A year has passed since the opening of a Whole Foods Market in a low-income food desert on Chicago’s South Side.
WBEZ South Side reporter Natalie Moore took a look at the impact the high-end grocer has had in Englewood and found results have been mixed.
Moore joined Morning Shift on Friday to discuss what she learned.
“Everyone I’ve talked to has said that a year is not enough time,” she told Morning Shift host Tony Sarabia.
Pros from year one
Natalie Moore: The store hasn’t taken anything away from the neighborhood. It’s added to the landscape. But really what has emerged is it’s this community gathering spot. It’s one of the few places where you can have a coffee and sit down and eat in the neighborhood. There’s a lot of lunch and dinner options for people.
Then on Fridays they’re really known for their “Five After Five.” So for $5 you get an Englewood wine glass and five tastes of wine and samples from five food stations — and there’s either a live band or a DJ. And if you bring your wine glass back the next week it’s only $4.
There’s sometimes a hundred people who are there on Friday nights. You see neighbors talking to each other. I’ve seen people on first dates from online. So it really is this community hub.
Cons from year one
Moore: Store officials, community engagement specials said they knew this would be a community gathering spot, but not in the way that it has morphed. However, that has not translated into blockbuster sales. The aisles are not crowded with people and their shopping carts on Friday nights. Frankly, the store’s sales have been disappointing.
On Whole Foods’ expensive reputation
Moore: Whole Foods in Englewood is cheaper than other Whole Foods in Chicago, and this was even before Amazon came in. … It’s just getting the word out. Some people may see this new store on the corner of 63rd and Halsted and think, “Well, that’s Whole Paycheck.” Some things are going to be more expensive due to the organic nature.
But one woman I talked to yesterday said she doesn’t have a car and she lives in Englewood and that healthy eating is important to her. This is a priority. She used to go to the one at Roosevelt Road and now she goes to the one in her neighborhood and her monthly grocery bill is $100 cheaper by going to the one in Englewood.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity. Click the ‘play’ button above to hear the entire segment.