Chicago Market Isn't A Place

As of this month, over 850 Owners have joined Chicago Market, and we're so excited about our growing honest food community. But as we've shared before, our co-op will need a lot more Owners before we can open our doors. Our planning work tells us that we cannot secure a loan and therefore a site without 1,500 Owners. Market research says there are more than enough likely joiners in our target area. But we need your help finding them and helping them understand why they should join, now. We hear a lot that one thing that makes it hard for Owners to recruit their friends, family, neighbors to join is that "we can't tell you yet where the store will be." Our Board and Site team are working hard on that! Meanwhile, Board President Grant Kessler offers another way to think (and talk) about what Chicago Market is all about. Here's his story. What's yours?


Chicago Market isn’t a place.

Chicago Market is the recognition that the word agriculture contains the word “culture”. Chicago Market is you and I working together to reinvigorate our foodshed with culture, with community around food and around growing. We are working together to rebuild the connections between eater, farmer and soil.

The work will be complicated, but the idea is simple – you and I working together – because we want food culture, food with story, food with intense flavor, food with soil clinging to it and a farmer with a name bringing it to us.

Short story:

At the farmer’s market recently I ran into a friend (and fellow Chicago Market Owner!). Eric was very excited to have gotten 5 pounds of something called a marrow bean from Tracey at Three Sisters Garden. He told me passionately and reverently about how delicious these beans are and that he buys so many because they freeze well. “Really, if you like beans, you have to try these,” he urged.



Next stop for me was of course to go see my farmer friend Tracey and I bought something less than 5 pounds to give them a try. They are in fact, delicious fresh beans that are named marrow beans for a reason – they have a very meaty flavor and texture. I’m a convert. A week later I check in with Tracey for more and she says she’s out of the fresh, but let her know before market and she would bring me some of her frozen ones.

Do you see what happened there? Do you see the community and culture in that story? Eric (part of my community) sold Tracey’s beans for her. And now I’m selling them to you. Now picture those same beans on a shelf in a typical grocery store. Would they sell? Would you care? Would you know about them at all?

Chicago Market isn’t a place.

It doesn’t matter where Chicago Market is. It is more than a location. It is food with a story and it won’t be rich and amazing without you adding your story to it. Be part of this amazing change in our food culture by becoming an Owner today!

[photo credit: Grant Kessler]



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Weekly Update, 9/20-10/3


Here's a quick update on what our Chicago Market teams have been doing these past two weeks:


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Board Meeting Minutes for 9/28/16

Chicago Market Board Meeting
7 p.m. 9/28/16 at Cafe Chien
Present: Grant, Anthony, Heather, Emily, Karen, Lizzy, Mike, Dan, Kelly, Bill, Jen, Tony, Mark
Guests: Greg and Jeannie Radek (Owner)
Absent: Linn and Larry

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Weekly Update, 9/12-9/19


Here's a quick update on what our Chicago Market teams have been doing this past week:

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Our 2016-2017 Board of Directors

Owners, we did it! We've elected five new directors to join Chicago Market's board.

Thanks to everyone who voted -- honoring co-op Principle #2 (Democratic Member Control) and supporting these fine candidates who've volunteered their time, talent & energy to our community at a leadership level. They have all been active as volunteers and/or appointed board members now for some time, so they'll hit the ground running and we're excited about their current and future contributions.

We Welcome to Leadership..

Lizzy Appleby is Chicago Market Owner #518. Lizzy has been our Volunteer Recruiter and Trainer for over a year now, as well as active part of our Marketing/Owner Recruiting and Engagement team. We featured her in our very first newsletter's Volunteer Spotlight. She is a community organizer and youth worker, educator, and advocate for social and reproductive justice. She has a Masters degree from the University of Chicago, School of Social Service Administration. Read Lizzy's statement here to learn more about why she's part of Chicago Market and chose to run for our board of directors.

Linn Austin is Chicago Market Owner #633. Linn was temporarily appointed to fill an open seat on our board earlier this year. She has managed and grown our successful Pop-Up Market series, and is also an active part of the Marketing/Owner Recruiting and Engagement team. Linn was featured as a Volunteer Spotlight in January. She has extensive experience in organizing, event planning and providing content to both small local and large international events. Read Linn's board candidate statement here to learn more.

Larry Gast is Chicago Market Owner #697. Larry joined the Marketing/Owner Recruiting and Engagement team this spring and quickly became a second driving force behind Chicago Market's Pop-Up Market initiative. Larry is a former Owner at his beloved Park Slope Food Co-Op in Brooklyn, NY and he serves as VP of Development for Moishe House, a global non-profit. Read Larry's board candidate statement here to learn more about what motivates his co-op love.

Bill Petty is Chicago Market Owner #420. Bill has been an especially active volunteer with the co-op for over a year now: both the Site Selection team and our Grocery Logistics, Retail and Procurement team have benefited from his participation. He is a retired general contractor with expertise in construction and construction management, and also has extensive experience in non-profit board leadership. Read Bill's board candidate statement here to learn more.

Jen Vest is Chicago Market Owner #532. Jen was temporarily appointed to fill an open seat on our board at the end of 2015. She has been an active part of our Marketing/Owner Recruiting and Engagement team, helping us to define and communicate our co-op's #reasons2own with her own blog post on our site last year. She has also currently taken leadership of a project to update Chicago Market's website (no small feat!). She has over eight years of brand strategy and digital communication experience, as an Account Director at an independent marketing agency. Read Jen's board candidate statement here to learn more about her connection to our honest food community.


We Thank for their Leadership...

We also offer gratitude and good wishes to those Owners who will be stepping off our board of directors.

Esther Dairiam is Chicago Market Owner #690. Esther was featured in this month's newsletter, along with her culinary bookstore Read It & Eat. Esther's strategic, entrepreneurial and management background has been especially valuable to our board this year, as she took on the role of Treasurer and Finance team liaison, organizing spreadsheets and leading countless conversations that have been part of our business plan and financial management.

Malcolm Haar is Chicago Market Owner #14! With the co-op's original Steering Committee, he's been part of every aspect of our founding and direction. On our board of directors, he's been the IT and Database Liaison, has contributed to both the Organizational Development and Marketing teams, and he's always been the first to volunteer as a "pinch player" to help other teams work through strategy and get critical projects done. We're very happy that he remains an active part of our Marketing/Owner Recruiting and Engagement team.

Lance Rantala is Chicago Market Owner #515. He was appointed to fill an open position on our board in late 2015. As CEO of Blue Hawk, a purchasing/distribution co-op, and with experience across a number of other co-ops, he has been able to share practical knowledge, strategic insights and valuable contacts with Chicago Market. He's been part of the Site Selection and Finance teams.

These individuals have each patiently shared their time, skills and knowledge to making great things happen for Chicago Market. Their energy and thoughtfulness will be missed at our board meetings, but we know they’ll continue to contribute in ways big and small. We're so glad they are part of our honest food community!


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Chicago Market's Architecture Partners, Part II: Fresh Perspectives!

In our August newsletter and previously on our blog, we introduced the first of two architectural firms that Chicago Market has chosen to partner with for our store design and build-out. Here, we announce our second partner and our team is complete: Minnesota-based freshArc. Chosen for their expertise in the food industry, freshArc will collaborate with Wrap Architecture, the Site Selection and Architecture team, the board of directors and Owners to create the store of our collective dreams!

John Hatzung, LEED, AP, NCARB, freshArc principal, sat down with Owner #148 and writer Annette Mambuca to round out our two-part story.

Chicago Market: Let’s start with a question that’s no doubt important to our readers. Are you a member of a co-op?

Linden HillsJohn: You bet. I’m a member of the Linden Hills Co-op in Minneapolis, and I’m proud to serve on the board of directors there.

I’ve always loved the whole idea of co-ops – from food stores to credit unions. It was actually my interest in co-ops and their market growth that led me to open my own firm.

Chicago Market: In fact, it was your design expertise and knowledge about all things food and co-ops that led to the invitation to collaborate on the store layout of Chicago Market. Given that, take us on a quick tour of your career. 

John: It started more than 30 years ago, when I was with a design-build firm and a former associate asked me to design restaurants. I really enjoyed the work, mostly because I enjoyed creating spaces for people to gather and enjoy good food.

Eventually the restaurateur stopped building, so I shifted to building energy-efficient homes. From there, I found an opportunity to move back into food, with the architecture department of SuperValu Inc., an industry-leading grocery retailer. I spent 16 years there, designing a variety of food stores, from large and medium-sized chains to mom-and-pop stores. I learned a lot about the food business and its complexities. And it was there that I began to be drawn to the idea that the best food stores are the ones where people truly come together to interact with the products and one another.

I left SuperValu to join a firm that specialized in food processing plants and food distribution, where I learned even more about the food system and how all the component inter-relate.

Chicago Market: What specifically led you to open your own firm?

John_color.jpgJohn: freshArc grew out of conversation with P.J. Hoffman, who is now the Business Development Director at the National Co-op Grocers Association. We were both concerned about the competition food co-ops face from sophisticated natural foods retailers. My partner, Paul Hannemann, and I wanted to bring the advantages and efficiencies of successful chains to non-traditional markets so they could be more competitive.

Chicago Market: Given all your store-design experience, what distinguishes your approach to a chain grocery store versus a co-op like Chicago Market?



John:  Food stores are one of the most complex building types given their multiple infrastructures, including retail, customer experience, food storage, preparation and safety, energy requirements and regulation.

So the essential difference is that the design of a big-box or chain grocery is pre-determined and imposed on the site, and it reflects the goals of the corporation. The design of a co-op, on the other hand, grows out of the site, and it reflects the values of its community.

To design a co-op, you really need to understand what drives the people who will use it. The process is all about listening and discovering exactly what that is.

Chicago Market: Your approach is in keeping with the philosophy of your partners on this project, Cheryl and Ravi from Wrap Architecture.

John: We’re looking forward to collaborating with them, particularly because the site will probably be an existing building. One of the things I love about Wrap is that they recognize, celebrate and bring out the history of the existing building site in their designs. 

Chicago Market: How will freshArc contribute to the layout and design of Chicago Market?

John: Basically, we’ll be involved in two ways. First, we’ll help create the basic layout for the store, which is called the fixture plan. It determines where the different departments will be, how the store is oriented, where the checkout is, the flow of traffic, etc. Also on the back-end, how food is received, stored and processed before it goes to the customer-facing part of the store.


Second, we will act as advisors to Cheryl and Ravi, helping them understand the different infrastructure systems that run through the building, regulations and codes as related to food, and the innumerable details of such a specialized building.

Chicago Market: Like Wrap Architecture, freshArc has a deep devotion to sustainable building and energy-efficient design. What’s most interesting to you in this regard?

John: I’m fanatic about lighting. I think LED lights are one of the greatest invention of our time. They have such a huge impact on energy use and climate change in our country. One of things that will be happening is that the cost of wiring buildings will be significantly reduced.

I also believe natural light is one of the most important things about any building, but particularly food stores. You have to know how to work with it, and I want to use it as much as possible for Chicago Market. Natural light will help make people happy to be there – and I’m not just talking about shoppers. It’s also essential for employees; natural light helps them enjoy their jobs and do them better.

Chicago Market: Given your long history designing food stores, what is most important to you in terms of the customer experience? 

John: If my experience has taught me anything it’s that the food industry is constantly changing. So part of a good customer experience is ensuring that the store design is adaptable, allowing for change and evolution over time.

But in the end, it all comes down to people. I want to help create a Chicago Market that gives everyone an opportunity for the greatest interaction, and brings delight about the food and other items that are available. 


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Read It & Eat - Chicago's Culinary Bookstore!

Newsletter contributor and Owner #838 Maia Welbel stopped by recently and shared this great review of Read It & Eat: Chicago’s only “culinary bookstore,” dedicated entirely to food!

Chicago Market Owner #690 and former board member Esther Dairiam has created this special and wonderful new space. Inspired by a similar bookstore she once visited in Paris, Dairiam is committed to filling her shop with unique products and delicious experiences. Currently stocking 4,000 volumes and 3,700 distinct titles, most of the books at Read It & Eat are single copy. While customers seeking popular cookbooks are likely to find what they’re looking for, Dairiam also likes to share things that people haven’t come across anywhere else. She notes that online recipes and videos may have become ubiquitous, but they can’t replace the tactile experience of a physical cookbook.

Nor can they build community, but Read It & Eat is designed to do just that!

The store’s layout includes a full kitchen complete with a double oven and plenty of shiny counter space. They hosts book signings, cooking classes, demonstrations, and pop-up dinners. Dairiam says her rule of thumb is that there should be good food involved at every event. Bookcases can be reconfigured to accommodate tables and chairs, transforming the store into a perfect spot for group gatherings.

The shop has become a destination for visitors to the city and locals alike. Stop by and say hi to Esther, who is often at the store. Check out the shelves full of colorful photographs, recipes, stories and breathe deep: more often than not, the air inside is filled with the aroma of cookies baking, olive oil sizzling, or fresh herbs and spices. 

Read It & Eat is located at 2142 N. Halsted, in Lincoln Park.

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Board Meeting Minutes for 8/24/16

Here are the public minutes for the Chicago Market Board meeting of Aug. 24, 2016:

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Weekly Update, 8/23-8/29


Here's a quick update on what our Chicago Market teams have been doing this past week:



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Weekly Update, 8/16-8/22


Here's a quick update on what our Chicago Market teams have been doing this past week:


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