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Chatham Food Market Hungry for Business

By Wendell Hutson | October 9, 2012 4:03pm
 A popular grocery store in the Chatham community has scaled back its hours in part because of the sour economy.  Still, customers continue to shop at the Chatham Food Market, where the average employee has worked there 10 years or more.
Grocery Store Scaling back
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CHATHAM — Longtime Chatham Food Market customer Leslie Brown said she hoped her favorite store didn't close.

"I have shopped here for 10 years, and I love it. Everything I need, I can find here at prices I can afford," said Brown, a Chatham resident for 29 years.

For 25 years the store was open 24 hours. Last year it reduced its hours to 7 a.m. to midnight. Now the store closes at 10 p.m.

Though new ownership took over the store, at 327 E. 79th St., four years ago, it is still managed by longtime employees such as general manager Ernest Griffin.

"We once employed 32 people, but now we are down to 17, and that is due largely because of the economy and increased competition," Griffin said. 

Griffin said the average employee at the 4,100-square-foot store had worked there more than 10 years.

"Our employees know most of the customers who shop here. We have a close relationship with our customers, and that's why we are a good neighborhood store," Griffin said.

The previous owners were Leonard and Donna Harris, who founded the store in 1984 and sold it in 2008 to Husein Osama and Kliet Allen.

Still, the store has continued relationships established under the previous owners. Across the street from the store is Martha Ruggles Elementary School, which the store has adopted. It sponsors Ruggles' after-school programs.

Historian Timuel Black said the Chatham Food Market was the last black-owned grocery store in Chicago.

"In terms of full-service grocery stores that sell fresh meats, produce and vegetables, the Chatham store was the last one," Black said. "That's why it was such a big deal when Mr. Harris sold it to a non-black owner."

Whether the store is black-owned or not, Pauline Hendon, who is black, said she still plans to shop there.

"I have lived in Chatham for 25 years and have shopped here at Chatham forever," she said. "And as long as the store has what I need and at prices I can afford, I will remain shopping here."

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