West Garfield Park grocery pop-up opens to fill gap during Save A Lot’s temporary closure

Angela Taylor stocks the vegetables as they prep to open the Garfield Park Grocery Store Pop-Up market in West Garfield Park.Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Nicole Hunter was heading out of a West Garfield Park grocery store Monday with a receipt for $4.18 and a bag full of fresh oranges, apples and chicken legs. She had sifted through the locally made jams and salsas, fresh produce and pantry staples lining the new grocery pop-up.

West Garfield Park’s new Grocery Store Pop-Up was needed, Hunter said, because “we don’t have an adequate grocery store in our neighborhood.”

The storefront at 4316 W. Madison St. will be open through Dec. 21, Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. It will be a temporary replacement for a nearby Save A Lot, at 420 S. Pulaski Road, that’s being renovated by owner company Yellow Banana.

The pop-up is a collaborative effort by West Side United, Garfield Park Community Council’s Rite to Wellness Collaborative and the Blackhawks Foundation.

The foundation donated $50,000 to the Garfield Park Grocery Store Pop-Up as part of their larger $250,000 commitment to the West Side and projects from the Garfield Park Rite to Wellness Collaborative.

The pop-up space offers many of the options at a typical grocery store — a range of fresh produce, meat, canned goods, soups and pastas — all at affordable prices, plus baking goods and some household items. The produce that doesn’t come from their West Side distributor are the same brands stocked at Jewel and Mariano’s.

Vegetables and fruit display at the “pop-up grocer” market in West Garfield Park.Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Angela Taylor, wellness coordinator for Garfield Park Community Council, has spearheaded pop-ups of this kind the last few years and has used the data and insight gained from the community to offer products residents want, she said.

“If we don’t get information from (the community), then we just run it on our own fuel and our own agenda,” Taylor said. “It’s for us, by us.”

The prices are determined by both the median income level of the area and distributor prices, she said.

The West Garfield Park Save A Lot recently closed for renovation as part of a $13.5 million TIF financing grant from the city, and Taylor hopes it will reopen around the end of the year. The pop-up was already slated for later this month, but Yellow Banana decided to close early, so they moved up their timeline, Taylor said.

Ideally, the store will be more than a pop-up for the community, Taylor said, but they’d need more funding.

The Rite to Wellness Collaborative has applied for a Small Business Storefront Activation grant from the city and expects to hear back later this month.

Feedback from the community has shown residents’ desire a for-profit grocery store that “will come in and save us,” Taylor said. “But that doesn’t seem to be happening.”

If it’s not going to happen from a company, then the community will come together to create their own, she said.

Yellow Banana may be interested in providing for the community while their store is closed, Taylor said. She’s hesitant to say a collaboration will for-sure happen, but there have been conversations about what the company could do to support the community during the renovation.

“We’re working — attempting to work — with Save A Lot to get them an opportunity to have a response to the community with their store being closed,” she said. “I don’t want to speak too much about it because it isn’t real for me yet.”

Shoppers are happily flocking to the pop-up.

Latrice Williams stopped by the new store within the first hour of opening Monday to fill a basket full of groceries. This store is convenient for her, and she won’t have to travel for a Pete’s Fresh Market or Jewel-Osco for good options.

Hunter stopped by to support a grocer that’s nearby and fits her standards. She values clean, non-GMO groceries and produce.

“When you have a personal relationship with the growers and farmers in the community, you know what they’re using for pesticides,” she said. “You know how they’re measuring the fruits and the vegetables to see if it’s quality food.”

Hunter feels confident giving the apples she purchased at the pop-up to her son. Before heading out, she took a last look around the space, with its front-facing windows, dark wood flooring and bricked walls.

“You know, it actually looks like an upscale grocery store,” she said.

Although the storefront is only open till Dec. 21, shoppers are still hoping for an extension.

“It’s the same brands, but it’s cheaper,” Williams said. “I hope it stays longer than just December, but I understand. It’s like the farmer’s market, it can only be open for so long.”