Whole Foods will close its stores in Englewood, the home of DePaul University

Whole Foods will close its stores in Englewood, the home of DePaul University

Whole Foods will close its stores in Englewood, the home of DePaul University

Whole Foods will close two of its 12 Chicago-area stores, including a location in Englewood it opened to much fanfare six years ago in a neighborhood with few grocery options, a door-to-door confirmed Friday. word of the specialized grocer.

The Englewood location at 832 W 63rd St. will close in the coming months. A separate Whole Foods location in the DePaul University Welcome Center at 959 W. Fullerton Ave. expected to close by May 6. Whole Foods will not disclose the number of employees working at the two stores.

Four other Whole Foods stores located in Montgomery and Mobile, Alabama; Tarzana, California; and Brookline, Massachusetts, will also close, the spokesperson said. Whole Foods has over 530 locations nationwide.

“As we continue to position Whole Foods Market for long-term success, we regularly assess the performance and growth potential of each of our stores, and have made the difficult decision to close six stores,” a doorman said. -word of Whole Food in a prepared statement. statement. “We are supporting affected team members through this transition and expect all interested and eligible team members to find positions at our other locations.”

Former mayor Rahm Emanuel worked with Whole Foods to open the store in 2016, spending more than $10 million in taxes to make it happen. The store was the anchor for the development of Englewood Square, and at the time of its opening was one of the few nationwide Whole Foods locations located in a poor neighborhood. For years thereafter, Emanuel hailed the store as a “game changer” with transformative ripple effects for the neighborhood.

During its grand opening, the store drew large festive crowds. Many shoppers applauded the store’s presence in a community with few options for fresh, healthy food. Whole Foods said it hopes the local connection, along with significantly lower prices on some items, will keep shoppers coming back after the hype subsides.

For Chicago, bringing a high-end grocer to one of the city’s most economically deprived neighborhoods marked a moment of potential change. But the store’s closure is a painful example of how difficult it is to transform a neighborhood, even with major investments.

On Friday, shoppers at the Englewood location lamented the impending departure of the grocery store.

“Oh man, this breaks my heart,” said Napolean Harding, a frequent customer. “It’s close, it’s convenient and I know where everything is in every aisle.”

Harding comes to this Whole Foods two to three times a week because he works at a nearby clinic.

“As a vegetarian, I love the options at this supermarket and it’s even cheaper than the other Whole Foods in town because they sell local produce,” Harding said. “I was looking forward to the wine tasting events they had before the pandemic, man, I’m very sad now.”

Patience Okanu, 65, another frequent customer who has shopped at the store since it opened six years ago, was not surprised it was closing.

“This business wants to make money, but they’re not going to make money in this neighborhood because people here don’t have an income,” Okanu said.

Okanu said the Englewood store is one of the few places that sells healthy food to eat in the area.

“The chicken they sell here at Whole Foods is better than the chicken you get at Aldi,” she said. “It’s very very fresh, no discoloration; when we say it’s organic, it’s organic. You get what you pay for. But not everyone in the neighborhood can afford it. I also go to Aldi and when you go it’s packed,” she said.

Whole Foods isn’t the first major grocery chain to leave a majority-black Chicago neighborhood. In 2018, Target abandoned two South Side stores, generating a frenzy of criticism from local aldermen and community groups.

Aldus. Roderick Sawyer, the chairman of the City Council’s Black Caucus at the time, criticized the company for closing Targets on the South Side “as the chain puts the finishing touches on two new stores on the North Side, in Logan Square and Rogers Park, which already have Target stores nearby.

In a statement at the time, Sawyer urged Target to reconsider what he described as a “racially lopsided development and investment policy.”

The Minneapolis-based chain did not reconsider.

Earlier this year, after Aldi abandoned a location in the West Side West Garfield Park neighborhood, city aldermen allowed Lightfoot to purchase the gated property for $700,000. So far, the city has not announced a replacement for the Aldi.

The decision to close Whole Foods Englewood comes at a particularly sensitive time for Chicago, which is struggling to recover from the coronavirus pandemic and civil unrest in 2020. In a recent appearance at the City Club, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said sought to counter what she called a false narrative that the city is heading in the wrong direction.

In 2021 alone, Lightfoot said, 173 businesses “made pro-Chicago decisions” by moving to the city from other locations or significantly expanding their footprint. She also touted her administration’s efforts to attract business investment to southern and western corridors similar to the Whole Foods location.

Whole Foods’ decision to leave, however, is a symbolic blow to those efforts and a sign of how much work the city still needs to do to rebuild long-destroyed neighborhoods.

At the Englewood store on Friday, Betty Robinson wondered what might replace Whole Foods when it closes.

“Even though the prices are high, you come here and you can get food. At least that makes this area a food desert,” Robinson said. “It causes damage to the community if they don’t have a store. … I’d rather have something than nothing.

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