Six years after it opened with great hoopla, the Whole Foods in Englewood, which was part of a larger national experiment to bring better-quality food to struggling neighborhoods, will be closing, the company announced on Friday.
Supported by city subsidies and tax-increment financing, the store intended to offer groceries at prices that neighborhood residents could afford, priced lower than other Whole Foods stores in other locations. One anonymous resident told the Sun-Times that Whole Foods never fulfilled that promise and was still too expensive for everyday shopping.
The Englewood store is one of six locations nationwide that Whole Foods will be shuttering in the near future; the store in the DePaul University Welcome Center in Lincoln Park will also be closing, as early as this week. But, as Monica Eng of Axios points out, the closures don’t include the stores in low-income areas of Detroit and New Orleans that opened at the same time as the one in Englewood. Whole Foods didn’t release any information about the Englewood store’s financial performance, but as early as 2017, according to WBEZ’s Natalie Y. Moore, sales were disappointing: The community tended to use it as a gathering spot rather than a place to spend money. (It should be noted that Amazon, the current owner of Whole Foods, had nothing to do with the low-income experiment; it didn’t buy the grocery chain until 2017.)
But the store did succeed in one of its other functions: to bring more retail to the area. There’s a Chipotle and a Starbucks in the same shopping center at 63rd and Halsted now, and an Aldi and Go Green Community Market on the same block, though both have more limited offerings than Whole Foods. Developer Leon Walker, who owns the shopping center, told the Sun-Times that he’s working with community leaders and city officials to find a new tenant to fill the Whole Foods space; when the city sold him the parcel of land for $1 in 2014, one of the conditions was that a grocery store occupy that lot until 2027.
The news came two days after Whole Foods unveiled a 60,000-square-foot store in River North.
How to avoid third-party delivery apps in Ravenswood
In an effort to avoid third-party delivery apps and their predatory fees (sometimes charging restaurants as much as 30 percent on each order now that the city’s pandemic fee cap has expired), a Ravenswood woman has compiled a spreadsheet of contact information for more than 30 neighborhood restaurants so customers can order from them directly, Block Club reports. Noelle Harrison, who recently moved to Chicago from San Francisco, had originally created the spreadsheet for herself and her husband, but after she shared it on a community Facebook group, more people have been using it, and restaurant owners tell Block Club they’re grateful. Ravenswood is also near the Rockwell Food Center, the North Center ghost kitchen that helped local favorite Monti’s keep going after a fire.
Bomboloni walk-up spot BomboBar revamps food and facade for spring
Instagram-famous dessert spot BomboBar, the walk-up window in the West Loop from DineAmic Hospitality (Bandit, Prime & Provisions), in late April revamped its facade and menu for a fresh spring start, according to a rep. The new sweets selection is still centered around bomboloni — traditional hole-less Italian doughnuts — with six flavors including peanut butter and jelly, cookies and cream, and lemon pistachio, plus 12 kinds of gelato, and three gelato shakes. Notably, the team has decided to eliminate the plastic mini squeeze bottles of filling that used to accompany the fried treats and will instead serve them pre-filled. It’s also cutting back on the frills (read: mountains of whipped cream, sprinkles, and enormous garnishes) in favor of a simpler presentation.
Undaunted by dreary spring weather, Chicagoans plot a Malört Spritz-y summer
Chicago’s famous bitter liqueur has such a devoted following that even old Malört news can cause a stir. Two years ago, Bridgeport-based Marz Brewing launched a collaborative canned cocktail, the Jeppson’s Malört Spritz, but a recent reminder on social media has locals buzzing with excitement at the idea of cracking open a cold one on a scorching summer day. Though warm weather remains elusive for now, some Chicagoans are already making plans: “Great for boating parties in the #playpen this summer, especially with out-of-towners,” an Instagram user helpfully suggests. The drink isn’t new, but will now be available in more places in 2022.