Leading a food movement to bring better access to fresh and healthy foods, Englewood and surrounding South Side neighborhood residents celebrate the opening of Whole Foods Market Englewood, Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2016. The new 18,000 square foot store represents three years of community collaboration between the natural grocer and community stakeholders.
“The work the Englewood community is doing to bring wholesome and healthy foods to the South Side is inspiring. We’re proud to be part of the good that’s happening, and bringing more fresh food options to the neighborhood,” says Whole Foods Market Co-CEO Walter Robb. “We’ve built this store with Englewood residents and hope when they walk into the space they helped create, they feel that this –Whole Foods Market Englewood– is their store, a community gathering place where they can explore, learn and talk about food.”
With a large variety of organic produce; pantry staples; locally made products; and ready-to-eat options Whole Foods Market Englewood hopes to be the go-to grocer for fresh and healthy food choices for the community. Highlights include:
- Over 400 different conventional and organic produce items including locally grown products from Garfield Produce, Gotham Greens and Urban Canopy.
- Ninety bulk flours, grains, beans, dried fruits, nuts, seeds, rice and trail mixes along with 98 bulk spices so shoppers can buy as much or as little as they need.
- Freshly-brewed and made-to-order Allegro coffee beverages, including lattes, teas, cappuccinos, and espresso; two types of cold brew coffee; and smoothie options made with fresh fruit and no concentrates.
- Full service meat and seafood counters offers ring the fresh, highest quality options, including made-in-house Andouille, chorizo, and brat sausages.
- Over 70 beer, 175 wine, and 250 specialty cheese choices.
- Fresh salad and hot bar offerings, self service pizza and sandwiches featuring pulled buffalo chicken Panini, barbecue pulled pork and a bacon cheddar breakfast sandwich served all day.
To celebrate opening day, Whole Foods Market will host its version of a ribbon cutting called a “Bread-Breaking Ceremony” with Whole Foods Market Team Members and Englewood neighbors beginning at 8:30 a.m. Doors open and shopping officially begins at 9 a.m. Music, food, samples and more will be offered from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. for all who attend.
Since the announcement of the store in 2013, Englewood residents and Whole Foods Market teams have engaged in two-way conversations to ensure the new location on Chicago’s South Side would reflect the community it serves and meet the needs of those living and working in the area. Before the first store sketch was developed, the company took a community-first approach, holding and attending many meetings with residents, community groups, nonprofits, schools and local businesses to better understand the needs of the community.
“We spent much of the early days just listening. We met with many people and groups, who were so kind in taking time out of their busy lives to speak with us, to really hear what they wanted to see in their Whole Foods Market store. It was incredible,” says Robb. “It was these early conversations that guided how we built the store, how we worked with the community and how we built trust that allowed us to have real, honest conversations about everything from design to hiring practices. It was raw, genuine and authentic, and made our relationships stronger because of it.”
From the early discussions, three key themes rose to the top for the company to focus on: food access; community engagement; and economic development and employment.
Food Access. Having good, affordable, healthy food choices and supporting educational opportunities for residents and their families was a large part of many conversations. The store itself would be a big part of addressing this need and led to regular community meetings to discuss the different products and services offered in the store. In these two-way conversations, the community led the discussion and shared what they wanted to see in their store. Whole Foods Market teams took the input and applied it, and then went back to the community for feedback. This approach helped Whole Foods Market co-create a community gathering space where Englewood residents would want to come explore, learn and talk about food.
Beyond the store, Whole Foods Market teams support local initiatives by donating healthy food for community events and activities. Whole Kids Foundation, a Whole Foods Market foundation, awarded garden grants to eight Englewood schools to build or enhance food gardens on their campuses and supported healthy eating education for teachers. The Whole Cities Foundation, another Whole Foods Market foundation, held a food education summit and currently teaches free nutrition classes for residents. Additionally, the Whole Cities Foundation has partnered with the Residents Association of Greater Englewood (R.A.G.E.) to provide grants to start or expand food programs in the Englewood community. Recipients were decided by community voting and will be announced during the Grand Opening celebration.
Community Engagement. Open communication and involvement between those living and working in Englewood and Whole Foods Market Team Members was another area of focus. To help navigate the partnership, Whole Foods Market hired Cecile De Mello as Community Engagement Specialist from the community. As a resident living in Englewood, De Mello worked daily to share news from Whole Foods Market, share news from the community, organize community events, and ensure the company and the residents were in step as relationships grew. In addition to hosting nine public meetings, the De Mello attended community, school, and nonprofit meetings, plus walked the streets speaking to residents waiting for buses and trains, visited churches, salons and small shops to have one-on-one conversations.
Economic Development and Employment. Working alongside and investing in the future leaders and entrepreneurs, Whole Foods Market Team Members share over 30 years of experience with the next class of food innovators in Englewood and the greater South Side. Challenging the perception of where businesses will find success, Team Members met with small businesses, provided feedback and resource information; ultimately helping support economic growth in the community. Working with community partners from Teamwork Englewood and the Greater Englewood Community Development Corporation, Whole Foods Market held a variety of workshops and events to support the development of small businesses in Englewood and the greater South Side including:
- The Englewood Entrepreneurial Workshop Series provided business training on product development, safety, licensing and many other topics to small-business owners.
- A Supplier Expo event connected startups with business resources such as insurance, labeling, distribution, and financing. Attendees also met with Whole Foods Market buyers to discuss products in more detail and learn more about the buying experience.
- The recently launched Englewood Quality of Life Economic Development Competition gives small businesses development resources and business mentors to create and pitch a business plan and win funds up to $40,000. Over 30 applicants are participating in the competition and will present ideas later this year.
Whole Foods Market committed to hiring as many new Team Members from the community as possible. The community voiced very early on the need for jobs and the importance of hiring local residents for the store. The 100 positions provided by the store would help; but the need for more still existed. Connecting job seekers to job opportunities, resources to overcome employment barriers and building individual capacity to help applicants prepare not just a Whole Foods Market position, but also any future employment opportunity was crucial. With community partners, Whole Foods Market organized a series of events, workshops and resources to help residents build skills and gain access to professional development resources including:
- A Whole Foods Introduction and Employment Resource Series to share with residents over the course of three months information about the store, the company, and offered workshops in resume writing, interviewing, and team building to residents.
- A Customer Service Training and Employers Panel Discussion offered a two-day intense customer service boot camp that provided workshops, role-playing, and a completion certificate for residents. Whole Foods Market, Metropolitan Family Services, Greater Englewood CDC, Teamwork Englewood and Englewood Square Development partnered.
- A Job and Resource Fair in the community where over 2 days, 900 residents interviewed for open positions at Whole Foods Market Englewood; had access to workshops and resources for criminal record expungement, resume writing, credit counseling, day care services, and housing services; and computer access for other employer applications for over a half dozen companies.
- The development of an Englewood Jobseekers Network is an email group where residents that attended the job fair or applied online could opt-in to continue to get information about job opportunities and employment services.
Over 100 Team Members will work at Whole Foods Market Englewood, over 85 are from the South Side of Chicago, including 35 from Englewood.
Whole Foods Market has 26 other Chicagoland stores: Gold Coast, Halsted, Hyde Park, Lakeview, two Lincoln Park locations, Sauganash, South Loop, Streeterville, West Loop and Edgewater neighborhoods in Chicago; and the surrounding suburbs of: Deerfield, Elmhurst, three Evanston locations, Hinsdale, Kildeer, Naperville, Northbrook, Orland Park, Park Ridge, Schaumburg, River Forest, Wheaton and Willowbrook.
For a b-roll footage of the Englewood opening, click here.