A Chicago non-profit organization recently opened a new grocery store recently on the South Side with the goal of providing fresh fruits and vegetables to shoppers.
Louis’ Groceries, 7604 S. Cottage Grove Ave., sells vegetables, fruits and poultry and it also offers a free, six-week healthy eating course from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. every Tuesday at the store.
“Our whole purpose of being here is to educate residents about healthy eating, and to provide nutritional foods for their households,” said Terri Zhu, program manager for the non-profit and manager of the store. “I do not live in this area but in Hyde Park where no food desert exist. That does not mean I am not aware of the needs of this community.”
A sale on their meats was featured until Dec. 23. For half price customers could purchase chicken, pork chops, steak, and ham. Also available at the store are canned goods, luncheon meat, snacks, breakfast items, and household products like toilet tissue, soap and paper plates.
Arrival of a new store couldn’t come sooner for residents.
“I don’t have a car at the present time and I had been catching the bus to Aldi on 67th and Cottage Grove to buy groceries,” said Marcus Harris, 45, who live four blocks away from the store. “Now I can walk up the street to buy basically the same thing and at the same price.”
And for Sandra Freeman, 29, fresh fruit is what she desires the most.
“I love apples but not everyone sells fresh apples,” Freeman said. “At least not around here they don’t.”
Zhu explained the reasoning behind the organization opening up a grocery store. She said it is their goal to supply residents with fresh fruits and vegetables, along with other nutritious items, which are currently not readily available in the Grand Crossing neighborhood; to develop a business model to share with other neighborhood stores for successfully retailing produce on a small scale in underserved communities; and to learn about an individual’s food choices in order to encourage healthier food consumption through in-store educational programming and promotions and incentives.
The 1,821 square foot store accepts cash, Link and debit cards only. It does not accept credit cards because “most it is more costly to do so,” Zhu said. “But if a demand should arise that is certainly something we would consider down the road.”
According to Zhu, the startup capital for the store came from private donations, which she declined to give an amount.
“I can tell you that it cost us $150,000 to renovate this space. It was vacant prior to our moving in here,” added Zhu. “There are residents who live upstairs and there is a food pantry located next door in the other building.”
Zhu said she is not worried that the food pantry will interfere with business.
In fact, Zhu said while she is always concerned about safety she did not want to install bulletproof glass or require customers to be buzzed inside the store.
“If a need arises for safety we would hire a security guard, but for now we want customers to feel comfortable when they shop here and not feel like criminals, she explained.
The store has four employees including Sylteria Fisher, who lives in Grand Crossing.
“I like working here especially close to home,” Fisher said. Store hours are from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday; 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays and from noon to 6 p.m. on Sundays.
Otis Purnell, 67, also lives close by the store and said he hopes the business stays around for more than a year, in light of the violence that has plagued the neighborhood this year.
“Hopefully no one robs them or breaks into their store at night, which I know would discourage me from having a business around here,” Purnell said. “I’m just saying, there’s a reason why not many stores exist around here, making this area a food dessert.”