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Home>One year in, has Whole Foods helped fix one of Chicago's toughest neighborhoods?

One year in, has Whole Foods helped fix one of Chicago's toughest neighborhoods?

One year in, has Whole Foods helped fix one of Chicago's toughest neighborhoods?

09/29/2017

By Rachel Koning Beals

'Food desert' Englewood got an organic oasis, plus Starbucks, Chipotle and next, a microbrew

Have organic veggies, a full butcher's case and stacks of sparkling LaCroix at Whole Foods helped transform one of Chicago's poorest and most violent neighborhoods?

It's been one year since the long-anticipated Whole Foods Market opened in Englewood (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/whole-foods-starbucks-take-a-chance-in-one-of-chicagos-poorest-neighborhoods-2016-09-28), a contributor, mostly through gang activity, to Chicago's infamously high murder ranking (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/good-news-for-the-rest-of-the-us-chicagos-crime-plague-isnt-contagious-2016-09-21). It's also home for hard-working families struggling to thrive in a "food desert" that lacked supermarkets much beyond the couple of grocery aisles in the drugstore or liquor store.

The resounding response to its retail landmark? There are measurable changes -- when it opened, Whole Foods hired about 40 of its 100 employees directly from Englewood -- but it's too soon to declare mission accomplished.

The typically upscale, Amazon-owned Whole Foods Market occupies an 18,000-square-foot store in the newly constructed Englewood Square. Ambitions for its impact as an anchor were high after three years of planning and construction. Local media reported that some customers waited for as long as four hours for the store's 9 a.m. grand opening on Sept. 28, 2016. Store officials said then that more than 3,000 people had shopped by the end of the first day.

And now?

The company, which won't issue store-specific sales figures, argues that it is making a difference.

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