No Longer A ‘Food Desert,’ Englewood Welcomes New Whole Foods Market

CHICAGO (CBS) — It was a big day in Englewood, where the neighborhood’s first Whole Foods Supermarket opened its doors to the public.

Located at 63rd and Halsted Streets, the once vibrant corner often copes with violence and unemployment. The numbers at first glance might not seem to reflect the pricey grocer’s business model.

Ten thousand people live within a 1-mile radius, 18 percent make over $50,000 a year, which means 82 percent earn less than that. But as CBS 2’s Vince Gerasole reports, the community and the company are coming together to try and make it work.

Even after waiting in line just to step inside Engelwood’s new Whole Foods, the mood was joyful as customers welcomed the chance to buy fresh items in what’s now a former food desert.

“I love it,” said an excited Evelyn Davis.

But the celebrations today for many of the workers were about something more.

“It shows everyone wants change in the community, just like we are trying to make,” Whole Foods employee Jabriah McKinney said.

Englewood is a community struggling with violence, and the clerks here, 85 hired from the South Side, say their new jobs have value beyond a paycheck.

“I wanted to work here to help out my community not only my community but help myself as an individual,” new employee Christopher Brown said.

At 24 years old, Brown is raising a son and moving forward from a difficult past. He says healthy foods and the promise of good jobs help the body and the soul.

“When you have a chance to do better, you do better. You know better, you know better,” h e added.

Whole Foods CEO Walter Robb says, “We all talked about this being a step in faith, because we don’t know what’s going to happen here.”

To locate here, the pricey grocer committed to lowering costs on many stock items, eggs are $2 dollars a dozen, pasta sauce $1.79, fresh grapes $1.49 a pound. It’s a promise solidified by the team members wanting to enact change in their own back yard.

“This store and these team members are going to give an expression to our purpose as a company we could never do,” Robb said.

Robb says this is beyond just opening another Whole Foods Market. “My faith has been reaffirmed that when people care and respect each other, wonderful things happen.”

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