PILSEN — You won’t have to wait to stock up on local farmers market goodness now that Belli’s grocer is officially open for business.
Belli’s, which joins vintage furniture shop Modern Cooperative at Thalia Hall, opened Monday stocked with products from many of the Pilsen Community Market vendors and well as other locally produced options.
While putting together a business plan last year that would turn Pilsen’s farmers market into a nonprofit, Belli’s owner Alex Curatolo said it occurred to her that a permanent storefront would benefit both the vendors and the community.
And after raising more than $15,000 via a Kickstarter, the 26-year-old resident can now call the shop at 1215 W. 18th St. home.
“Everyone’s excited, that’s the biggest thing,” she said. “Everyone who comes from the building down the block says, ‘I’m so happy you’re here. Now I don’t have to go to Whole Foods.’”
Last winter, Pilsen’s farmers market moved indoors to Honkey Tonk BBQ at 1800 S. Racine Ave. for its first winter market held one Sunday per month through April.
Now many of those winter vendors, including Get Off the Couch Catering, Ingram’s Bread and Jam, and Bailey’s Bees, are at Belli’s full time.
As someone who worked at Trader Joe’s for two years, Curatolo will tell you there’s a difference in produce picked fresh that day.
“You can taste the difference. You really can,” she said.
Produce isn’t the only local product you’ll find at Belli’s: Redmoon Theater donated the wood used to make the display crates, and neighborhood photographers were used for the photos of vendors and produce that dot the store’s walls.
Unlike MeztiSoy, another neighborhood grocery with a local, organic focus that opened in August, Belli’s will carry only locally sourced items.
MeztiSoy’s owners said they wouldn’t be able to sustain a solely organic store based on the neighborhood’s needs. But Curatolo said she thinks there’s enough of a demand in Pilsen to support the local option.
“My customer base may be a little different right now, even though it’s not that far away,” she said. “I’m coming from the farmers market, so people already support this stuff. We need more South Side stores. We need more health food stores in general.”
Belli’s will be open 7-7 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays, closed on Sundays. Belli’s also has a juice bar, where $3-$5 will get you freshly squeezed kale and beet juices.
Curatolo, who plans to accept LINK cards, said she also plans to have healthy eating workshops and film screenings at some point in Belli’s future.