Englewood Save A Lot opening postponed after pressure from community

Owners of the grocery chain said they would meet with Ald. Stephanie Coleman (16th) and residents to address the community’s needs. A soft open is postponed.

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A demonstrator holds up a sign during a protest against the opening of a Save A Lot at 832 W. 63rd St. in Englewood on Wednesday. The store was set to open at a former site of a Whole Foods store. Community members say that Save A Lot offers lower-quality products and that their concerns hadn’t been addressed before the store’s opening.

Emmanuel Camarillo/Sun-Times

A Save A Lot grocery that was set to open in Englewood on Thursday will remain closed after demonstrators who gathered outside the store demanded to first meet with owners.

Activists, neighbors and elected officials who said the store was installed at the site of the former Whole Foods at 832 W. 63rd St. without input from residents huddled just beyond its doors to protest the soft opening on Wednesday.

The owners of the Yellow Banana company, which operates six other Chicago stores under the Save A Lot brand, came out of the store to speak with those in the crowd, including Ald. Stephanie Coleman (16th), who represents the area.

Yellow Banana CEO Joe Canfield told reporters that after several minutes of back and forth with those in the crowd, leadership decided to postpone the grand opening until they can speak with Coleman and her representatives and address the community’s needs. A new opening date was unclear.

“That date is to be determined at this point because it feels like there’s some things we need to talk through before we set another date, and I don’t want to do that prematurely,” Canfield said, adding that he thought they had reached out to the community, but it was clear more discussion was needed.

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Yellow Banana CEO Joe Canfield speaks to reporters inside the Save A Lot store following protests. Canfield said the company was trying to do things differently in Englewood by offering a wider selection of hot food and baked goods.

Emmanuel Camarillo/Sun-Times

“We’re going to talk about what they’d like to see from us and how we can get things off to a better track so we can have a successful opening,” Canfield continued.

Ald. Jeanette Taylor (20th) and Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th) also joined the gathering.

Canfield said the soft-opening was intended to show off the store to residents. It was cut short, and he said food that had been prepared for the event would be donated to local shelters.

In addition to feeling left out of the initial conversations, protesters said they didn’t want the Save A Lot brand in their community because they associate the brand with poor food quality.

“It is known as one of the worst grocery operators, poor-quality products, less-than-fresh produce, off-brand products,” Coleman told the Sun-Times before the gathering. “If you visit any of their stores you’ll see that we just deserve better.”

Coleman said that her office had been unsuccessful in arranging meetings with the store owners before the opening. She also said the store was installed despite a questionnaire sent last year to Englewood residents that came back with an overwhelming response against a Save A Lot moving in.

In April 2022, Whole Foods announced that the store in Englewood would close after six years at the location. During a community meeting in January, neighbors said they wanted the same fresh produce, deli selections, hot food and grocery options that Whole Foods provided the community.

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Inside the Save A Lot store at 832 W. 63rd St. Community residents had hoped the new store would offer the same quality products as the Whole Foods that previously occupied the space.

Emmanuel Camarillo/Sun-Times

Canfield said he recognized the challenges that some of his other stores in Chicago had experienced, but he insists the company was trying to do things differently at the Englewood location, including offering some of the options the community wants.

“We have the beverage bar, we have the hot foods area, we have the bakery,” Canfield said. “Save A Lots typically don’t offer those services.”

He added that the vendors offering hot food and baked goods inside the store will be from Englewood and won’t have to pay rent or be charged to use the equipment left by the Whole Foods.

“We just want their services and their products for people to get in our store,” Canfield said.

Darlene Green, of the Resident Association of Greater Englewood, said the Save A Lot shows how little the city values residents in the neighborhood.

“They just gave us a Save A Lot and said that’s what we’re worth,” she said. “You’re giving us something we don’t want.

She said the store may present a different face now, but she’s concerned about how it will look in the future.

“Seeing what a store looks like and seeing what a store is going to do after years of time is something totally different,” Green said. “Just because it’s Englewood doesn’t mean we should have less.”

Contributing: Mariah Rush

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