ENGLEWOOD — Whole Foods and Englewood Square marked its first anniversary in Englewood Monday with a big celebration featuring the mayor, aldermen and local entrepreneurs.
“It’s a good day for me,” said Ald. Toni Foulkes (16th). “I’ve been walking these streets since I was seven.”
“I know that JoAnn is watching,” Foulkes said about the late Ald. JoAnn Thompson (16th), who had the vision for Englewood Square.
Ald. David Moore (17th) and Ald. Toni Foulkes (16th) [DNAinfo/Andrea V. Watson]
They celebrated even as the grocer's former CEO said sales hadn't been as strong as they had hoped during the first year.
“It’s been definitely a mixed year in terms of results,” Walter Robb, the former Whole Foods co-CEO, who chairs the nonprofit Whole Cities Foundation, told WBEZ. “Have we accomplished everything we wanted to? No. Have the sales been all that we hoped? No."
Robb, as well as community activists, did praise the store's success in creating jobs and a community hub and adding shopping options to the neighborhood.
Allison Phelps, a spokeswoman for the chain, refused to comment on the Englewood store's sales or make Robb available Monday.
She said Whole Food’s commitment to Englewood extends beyond the store itself and that it’s about investing in community outreach to provide access to healthy foods and education on eating right.
“When we look at what success looks like, that’s what we’re really looking for,” Phelps said. “We don’t share individual sales for any of our stores, including Englewood, but what I can tell you, it’s something we’re continuing to work on and with the new partnership with Amazon, we feel like there will be more down the road.”
Local Vendors Honored
To truly celebrate Englewood Square’s one-year anniversary, officials recognized and awarded local entrepreneurs involved in the project.
When Whole Foods opened in Englewood last year, nearly 40 small businesses landed their products in the new store. Now, a year later, they were celebrated by the community, aldermen and the store’s officials.
Jordan Buckner, of Tea Squares, is a Chatham native with strong Englewood family ties. His product is a tea-infused energy snack that contains caffeine from organic tea — with no artificial ingredients or preservatives.
The bite-size snacks are light and offer a small crunch because they are made with puffed millet, almonds and organic pumpkin seeds. They come in three flavors: Madagascan Vanilla Tea, Acai Blueberry Tea and citrus Green Tea Matcha.
“Since Whole Foods launched, things have been really well,” Buckner said. “We went from starting in one store to all the Chicagoland Whole Foods markets.”
“The sales in this store have been great,” he said. “We have a strong following of people who live in the neighborhood, and around, who come to this location specifically to buy Tea Squares.”
Iris Patterson introduced her natural hair products, Iris Botanicals, in Englewood last year. Since then, business has been successful, she said.
She’s now in stores in South Loop, Hyde Park and Lincoln Park. Launching in Englewood was special, Patterson said.
“I was born and raised here so that was really sentimental to me,” she said. “Now I’m here with my product line, which is really awesome.”
Patterson said it’s been amazing to witness the rise of Englewood again.
“It wasn’t always this pretty,” she said. “To see it beautiful again, it’s really amazing. I’m proud of my neighborhood and I’m proud of what they’re doing.”
Other people awarded included Resident Association of Greater Englewood president Asiaha Butler, Love Cork Screw founder Chrishon Lampley and Edward and Jennifer Alexander of Island Indulgences.
Developer Leon Walker of DL3 Realty said he couldn’t stop “beaming.”
“Today is good news for Englewood,” he said. “We’re growing something good in Englewood and it’s not just the healthy food, but it’s something equally important, growing the small businesses because that’s ultimately how we’re going to change our community.”
He said he’s excited to see the ripple effect this development has created.
There was also an art unveiling by international artist Samuel Akainyah. "The Art of Enterprise" included former President Barack Obama, former Mayor Harold Washington and Chicago founder Jean Pointe Baptiste DuSable.