WEST TOWN — Two renters who live above a West Town live chicken market are defending the shop in the wake of animal rights activists demanding Pollos Vivos be closed.
"We’d love to provide an alternate viewpoint to the protesters on how a small neighborhood shop has been operating as a community center as well as a source for cheap, healthy, humane food for the neighborhood for decades," Alex Burkholder said.
Burkholder, a project manager at an architecture firm, has lived above Alliance Poultry Market — which does business under the name Pollos Vivos — for six years. His neighbor Logan Deane, a lawyer, moved to another apartment above Pollos Vivos about two years ago.
The activists' characterization of the shop at 1636 W. Chicago Ave. as a slaughterhouse was "one sided," Burkholder and Deane said.
"The chickens are Amish as the protester acknowledged, and they're absolutely delicious. They arrive every night (took a while to get used to the clucking!) and when you go into the shop, they let you pick which chicken you're getting before they butcher it for you," Burkholder said.
Burkholder added, "It's disappointing that the protesters are targeting a locally-owned, farm-to-table shop like this when it's as close of an educational opportunity about where food comes from as you can get in the city. You see the chickens alive and well before you eat them. Circle of life."
Nick Abdallah is the 32-year-old son of Fayyad "Fred" Abdallah, who owns Pollos Vivos with Wasif "Wally" Shehadeh. He said the negative exposure from Chicago Animal Save and its unplanned visit, was "very intense."
"This country is built on freedom of speech and you also have the freedom to eat whatever you want as long as it's not illegal. They had a problem with people killing chickens and they came to the bottom of the pyramid. If you shut down a mom-and-pop store in Chicago it does not mean Mariano's and Jewel will not sell chicken anymore," Nick Abdallah said.
Neither Nick Abdallah nor his father or uncle were in Pollos Vivos at the time when the protesters came by — but Pollos Vivos workers agreed to give the activists a tour.
"The guys who were in there don't mind giving a tour. They like to show people the process. It's all by the book. English is not their first language; they felt very deceived. They didn't know until later that [the protestors] were trying to kill our livelihood," Nick Abdallah said.
During the short tour, the protestors linked arms in front of the chicken cages and took photos of the chickens. They decorated the cages with long-stemmed roses and published a video on Facebook.
Abdallah grew up helping his dad in the store, which was initially started in 1953 as a Kosher live chicken market. Fred Abdallah and his brother-in-law Wally Shehadah bought the business from the previous owners in 1982.
Pollos Vivos, which has a second location on the South Side, employs 11 people, or "supports 11 families," as Abdallah says. The workers speak Middle Eastern languages and Spanish.
"We serve Hispanic and Asian and American customers who wants to eat healthier. We are swamped right now [with business] for the Chinese Moon Festival holiday, " Nick Abdallah said.
Nick Abdallah said the live chickens at Pollos Vivos come from Amish farms in Indiana. The chickens are in a cage for 48 hours before being slaughtered. At any given time there are about 200 live chickens in Pollos Vivos, he said.
Chickens at the West Town location sell for $2.19 a pound when alive and live turkeys, which are popular at Thanksgiving, are $2.29 pound live. Once dressed and cleaned, the birds loses some weight.
Deane, who frequently buys chicken and eggs from Pollos Vivos, said the shop "offers a healthy, sustainable, and inexpensive option for all members of the community, not just those who can afford the luxury condo price tag."
"The shop has a TV in front and there are always groups of people hanging out, enjoying conversation and keeping their eyes on Chicago Avenue. There's almost always an elote cart out front, serving corn and watermelon and drinks. Pollos Vivos pretty uniquely ties together the traditional family crowd with the newer hipster wave that's recently moved into the neighborhood," Dean said.
And as for those long stemmed roses the activist stuck into the chicken cages?
Abdallah said the roses are currently in a flower pot for decoration.
"[The workers] did not want to kill the roses and gave them water, " Abdallah said.