In West Garfield Park Food Desert, A Pop-Up Grocery Store Aims To Serve Neighbors

Sara Guderyahn, Angela Taylor, and Ayesha Jaco posing with the pop-up grocery store sign in Garfield Park. Credit: Trey Arline/ Block Club Chicago

WEST GARFIELD PARK — A pop-up grocery store has reopened to meet the needs of West Siders who have been without a major grocery chain for two years.

Organized by West Side United and the Garfield Park Community Council, the store at 4316 W. Madison St. opened Monday and will be open through Dec. 21 while a nearby Save A Lot store at 420 S. Pulaski Road remains closed for renovations. Organizers have held similar grocery pop-ups in the space.

The pop-up store is being funded by a $50,000 donation from the Chicago Blackhawks Foundation as part of its larger $250,000 donation to West Side United and the MAAFA Redemption Project for community wellness initiatives, according to a news release.

The store will be open 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Thursday.

Items available include fresh fruit, vegetables, cereal, milk, frozen food, meat, canned goods, personal hygiene products, cleaning supplies and grab-and go-sandwiches. The shop also carries specialized items such as peach jam made from fruit grown by Angela Taylor, wellness coordinator for the Garfield Park Community Council, in her home garden.

“We’re up for the task. When Aldi’s closed, we were getting the food boxes ready to make sure our needs were met in some type of way,” Taylor said.

The inside of the Garfield Park pop-up grocery store. Credit: Trey Arline/ Block Club Chicago

The community has been in search of a major grocery chain since Aldi closed in October 2021.

The closure left Save A Lot on Pulaski Road as the only grocery store in West Garfield Park — which the city shut down in February 2022 because it was infested with rats. Save A Lot briefly reopened under new owners Yellow Banana, who pledged to renovate the store. But that renovation is at a standstill, and the West Garfield Park store remains closed.

Yellow Banana did not respond to requests for comment.

The pop-up grocery store sits across from an empty lot that will become the Sankofa Wellness Village, a $50 million project to address health issues in Garfield Park by improving access to health care, better food and education.

West Side United Executive Director Ayesha Jaco say having a grocery store makes a world of difference to residents’ health.

“Some of the driving factors in Garfield Park’s lower life expectancy are related to food access. It’s very important that the community take control of its own destiny when it comes to its health,” Jaco said.

Produce at the Garfield Park grocery store. Credit: Trey Arline/ Block Club Chicago

Sara Guderyahn, community engagement coordinator with the Chicago Blackhawks Foundation, praised organizers for hiring locally and using food sourced from Garfield Park, and reiterated the foundation’s support for the Sankofa project.

“The Blackhawks have been here for 100 years, and we plan to be here longer,” Guderyahn said. “It’s been a personal honor to think of sports philanthropy to help in a different way. There’s so much more optimism in the future ahead. People often talk about the challenges the city is facing, but we’re standing in one of its bright spots.”

Ullysses Tate, a barbershop owner who works across the street from the pop-up store, said he often drives to Pete’s Fresh Market in Oak Park for groceries. Having a store within walking distance that has “all the necessities” makes a world of difference, he said.

“We don’t take things like this for granted here,” Tate said.