Officials from Forest Park Plaza LLCa wholly owned subsidiary of Living Word Christian Center, the company that owns and operates the 13-hectare outdoor shopping, dining and worship center at 7600 Roosevelt Road in this suburb five miles west of Chicago, announced today that they have acquired Living Fresh Market, the 70,000 square foot supermarket that has been a mainstay of the square over the past four last years.
Living Fresh Market was opened in May 2018 by Dan Casaccio, part of a family that has been in the grocery business for nearly a century. It replaced Ultra Foods, which left a huge void in access to fresh food and produce when it closed four years ago in this racially and economically mixed village of about 14,300 people.
The new owners, Dr. Bill Winston and his family, bought the place in 1997. With the change in ownership, the Winstons became one of the few African Americans across the country to own a large, full-scale supermarket.
The change in ownership comes during a volatile time in the food retail industry, as a number of large supermarket chains, such as Whole Foods, Save-A-Lot, SuperValu, Aldi, Walgreens and even Walmart have closed grocery stores across the country, including urban areas classified as food deserts.
In early 2020, with the onset of the global coronavirus outbreak, groceries went into a tailspin. On the one hand, the business has been robust as the demand for food and other essentials has increased, while on the other hand, problems have arisen with labor shortages, production food and the delivery of these products.
But the food retail industry has balanced the uncertainties better than most industries, according to a recently released Axios Harris poll. Grocery stores have received some of the highest ratings for reliability when it comes to giving customers access to the products and services they need.
This current market climate bodes well for the Winstons, who have established a leading brand in the region for growth and prosperity over the past two decades. In addition to Living Fresh Market, the plaza is also home to Home Owner’s Bargain Outlet (HOBO), a family-run, factory-direct home improvement retailer; the Carver Innovation Center, one of five manufacturing labs and makerspaces in Illinois; 28 To Brush Dental, Portillo’s Hot Dogs, Enterprise Leasing, Taco Bell, America’s Best Contacts and Eyeglasses, Royal Christian Bookstores and Cafés, Liberty Bank, Planet Fitness, Principle Dance and Ashley Stewart.
Melody Winston, director of real estate, operations and construction at Forest Park Plaza, said the family decided to venture into the grocery business because there was an opportunity to expand their business portfolio. and to impact the community it has served over the past 24 years, from when Dr Winston bought a declining shopping center in 1997 to house the church he founded and serves senior pastor, Living World Christian Centerone of the largest churches in the country.
“Our goal is to present the best supermarket experience to the community,” Winston said.
“We will provide fresh meats, fresh produce and high quality products that meet the needs of the community. We will modernize the store, incorporating the latest technological innovations in the supermarket industry, such as Instacart, and we will remain engaged with our customers.
Winston said the renovation has begunbut the grocery store remains open during the transformation under the temporary name joseph Fresh Market LLC. Part of the new look includes converting 10,000 square feet of the grocery store into a market for new vendors to display their wares. A ribbon-cutting ceremony is scheduled for Labor Day weekend.
“There are people trying to put products on the shelves of a grocery store,” Winston said.
“There are people who bake their own bread, make their own baby food and other specialty items. There is a shortage of infant formula. We will help them solve this problem and show them how to perfect their product or specialty item for the market. »
Another rewarding part of this whole experience, Winston said, was hiring new employees.
“We have great people,” she said.
“I have managers in each department. We even have an old fashioned butcher.
Forest Park Mayor Rory Hoskin and Representative The Shawn Ford (D-8e) said the Winstons’ acquisition is good news for the community and the region.
“I’m grateful to them for stepping into this arena to do what’s best for the community,” Ford said.
“They are making a sacrifice. It’s really not a business in which they seek to enrich themselves. It’s really the mission to provide the community with what they need, so they can be commended for it.
As big chains abandon some communities, the Winstons are part of a new movement of black entrepreneurs mobilizing to acquire supermarkets. It’s happening in Houston, Oakland, Detroit, Washington and even Chicago.
“It’s a model for Chicago and for urban communities to have small business owners, who aren’t connected to the big chains, opening supermarkets in communities,” Ford said.
“They’re down to the neighborhoods, not like the big chains that come and go, because the trust or the real science of their success isn’t the local market, it’s the big stage. They have grocery stores in many states, and if they fail in other markets, it cuts into their profit margins and forces them to close in other areas.