The Rolling Stones sang it best “YOU CAN”T ALWAYS GET WHAT YOU WANT” but on Chicago’s beleaguered South Side it is more like no “SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL” when it comes to replacing food stores.

Written by Michael E Dehn

Founder and CEO of Metro Pulse a continually running enterprise since May 1980.

April 6, 2023

When you read about this community “beefing” about the quality of the incoming SAVE A LOT store slated to replace the shuttered Whole Foods location on 63rd Street some serious issues come to mind.

There are demands for a higher quality food store to come in and the company that owns SAVE A LOT owns a higher quality store concept know as the Yellow Banana which community leaders thought was the chosen store to inhabit the space.

Stark reality is “the hood” on the crime infested South Side of Chicago is a dangerous place to do business for any store and those “costs” and risks factor into decisions made. At 76th and Ashland where our editor grew up 50 years ago an Aldi abruptly shut down citing theft and security issues recently to the consternation of the neighborhood.

On the farther east 63rd street location the Whole Foods was given massive tax breaks to open yet the neighborhood did not properly support the store. Management personnel and staff imported from other stores were afraid to travel there, especially at night when leaving the store even with proximity to expressway. Theft issues were rampant and there were other security concerns directly related to the neighborhood. In addition , many “quality” perishable food items were not sold ostensibly because of price points leading to a massive financial loss for the store in product.

These issues preclude any prudent vendor from running the risk of opening a QUALITY food store in this area. The nature of the neighborhood , not only from an income standpoint but also from the gang infested drug dealing gun violence angle will always keep the best stores away. The stores the neighborhood wanted, the Mariano’s or Jewel/Osco or even Aldi will NOT go anywhere near that area because of those issues. It is not a coincidence that these stores thrive in safer areas.

It speaks volumes on Chicago that the South Side (and the West and East Sides) remain economically challenged after decades of civic and political as well as investment neglect. Our editor’s white family moved from their house at 7628 S Paulina in 1970 and 53 years ago the neighborhood was dangerous which is why that family got out. What’s changed since?? NOTHING!! IN OVER HALF A CENTURY. And our editor would not feel safe going back to visit EVER AGAIN.

One could effectively argue that huge swaths of the city of Chicago on the South and West and now the East sides have evolved into economic dead zones. It is indeed tragic that food deserts have been created due to the volatile dangerous nature of these neighborhoods for the citizens living there. Lack of quality fresh produce and other fresh foodstuffs exacerbates health issues in children forced to consume processed crap as they are in key growing phases creating the epidemic in childhood obesity we are seeing. It also forces citizens to expend time and energy and expense to travel to areas where proper food items ARE SOLD.

Business cannot be blamed for the dearth of quality food stores in certain areas because of risk factors stated, it simply makes no sense to conduct business in these areas as evidenced by 2 closings on the South Side in the last year due to theft and security issues. These are the crystal clear warning signs of a dying city and it never gets better, only worse.