the local community.”
When the Englewood store opened in September 2016, shoppers lined up for hours to celebrate what was part of a pledge to bring more fresh food options to the community. Before the store’s opening, Englewood was a food desert.
Then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel said the store would bring more investments to the community. The city devoted $10.7 million in tax-increment financing in 2014 for infrastructure upgrades at Englewood Square to bring the store to fruition. The project also received $13.5 million in federal tax credits, according to Crain’s.
In May, Mayor Lori Lightfoot called the market’s closure “a great disappointment” and “gut blow” to Englewood. She vowed to work alongside community leaders to make investments “that make sense for those in the community.”
“To me, what it underscores — and I wasn’t here when this decision was made — you cannot bring investment to the community without talking to the community and making sure the investment makes sense for that community,” Lightfoot said.
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