Chicago Market, a community co-op

Chicago Market’s next Pop-Up market will be on Saturday, May 21 from 2:00 to 5:00pm at the Swedish American Museum. Our theme this time is all about summer barbecue: come and buy sustainable veggies, seafood and meat for your grill. We’ll also have knife sharpening, baked goods, grains, ice cream, sauces, coffee and more. Chicago Market Owner Kolleen Blume and her old-time string band The Slippery Elms will also entertain us at the Pop-Up. Bring your friends and family!

Become an Owner now or at the Pop-Up and you’ll get a $10 coupon to use for purchases there, as well as being entered into a drawing for a cute Weber single-burner grill. Entry is free, but you do need to RSVP. When you do, you’ll also be able to pre-order sustainable meats from Meadow Haven Farm! See you on Saturday!


RSVP now

BBQ Co-Op Pop-Up
Blueprint Header

This month, Chicago Market launched a new Owners drive, and we’re calling it “What’s Your Blueprint?”. We’re looking to get 50 new Owners between now and the end of June, to help us jumpstart the funding of our architect and store designer projects.

We’ve had 9 new Owners join already since the campaign start! And we’re continuing to make great progress on selecting a site for our store – we’ve identified at least three locations with great potential to build your dream grocery store, and we’re beginning negotiation discussions.

And now the fun starts – hiring the architects and store designers who’ll work with us to make Chicago Market a big, bright, beautiful non-cookie cutter store.

But we need two things from you, now, to make it real.

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We need more Owners

Chicago Market’s board has directed that every significant financial step we take needs to be accompanied by Owner growth we know we’ll need to build and ensure the success of a food co-op in Chicago’s competitive grocery landscape. We know there are supporters who’ve been waiting to join until they could see we were taking tangible steps toward our bricks & mortar building. We know there are many more who aren’t even aware yet of our co-op and all the wonderful benefits we’ll be bringing to Owners, but also to the farmers and local food producers we cherish, and to our neighborhood’s economy and quality of life.

Now is the time to become an Owner or to share Chicago Market’s news with your friends, family, neighbors and co-workers. Share our story in person, on your facebook page or twitter feed. Share your story — why you’re an Owner and why you’re excited about our co-op. We can’t build our store without your help.

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We need your ideas!

#whatsyourblueprint means we’re looking for your ideas to share with the designers we hire to build Chicago Market’s store. What kind of building and store design would you like to see? What’s most important to you? How do you want to feel when you walk through our doors?

We’ve asked Owners to share their ideas with us via email, or on Facebook or Twitter with the tag #whatsyourblueprint. And we’ve heard some great ideas already! Can we hear yours, too?

We’re excited about building our co-operative in the image of the great community it will serve. Be part of the process — #whatsyourblueprint for your dream grocery store?

Blueprint Quotes

Washington Park Co-Op

There are few other businesses where “competition” is more welcome that in the co-op world. So, it’s exciting every time we hear of a new group around Chicagoland planning to start a food co-op.

Several dozen members of the Washington Park community attended the launch event of the Washington Park Food Co-op earlier this month. The group, with about a half dozen committee members, is in the very early stages of organizing. But the excitement surrounding their plans was palpable at their launch event.

Washington Park doesn’t just want a food co-op – it needs one. The predominantly African-American community on Chicago’s south side is located in a food desert. The neighborhood’s residents have limited access to fresh food and produce.

So, co-op organizers invited local-food stakeholders—including representatives from Chicago Market and the Dill Pickle, as well as speakers from the Chicago Department of Health, the Chicago Park District, Growing Power, Windy City Harvest and more—to talk about why a co-op is needed in Washington Park and the process of forming one.

Washington Park Co-op’s first task is to build community support and awareness. They’re hoping to find someone to design their logo so they can create promotional materials to distribute at events this summer. If you are a designer, or know someone who is, who would be willing to donate some time and talent, contact the Washington Park Co-op at washingtonparkcoop.gmail.com.

GLRP update

Chicago Market’s Mission says that “We treat our farmers and vendors not as cogs in a supply chain, but as members of our community.” So what does that mean?

For the GLRP team, that means involving them NOW in our process. Put very simply, we want to build a store that works for you, the shopper, but also for the farmers and local food artisans whose products we carry. We want them to be happy to work with us and feel like their voice is heard as we craft the store. It is their store too. So, we listen.

Led by team member Sofia Jouravel, we’ve been conducting “farmer and producer listening sessions.” We gather a few farmers over a beer and talk with them. We ask questions and take copious notes. Our takeaways are reported to the Board and will be shared with our General Manager so good ideas actually get implemented.

What do we ask? What does your dream relationship with a grocery store look like? How can we get more winter produce from you? How do you deliver/distribute? How can we best keep you connected to our Owners? What are we not thinking of?

And the good news is our local farmers and producers are incredibly thoughtful and insightful. We learn a lot from them.

We learn they’re willing to negotiate, but they want a place at the negotiation table. We learn most are very willing to be in the store, connecting with shoppers. We learn they’d like advanced and regular ordering, and that volumes need to be high enough to warrant delivering. We learn they already like working with us and appreciate our being organized and interested in them. Many are repeat vendors at our Pop-Ups for exactly this reason. We learn that farmers are not a homogeneous group – their opinions vary and what may work for one farmer may not work for another; we’ll need to be flexible.

Jeremy House

And we learn that Chicago Market is at the center of telling their stories, though they view their story differently than we might. For them, it is not about certification, or distance to the store, or buzzwords like pastured or organic or bio-dynamic or heirloom. Those things are ok, but they are footnotes.

What matters? Each farmer has an incredible passion that put them into farming in the first place and that keeps them there through challenging odds. Each has a deep-seated, personal reason they farm the way they do, and a reason that connects them to their buyer community.

These stories can be quirky - why does Tracey boil over at the thought of "rancid" oats that were all she knew until she was 35 years old? But they are compelling. They are the reasons people are so tied to their favorite farmers at a farmers market - because over time, the farmer has been able to communicate that passion and those little stories to shoppers who linger long enough to learn.

If Chicago Market is to transcend what others do, it will be through capturing and telling stories that matter to the farmers, the stories that illustrate what is amazing and distinct and meaningful about the growers and producers in our foodshed. This will prove that local, organic and other buzzwords are far less important than having farmers within our community. And then, as Gil Williams of Lonesome Stone Milling says, "the eater is the certifier".

Chicago Farmers Markets

Nothing makes us happier than Farmers Market season in Chicago! Here’s your guide to when and where they’re all happening this season…so after you visit us this Saturday at Chicago Market’s own Pop-Up market, keep this list handy and check out neighborhood markets all summer long.

Chicago Farmers Markets

VOLUNTEER SPOTLIGHT: Sofia Jouravel

Meet one of our earliest Owners and most enthusiastic volunteers, Sofia Jouravel!

Sofia became Owner #55 in June 2014, as we first began to organize the Chicago Market co-op community. “I thought the idea sounded fantastic,” she says. “Even though I live in the loop, I spend a lot of time on the north side and I think having a grocery store with these values is something Chicago should have.”

Sofia Jouravel

Sofia was also excited about meeting and working with like-minded people. She first moved to Chicago while on an internship program with Abbott Laboratories, and quickly found herself moving from an interest in pharmaceuticals to broader public health and and good food issues. “The more I learned, the more I wanted to do. I was blown away the first time I went to the Good Food Festival and learned it wasn’t just me, there’s a whole movement in Chicago trying to make change!”

She quickly became one of Chicago Market’s most engaged volunteers, working to organize our database of local and regional farmers and producers, organizing “listening sessions” and helping the GLRP team to build knowledge and relationships. Her passion extends beyond the co-op: Sofia’s now working toward a Masters degree in Public Health from Northwestern, and is currently interning at Chicago’s Department of Public Health, and working with the city’s Food Policy Action Council.

Sofia grew up in California, but was actually born in Russia. Her parents emigrated when she was very young, but she was raised to speak fluent Russian, and has maintained a close connection with her Russian heritage. “My parents instilled an appreciation in me of why we left and the privileges America has given us,” she says, “but also an appreciation for where I’m from.” She met her husband Michael while she was exploring the Russian émigré community here in Chicago. “There is a word in Russian without a real equivalent, it means ‘people from the same land’ and we discovered we were both from St. Petersburg! It’s kind of a big deal, and we connected immediately,” she laughs.

When she’s not working on her many educational and volunteer activities, Sofia’s biggest love is continuing to explore the city she now calls home. She embraces being a Chicagoan, and takes pride in finding and sharing with her friends new neighborhoods, restaurants, architectural and cultural delights. Recommendations? She especially loves Chicago Detours “Cool Chicago Tours for Curious People” and Chicago Food Planet. “I love helping people plan their weekends here,” she says. “I think of myself as a Chicago Sherpa.”

We think of Sofia as an Extraordinary Owner and we’re so grateful for her participation. And if you’d like to join her in meeting like-minded folks and making change in Chicago’s foodshed, you can volunteer, too! Send us a note at volunteer@chicagomarket.coop.