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Englewood, Chatham, Auburn Gresham

Southside Market Gets City Grant To Bring Healthy Food Market, Cafe To Chatham

Southside Market will stock its shelves with products sold by local Black and Brown entrepreneurs, sell fresh cafe menu items and give out recipes to shoppers.

Southside Market, a community-owned micro-grocery store, will open its doors later this year, owners said.
Southside Market
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CHATHAM — A community-owned micro-grocery store will soon open in Chatham, bringing affordable produce, a cafe and local food brands to South Side shelves. 

Southside Market will open later this year at 433 E. 79th St., co-founder Mabel Shiu said. The team received a nearly $240,000 community development grant to fully rehab the long-vacant Chatham building and transform it into a fresh food destination, city officials announced earlier this month. 

Neighbors can browse Southside Market for typical grocery items, but the micro-store will focus on produce and nutritious food, Shiu said. The market will also have a cafe with a rotating menu prepared by local chefs “so people can grab fresh, healthy prepared foods” — a rarity in the community, Shiu said. 

“We want people to feel connected to their food,” Shiu said. “When people walk into the store, we want them to feel refreshed, peaceful, safe and welcome.”

Credit: Provided
Southside Market will open at 433 E. 79th St. will open later this year, co-founder Mabel Shiu said.

Part of what differentiates Southside Market from its contemporaries is its dedication to community involvement, Shiu said. 

The market will stock goods sold by local Black and Brown entrepreneurs, Shiu said. Neighbors can also suggest chefs or recipes for the cafe.

And while anyone can shop at Southside Market, neighbors can also choose to become a community owner of the store and enjoy the market with “additional benefits,” Shiu said. A community council will also meet monthly to decide the “feel and design of the space,” along with its inventory.

“As we’re becoming part of this ecosystem, we see that there’s a lot of investments in other grocery stores or different programs and farms in different neighborhoods,” Shiu said. “We saw a unique opportunity in Chatham to be a catalytic business to do this work.”

Fresh food, especially vegetables, “have a bad rap,” said Marcea Lewis, culinary nutritionist at Southside Market. 

Southside Market’s purpose will be to reintroduce those foods into people’s lives in a “new and exciting way,” Lewis said. 

When neighbors enjoy a dish off the cafe’s menu, they’ll get the recipe to shop for those ingredients in-house. The store will also stock vegetables and fruits neighbors might not “normally have in their shopping carts,” Shiu said. 

Credit: Provided
Co-founder Mabel Shiu poses with Pat Harper at the Chicago Community Development Grant announcement in February.

“We hope to be a part of building a thriving community,” Shiu said. “Food is an essential part of that but is also so core to it. We hope this improves the local health and sense of pride in the community. Accessibility is more than just having a grocery store in your neighborhood. It’s having an affordable price point and being inspired to try something new.” 

The community development grant gave the Southside Market team the extra push needed to open the business this year, Shiu said. The grant covers 75 percent of construction costs. But they’re still searching for more financial opportunities to have a “really strong grand opening” with stocked shelves and local talent, Shiu said.

When shoppers do finally walk into the store, they’ll feel pride and belonging, Shiu said. It’ll be their business, built with their dreams in mind. 

“We hope this brings additional business investments in this corridor,” Shiu said. “Building local wealth is part of our model, which is why we’re community-owned. It’s one of the impacts we hope to make.” 

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