West Sider to open the only black-owned grocery store in Lawndale over the New Years, with fresh food from black farmers
NORTH LAWNDALE – A West Side entrepreneur plans to open a supermarket in early 2022 that will become North Lawndale’s only full-service grocery store owned by black people.
The grocery store, North Lawndale Fresh Meat & Produce Market, is developed by Al Person at 628 S. Pulaski Road. Person will also launch a cafe and ice cream shop, Sugar Rush, next to the supermarket.
Both companies are expected to launch before spring. The person said the goal of both stores was to provide basic goods and services that the wealthier neighborhoods usually have, but which Lawndale missed.
“We don’t have any fresh produce. We don’t have black owned coffee, ”Person said. “These are the things our community is supposed to have, too. We shouldn’t have to go to another neighborhood to sit down and have a good cup of coffee. Our community deserves these same benefits.
The supermarket will have a full butcher’s shop as well as a produce section with a wide range of fresh fruits and vegetables, Person said. The grocery store “will provide our community members with better quality food at better prices,” he said.
Person’s goal is to source at least 85 percent of the food stored at the North Lawndale Meat and Fresh Market from black farmers and black-owned vendors. He is working with the Black Farmers Association to partner with farms that can provide high quality, affordable food.
Many small black farmers and distributors find it difficult to sell through large grocery chains, Person said, so it is essential that local businesses “be an outlet for them to distribute their produce.”
In addition to the produce on the store shelves, Person plans for the warmer months to host “a farmers market where people can buy fruit and vegetables … at a lower price because they will come directly from the farmer.”
Like much of the West Side, North Lawndale is considered by many to be a food desert, an area where residents have to travel for miles to purchase fresh food. Lawndale only has one grocery store, a Freshway Market at 3240 W. Roosevelt Road.
The importance of local grocery stores and black-owned businesses became increasingly evident during the 2020 protests after Minneapolis police killed George Floyd. At that time, it was extremely difficult for many residents to obtain basic necessities such as food, Person said.
In the surrounding areas of Austin and West Garfield Park, supermarket chains like Save A Lot and Aldi have suddenly shut down over the past year, exacerbating the food shortage for the West Siders. The best way to make sure the community has necessities like food is for locals to own the businesses that provide those goods and services, Person said.
“In this particular time, black people in particular, we need our own stores. We need to be able to feed ourselves, ”Person said.
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