The Hatchery’s Packed Valentine’s Market Proves ‘There Is A Lot Of Buying Power On The West Side’

Credit: Sarah Conway/ Block Club ChicagoIrma Anthony, 77, of Garfield Park runs Sugar Wugga in the neighborhood.

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GARFIELD PARK — A love of local business was in the air at the Garfield Park Neighborhood Market last week, as neighbors packed The Hatchery to peruse and purchase goodies made on the city’s West Side.

The special Valentine’s-themed event marked the first time the five-year-old neighborhood market was staged inside its new home at the $34 million Hatchery, a new food business incubator at 135 N. Kedzie Ave.

The incubator was designed to help small food and beverage entrepreneurs to grow, and city officials said it would create an estimated 150 jobs in the first year, and 900 jobs in its first five years.

Organizers of Saturday’s market said demand for something like this in Garfield Park clearly exists — as more than 300 shoppers came out Saturday.

Of the 32 vendors at Saturday’s market — which included Ms. Gina’s Medle, Pixie Dust Salts and Sugga Wuggas candies — 80 percent are West Side entrepreneurs. It was the group’s largest community market to date, said Angela Taylor, wellness coordinator with the Garfield Park Community Council.

Products for sale at the market included locally-produced cha cha (a pickled vegetable relish used in Southern cooking), honey, baked goods, natural hair and body products, jewelry and clothing.

Taylor, who oversees the neighborhood market and the group’s Community Garden Network comprised of 23 resident-led gardens, said she dreams of having a farmers market in Garfield Park that rivals markets in Logan Square and Lincoln Park — a market that would include food trucks and a parking filled with vendors.

“The purpose of this is to collaborate and grow our market base,” Taylor said. “If new entrepreneurs join The Hatchery, of course we would hope they would become neighborhood market vendors, and that way our community market grows, too.”

Clad in Valentine-red Saturday, Garfield Park resident Trinisa Williams, owner of Trini’s Tasty Pastries, beamed as she sold her stacks of glistening egg custard pies and mounds of cinnamon-chip scones.

“I’ve never seen this many vendors and I have been coming to the market for the past three years, and working here as a vendor for two,” she said.

And Williams business is growing — she’s soon moving it out of her kitchen and into The Hatchery’s shared kitchen space.

“I can’t wait until it is the middle of the summer and everyone is here in Garfield Park and not somewhere else,” she said.

Garfield Park resident Melissa Collins, who walks past The Hatchery daily while taking her son to school, said the market offers neighbors a convenient new option to shop.

“We don’t have very many places for us to actually go and spend our money in the neighborhood,” Collins said.

Opened in December 2018, the Hatchery is a joint venture of two heavyweight business-focused nonprofits, the Industrial Council of Nearwest Chicago and nonprofit microlender Accion Chicago. The 67,000-square-foot food and beverage incubator, is one of the largest in the United States, boasting 56 private kitchens, one shared kitchen, cold storage, a loading dock and office space.

Accion also relocated its headquarters to The Hatchery where it provides loan capital to tenants and members.

The neighborhood market, an initiative of the Garfield Park Community Council, began on a vacant lot at the corner of at the corner of Kedzie Avenue and Lake Street in 2014. The Industrial Council of Nearwest Chicago and Accion first approached the Garfield Park Community Council about building The Hatchery at that same lot in fall 2015.

Since then, the community council has worked with Garfield Park residents to negotiate for community benefits. The Hatchery founders eventually agreed to included training, mentoring and production resources for West Side entrepreneurs from Garfield Park, West Humboldt Park, North Lawndale and Austin as part of a redevelopment agreement with the City of Chicago.

The Hatchery team hopes to double the number of West Side entrepreneurs it serves by the end of 2020.

While most of the vendors at Saturday’s event were West Side residents, the market offers small business owners from other neighborhoods the opportunity to sell their products, too.

Entrepreneur Nadine Merheb thought the inaugural market at The Hatchery would be a great place to meet sell her handmade Lebanese-style baklava, a recipe passed down from her mother who immigrated to the U.S. from Tripoli.

Merheb runs Elbi, which means “my heart” in Lebanese-dialect Arabic. She’s considering moving her production to The Hatchery.

“Hopefully when production increases I’ll move into a kitchen here. I’m a member but my goal is to scale up here,” she said.

Elbi baklava is currently sold at a few spots across the city including The Goddess and Grocer, Olivia’s Market and Lakeview Kitchen and Market.

LaTonya Williams, owner of 4Ever Glowing Soy Candles, launched her business five years ago. She makes plant-based beauty products like peach-scented whipped shea butter and beard balms in scents like Caribbean teakwood and oud.

“This market is definitely a space where we can network and build businesses together as a community,” said Williams, who grew up in Garfield Park. “If you’re not networking, you’re not working as an entrepreneur.”

Williams’ dream is to walk away from her day job in nursing to focus on her business full time.

“My goal is to show youth that you don’t have to go to McDonald’s or Walmart to work. Entrepreneurship is a real option,” she said.  

Muinat Abiola Ishowo, owner of Triple A Gourmet Treats, sold out of a West-African fried-dough snack called chin chin on Saturday. She’ll definitely return for the next market, she said.

And she’s not just selling at The Hatchery market — Ishowo has used the incubator’s shared kitchen to produce her treats and has received help running her business.

“As soon as I met them, I felt like I’m not alone anymore,” she said.

Steve DeBretto, executive director of the Industrial Council of Nearwest Chicago, said the new facility allows entrepreneurs to lean on each other for support.

“They will say [to each other], ‘Hey what do you do when your customers aren’t paying you?’ ‘Who do you use for refrigerated shipping?’ And they learn those things from each other and it takes away some of that isolation,” DeBretto said.

Brothers Kevin Hayes and Derrick Hayes, who are opening a healthy corner store with fresh juices, smoothies, rice bowls and salads in Austin this May, were impressed by Saturday’s turnout. They recently joined The Hatchery as members and came out to shop at Saturday’s market.

“We wish we were ready to join the market as vendors,” Derrick Hayes said. “Today opened my eyes to the potential of how we can grow our business.”

“There is a demand for good businesses and there is a lot of buying power on the West Side,” Kevin Hayes said.

The next neighborhood market will be held on Saturday, April 13. The in-season market, which will be held in the plaza outside, runs from June to October on the second Saturday and following Thursday each month.