BRONZEVILLE — When shoppers go into the new Bronzeville Mariano’s on Tuesday, they will get to choose among a host of products from South Side and Chicago businesses.
The 74,000-square-foot Mariano’s opens on Tuesday at 3857 S. Martin Luther King Drive, and there will be some familiar faces, with 143 of the 400 employees hired from the community and many city businesses with products on the shelves there to give out samples.
“Forty-eight products on the shelves here are from small businesses here in Chicago,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel at Monday’s ribbon-cutting.
Among those products is AHF Body Chemistry by Arnett Faulkner of North Kenwood.
Last year, Faulkner quit her job in health care and started selling the skin oils and butters she had been making at home for 10 years to help her son’s eczema and other friends and family’s skin issues.
“People were pushing, and I was just giving the products away,” Faulkner said.
She said the first store where she got on the shelves was the new Whole Foods in Hyde Park. Now with her products being sold at Mariano’s too, she’s thinking about expanding and hiring staff to help her make things like white fig body butter.
Brenda Palms Barber of North Lawndale said her business, Sweet Love, which harvests honey from more than 130 bee hives around Chicago, now hires about 40 people thanks to sales buoyed by being on Mariano’s shelves.
“We’re in 29 stores already, and they want us in all of them,” Palms Barber said.
She said the company has a focus on hiring people with criminal records that face difficulty getting back into the workforce. She said in the last 11 years, 435 people have worked short-term for the company to rebuild their resumes.
Other businesses are hoping the Bronzeville Mariano’s is their first big break.
Toyin Kolawole launched Iya Foods selling African spices and sauces and said she’s excited that Mariano’s is the first store to take a chance on her products after store reps tried it at a local vendors’ event.
“They loved it, and within in weeks placed orders,” Kolawole said.
Kolawole said she spent years exporting American food to Africa and is banking on Americans now being ready to try African food.
Iya Foods of North Aurora imports dried hibiscus for drinks and special peppers for its peri peri and other African-style sauces.
Kolawole will be among the vendors at Mariano’s on Tuesday to give out free samples.
Faulkner also will be there with her butters and oils.
Palms Barber said she’s bringing in a bee hive so people can see how the honey is made and try honey still in the comb.
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