LOGAN SQUARE — The wait is finally over.
Dill Pickle Co-Op's huge new store on Milwaukee Avenue, arguably one of the neighborhood's most anticipated projects in recent history, is now officially open.
To mark the occasion, co-op members, benefactors and public officials convened Friday morning for a jovial ribbon-cutting ceremony in front of the store, 2746 N. Milwaukee Ave., punctuated by Blue Line trains rumbling below and the musical stylings of local brass brand Environmental Encroachment.
"Forgive me, guys, I can't get this idiot grin off my face," said State Rep. Will Guzzardi (D-Chicago), who is also a Logan Square resident.
"I'm so proud to be a member-owner of the Dill Pickle and to have seen how this process has gone to beginning to end, how it's been inclusive and community-driven, and focused on building our entire community as a whole. It's been inspiring, a true model of how our businesses can build and grow in a healthy way," Guzzardi said.
The $3.5 million new store, funded largely by the co-op's members, is two years in the making.
Offering 10,000 square feet of space, the new store is six times the size of the old 1,300-square-foot location at 3039 W. Fullerton Ave. It has hot food and salad bars, a deli counter, a beer and wine section and a community room — all directly next to the Spaulding Blue Line entrance.
The co-op has grown immensely since its birth in 2005, which is the reason it was able to expand. In its first fiscal year of operation, Dill Pickle grossed $1.3 million in sales, nearly twice what the owners had projected it would gross by its fifth year.
Sharon Hoyer, general manager for Dill Pickle, said the anticipation leading up to the new store opening was palpable.
"Yesterday, we had planned to open, and our staff took turns standing outside just chatting with people about today being our opening, and the excitement that was in the street was really invigorating," Hoyer said.
"One of my staff members wanted to stay outside all night because he was so excited by all the folks and all of the great conversations he was having."
After the remarks, dozens of smiling shoppers filled the new store, giving it life for the first time. Shoppers like Holly Birnbaum, a co-op member and Albany Park resident, praised the store for its large size and curated selection.
"This is a starved area. We needed this badly," Birnbaum said. "I'm so thrilled and delighted."
Erik Nichols, 44, agreed, saying, "It's been a long time coming." Nichols, also a co-op member, said he intends to shop at Dill Pickle exclusively going forward.
Hoyer, who was credited with spearheading the project, reminded shoppers, benefactors and public officials that Dill Pickle "started very small."
"It was a dream of a handful of neighbors, who got together. They organized. They planned. They put in countless volunteer hours. They invested their money. They got a little project going on Fullerton Avenue. That store set the vision of what a cooperative grocery store can do in Chicago," she said.
[All photos DNAinfo/Mina Bloom]