CHICAGO (CBS) — In a bid to revive the community, Starbucks and Whole Foods both were opening new locations in Englewood on Wednesday.
The new stores are part of a the new Englewood Square shopping center at 63rd and Halsted streets.
Executives for Whole Foods and Starbucks said the companies are not just investing their businesses in a neighborhood in need of an economic boost – and which is most often in the news for violent crime – they’re investing in the community itself.
The Whole Foods store has a room for area groups to use for meetings, and Starbucks will be working with a community group on job training, and not just for people who want to work at the new store.
“We ask them to bring young people into this space. They get to see other young people who can be role models for them working here at Starbucks, but they walk away with a credential that says that they have been trained in Starbucks customer service, and that will help them get jobs,” said Rodney Hines, director for community investments at Starbucks.
K.K. Williams, an Englewood resident who manages the new Starbucks, said most of the 26 employees live in the neighborhood, and all of them are South Side residents.
“It is awesome. It means positivity, opportunity,” she said.
The new Englewood Square shopping center prompted lots of talk of hope from the enthusiastic crowd.
Developer Leon Walker said the new Whole Foods is the first national grocery store in the country to be built entirely by African-American owned contractors.
“This development is about more than just bricks and mortar. It’s also about restoring hope back to Englewood.
Michael Daniels got in line at 2:30 a.m. to attend the grand opening.
“It means jobs, healthy eating, a good choice of food,” he said.
The new Whole Foods store created 100 new jobs, with 85 of those employees living on the South Side – including 35 who live in Englewood.
Alexis Tellado Santiago moved into Englewood to take a job as assistant produce manager at Whole Foods, and he said he believes the store is tailor-made for neighborhood residents.
“This location is literally built for them, with the community outreach and the community meetings that we had. We have increased the space in the bulk department, as well as produce, and it’s been tailored for what the community wanted and what they needed, as well as developing really competitive pricing structures for them to be able to afford every single choice that we have for them,” he said.
Santiago said there has been a misconception that Englewood residents won’t be able to shop at Whole Foods, which is known for its upscale selections.
“Our prices are extremely competitive for just about everything,” he said. “Beyond that, we didn’t have an option in Englewood. Now, not only do we have options, but we have healthy options.”
Detractors have long said the market for an upscale grocery like Whole Foods doesn’t exist in the low-income Englewood area, but boosters said otherwise.
“Whole Foods has a model where the price point of the food here is different from some of the other stores,” said Meghan Harte, executive director of Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) Chicago.
The Englewood store is the second Whole Foods to open on the South Side. The first opened in Hyde Park in June.
The new Whole Foods has close ties to other businesses in the neighborhood, selling products made by 35 area vendors. So when you purchase something from the new Whole Foods, there’s a good chance it was made in Englewood.
Contracts with Whole Foods have allowed these businesses to hire more staff. While it might amount to only one or two more employees each, it’s the kind of small impact these small businesses believe will add up to big change.
There is already an Aldi’s just a few blocks away from the new Whole Foods in Englewood, so consumers here now have a genuine choice between the incredible efficiency and low prices of Aldi and the many choices and more upscale products that you find in your typical Whole Foods.