The Whole Foods Market in Hyde Park held its opening ceremony at 8:45 a.m. on Wednesday, June 22 ,and opened for business at 9 a.m.
The first customer arrived at 4:45 a.m. By 9 a.m. there were over 1,300 customers lined up at the main entrance on Lake Park Avenue and the line stretched to East Hyde Park Boulevard and down Harper Avenue to 52nd Street.
At the opening ceremony, Ald. Sophia King (4th) applauded Whole Foods, 5118 S. Lake Park Ave., for employing more than 90 local team members and showcasing 12 South Side vendors. King and members of the store's management team presented a $25,000 Healthy Kids innovation grant to the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute to fund a program that uses the archaeological exploration of food in ancient civilizations to understand human health.
"This is not just about being a business that comes into the neighborhood; it is about being a good community partner," Store Manager Eric Galinvaux said. "I think our donation to the Institute is a good example of this."
Hyde Park resident Arnett Howell-Faulkner, whose skincare lotion, AHF Body Chemistry, is sold in the Hyde Park Whole Foods, said the opening of the Hyde Park location played a significant role in her product launch.
"We waited to launch the product specifically at this Whole Foods," Howell-Faulkner said.
As the line moved forward, employees kept new customers from entering the store until enough other customers had exited so as not to exceed maximum capacity. Regional Vice President of Operations, David Schwartz, said this is the first time that has happened at a Chicago Whole Foods opening.
Customers in line expressed excitement about the new store.
"We haven't had a store this close in some years," said Margaret Gay, who lives a block away from the entrance. "We used to have one and it was great, but it closed, so the closest store we've had was on 55th. Now this is convenient and I love this store."
Gay said, "I'm just happy they're here. The neighborhood has changed tremendously in the last few years...so I think new businesses are coming to the area. I know they'll do well because I think the whole community shares my sentiments."
Kenwood resident Annette McGee said, "I walked here from 47th [Street] but I should have gotten here earlier. I'm all about quality, even if I have to pay a little more."
The Whole Foods Lake Park construction project was announced in 2005. The store was originally supposed to open in 2014 but the opening date was pushed back due to construction delays. It replaces Village Foods, a low-cost grocery store that occupied the space until 2012.
Schwartz said that Whole Foods chose the Hyde Park location as part of its expansion to the South Side.
"There are already stores in Chicago and I wanted to move south," Schwartz said. "The previous one to open was at Roosevelt Road and Canal Street and the next obvious location was here. [Hyde Park] is tied to the university but also has a very well-established community on its own."
In addition to donating to the Oriental Institute, the store held five community giving days last week, in which five percent of sales are donated to five local organizations: Blackstone Bicycle Works at Experimental Station, the Hyde Park Art Center, the Hyde Park Jazz Society, the Hyde Park Neighborhood Club, and the Hyde Park Historical Society.
Schwartz emphasized the organization's excitement in coming to the neighborhood. "I honestly think this is the largest crowd I've seen in Chicago," Schwartz said. "We're just so happy to be here and that the community is happy to have us." email@example.com
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