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Whole Foods Arrives in Low-income Chicago Neighborhood

Whole Foods Market has opened its latest Chicago location in the South Side neighborhood of Englewood, one of the most economically depressed areas of the city.

Representing three years of collaboration between the grocer and community stakeholders, the 18,000-square-foot store offers a wide variety of organic produce, pantry staples, locally made products and ready-to-eat options. It also employs more than 100 team members, more than 85 of whom are South Siders, including 35 from Englewood itself.

Highlights include:

  • More than 400 conventional and organic produce items, including locally grown products from Garfield Produce, Gotham Greens and Urban Canopy
  • Some 90 bulk flours, grains, beans, dried fruits, nuts, seeds, rice and trail mixes, along with 98 bulk spices
  • Freshly brewed and made-to-order tea and Allegro coffee beverages, including lattes, cappucinos and espressos, two types of cold-brew coffee, and smoothies made from fresh fruit
  • Full-service meat and seafood counters offering fresh options such as made-in-house andouille, chorizo and bratwurst sausages; more than 70 beers, 175 wines and 250 specialty cheeses; salad and hot bars; and self-service pizza and sandwich counters

To celebrate opening day, the store hosted a “Bread-breaking Ceremony” with Whole Foods team members and Englewood neighbors. When the location opened its doors, patrons enjoyed music, food, samples and more.

Since the store's first announcement in 2013, Englewood residents and Whole Foods executives have engaged in two-way conversations to ensure the new location would reflect the community it serves and meet its needs. The grocer held meetings with residents, community groups, nonprofits, schools and local businesses to better understand the needs of the area. The meetings resulted in three key themes to focus on: food access, community engagement, and economic development and employment.

Although it has yet to be seen if the store will receive the community's full embrace – as well as profit – Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods has worked to make the store more affordable than its typical locations. Following community meetings with residents, the retailer identified roughly 30 staples for a typical Englewood resident's shopping cart that would be sold at much lower prices than they are at other Whole Foods stores, and even lower than they sell at some competitors, the Chicago Tribune reported. Examples, according to, include a loaf of private label organic white bread at $2.99 versus $4.39, a dozen large white private label eggs at $1.99 versus $3.99, and, per-pound, fresh Atlantic salmon at $8.99 versus $12.99. The retailer also is donating food to community events and activities, and has awarded garden grants to eight Englewood schools to help build or enhance campus food gardens.

Additionally, the store has held a number of workshops and events to help support the development of small businesses and residents' professional skills, including the Englewood Quality of Life Economic Development Competition, the Englewood Entrepreneurial Workshop Series and a supplier expo for local businesses, as well as the Whole Foods Introduction and Employment Resource Series, the Customer Service Training and Employers Panel Discussion, and a job and resource fair for residents. It also has hired community member Cecile De Mello as community engagement specialist, who shared news from the community, organized community events, and ensured the company and residents were in step as relationships grew.

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