Pete’s Market Comes To The West Side

Posted on August 30th, 2009 in All Articles, West Loop.

Looks like Western and Madison are getting a Pete’s market. Read this recent article from the Chicago Tribune to learn:

Grocery gives sweet taste of victory
Mary Schmich

Andre Perrin drove over to Angelene Johnson’s condo just to tell her the news. She shouted. She cried.

“I thought I blew his eardrum ’cause I hollered so loud,” she said when I called her Thursday.

Not everyone would weep and shout over the coming of a grocery store, but the news that excited Perrin and Johnson and hundreds of other West Siders last week was about more than bananas.

This was the end of a fight, the end of a drought, the beginning of a new age in one of Chicago’s official “food deserts.”

I recently wrote about the neighborhood’s campaign to get its first supermarket in a generation. In the often frustrated, fractured and changing community, the campaign had brought together neighbors of all kinds.

Some were like Johnson. She’s a former public housing resident who moved into a mixed-income development after the demolition of Henry Horner Homes, where she raised three children.

Others were like Andre Perrin. He’s a freelance speechwriter who moved with his girlfriend from hip Wicker Park to buy a home he could afford in a piece of Chicago he wanted to help reshape.

Johnson and Perrin and their allies didn’t want just any grocery store though. No mushy vegetables mummified in plastic, please.

They wanted a Pete’s Fresh Market, and they wanted it not only for the first-rate produce, low prices and spotless aisles but for what a store like that symbolized: respect for the neighborhood.

Finally last week, after years of delays, discussions and pitches from three stores, Ald. Bob Fioretti called a meeting to make the announcement.

As Perrin recounts it, more than 350 people showed up at Phoenix Military Academy.

At the end of a long suspenseful preamble — “true political theater,” said Perrin — Fioretti gave the crowd what they wanted: A Pete’s was coming to the corner of Madison and Western. So was a Giordano’s pizzeria.

The applause, Perrin said, lasted for two minutes.

“One thing it’s going to do,” said Perrin, who led the campaign of e-mails, phone calls and petitions, “is make this a walkable community. Right now, people don’t walk around much because there’s not much to walk to. And it’s not a neighborhood feeling when you don’t see people walking.”

His new neighborhood may never rival Wicker Park, with its abundance of coffeehouses, bookstores, dry cleaners and restaurants. But at least there will be somewhere to go on foot, an incentive to get exercise and more neighbors to greet on the sidewalk.

“To have a grocery store in the heart of the West Side,” Johnson said, “to have one at my doorstep — you know what I’m saying? — it’s a godsend.”

Construction on the store won’t start until June. In the meantime, Perrin and his neighbors will keep building their neighborhood in little ways.

On Sunday mornings this summer, they’ve held their first farmers market, in a long-neglected park. Perrin is planning to give tennis lessons to neighborhood kids. They’re looking for a yoga teacher.

Monday evening, they screened their first film in the park — “Kung Fu Panda” — and passed out free hot dogs.

Afterward, a former public housing resident told Perrin, “Nobody’s ever thought to do that for the kids before.”

In the glow of the grocery store victory, Perrin offers this advice for anyone else looking to improve their neighborhood against the odds: Stick together. Be patient. Be relentless.

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