South Side alderpersons condemn Gresham Aldi closure: ‘You have to do right by all of Chicago’
“If you would rather pay for an empty store and an abandoned store for the next five years than invest in our community, you don’t deserve to be here,” Ald. Stephanie Coleman said. “And quite frankly, we don’t want you here.”
Days after the closure of the Gresham Aldi surprised residents, three alderpersons from the city’s South Side gathered Thursday outside the newly shuttered building to voice their frustrations with grocery store closings amid complaints of growing food deserts in the area.
The alderpersons lambasted companies like Aldi and Whole Foods for leaving Chicago’s neighborhoods.
“Open Aldi’s back up,” a man shouted as he walked past the now-vacant building. “We need Aldi’s.”
The Council members erupted in cheers. Each said they were blindsided by the news that the grocery store, which had been operating in the neighborhood for 13 years, closed with six months left on its lease.
“If their lease goes through December, why the heck are you closing it? You’re paying rent for a store that’s closed,” Ald. David Moore (17th) said. “What that tells me is that you don’t care about the community.”
In a statement, Aldi cited repeated burglaries and declining sales. Moore disputed the company’s claim of continued crime.
“Their stories about being robbed and all of that, that just doesn’t fly with me, especially as I am the alderman here and I’m not getting those calls,” he said.
Two burglaries at grocery stores have been reported since 2001 in the block where Aldi operated in Gresham, according to Chicago’s data portal. One forced entry into the grocery store was reported in 2019, and the other was in 2021.
The Gresham Aldi was one block away from a Walmart that Moore previously told the Sun-Times was unable to fulfill the community’s needs for healthy and fresh produce. These areas in the South and West sides of Chicago, the alderperson said Thursday, are in burgeoning food deserts.
“It’s about discrimination,” Moore said. “On the South and West sides of Chicago, there’s one store for every 110,000 people. That’s a problem dealing with equity.”
Ald. Stephanie Coleman (16th) criticized the closure of the Englewood Whole Foods that was announced in May and said a plan had still not been announced for a replacement grocery for the building. Whole Foods’ lease was slated to expire at the end of 2027, she said.
“We are saying that if you want to do business with the city of Chicago, you have to do right by all of Chicago,” she said. “When these corporations come into the Black community, and they make it a public safety issue, they would rather pay for an empty store.”
Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th) and 39 other Council members put forth a resolution at the City Council meeting Wednesday proposing a hearing to discuss food access in neighborhoods and policy goals relating to food insecurity.
Lopez told the Sun-Times there were no updates regarding the City Council-approved $700,000 plan to buy the West Garfield Park Aldi building. He declined to discuss any potential plans to buy the recently vacated buildings on the South and West sides.
Moore said he has scheduled a meeting with Aldi’s division vice president on June 29 to discuss the abrupt closure.
He also called for the city to adopt a “consistent policy” to handle the closure of grocery stores across Chicago.
“If you would rather pay for an empty store and an abandoned store for the next five years than invest in our community, you don’t deserve to be here,” Coleman said. “And quite frankly, we don’t want you here.”
Mariah Rush is a staff reporter at the Chicago Sun-Times via Report for America, a not-for-profit journalism program that aims to bolster the paper’s coverage of communities on the South and West sides.