Shoppers fill their carts during final days at Englewood Whole Foods: ‘Devastating’ for the community, customers say

The Whole Foods at 832 W. 63rd St. is scheduled to close permanently Sunday. A new grocery tenant has not yet been announced for Englewood Square.

SHARE Shoppers fill their carts during final days at Englewood Whole Foods: ‘Devastating’ for the community, customers say
Emma Morales, 52, puts a bottle of olive oil in her cart during a sale at Whole Foods in Englewood ahead of the store’s closing.

Emma Morales, 52, puts a bottle of olive oil in her cart during half-off sale at Whole Foods’ Englewood store, which is scheduled to close Sunday. Everything in stock is 50% off except alcohol, which is 30% off.

Pat Nabong / Sun-Times

Emma Morales knew ahead of time about the sale Friday at the Whole Foods in Englewood.

She has worked at the South Loop Whole Foods location 28 years, but as the Englewood store was set to close permanently Sunday, she filled her cart to the brim during a 50%-off sale on most groceries.

Morales, who lives in Oak Lawn, said she is sad about the loss of the Englewood store. “It was good for the neighborhood. My friends loved it, they could get good deals and healthy food, and now they just have the Aldi” low-cost grocery store a couple of blocks away.

Whole Foods announced in April the store would shut after six years in Englewood, which is often considered a food desert. A statement from the company announcing six closures nationwide said that review of “performance and growth potential” led to the closures. 

On Friday, the South Side store began a three-day half-price sale on everything except alcohol, and shoppers jammed the aisles, clearing the shelves of items from beauty aides to baby foods, desserts, healthy snacks and cold-pressed juices.

The store at 832 W. 63rd St. opened to fanfare in 2016 and hired 100 workers, most from the neighborhood. Englewood Square, the $27 million plaza where the supermarket is the anchor tenant, opened at the same time and was forecast as the “renewal of the corner of 63rd and Halsted.”

Most employees have been offered transfers to other locations.

Asiaha Butler, CEO of R.A.G.E. Englewood, said she has spoken to some workers from the store about the closure.

“Folks who live in Englewood and who work at that store, it’s going to impact them,” Butler said. “Now they have to commute, they’re not able to walk to work.”

Amazon bought Whole Foods in August 2017, which Butler believes may have led to new priorities for the business.

“A lot of times business is the bottom line,” she said. “We know revenue was decreasing and the price of food was increasing… but when people blame it on the neighborhood, that’s not true. The spirit of this store opening was not about the bottom line, initially.”

An Aldi is located a few blocks away but isn’t full service. Butler said Englewood residents deserve the choices that other areas get. 

Although the store is set to close this weekend, there are no signs announcing it. Instead, neon yellow posters announce the sale, and smaller signs say some sections of the store — including a coffee shop and the salad bar — closed earlier this month.

Margaret Williams, 49, said she felt betrayed by Whole Foods when she found out it was closing.

Margaret Williams, 49, said she felt betrayed by Whole Foods when she found out it was closing.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

A manager at the Englewood market confirmed that the store will shut this weekend.

Many shoppers weren’t aware of the sale Friday.

Kenya Tamatekou was driving past the plaza with her mother when she noticed heavy traffic in the parking lot. Upon driving closer, she spotted the sale signs.

“A lot of people say it’s a food desert, but [residents] didn’t support the store,” Tamatekou said. “I thought it was a great opportunity to bring hope to Englewood.”

But some shoppers were adamant that the store was beloved by the community.

Margaret Williams and her five children, ages 8 to 18, live less than 10 minutes away from the Whole Foods. 

“I feel betrayed,” she said. “This was one of the happy places here. I taught my kids to support the community. We would be in Beverly, Hyde Park, or other communities, and even if it was more convenient to shop at those stores, we made it a point to shop here.”

Williams said she held group meetings at the store’s community area and brought her children to the store for $5 smoothies on Fridays.

“To give us something with quality and dignity, and then to take it away — I wish steps were taken to work with the community,” she said.

Kshambia Kinsey and Melene Jones work at Oak Street Health, a neighbor to Whole Foods in the plaza. They often stop in for healthy options for breakfast and lunch and say the loss will be “devastating” for the community.

“Especially for the seniors,” Jones said. “There’re a few senior buildings around here. Even though it was on the pricey side, it was still convenient. We’d see them coming over in their little scooters.” 

In September, the site’s developer, Leon Walker, teased an imminent announcement of the grocer that would replace Whole Foods, but neighborhood residents say they just recently received a survey asking what grocer was preferred at the spot.

“Englewood is used to disappointment, especially from institutions and corporations,” Butler said. “So we’re good — we’re going to keep moving and keep striving and put our heads together and figure out the best option for the next operator.”

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