A Chat with Wild Root Market


One term you'll hear a lot from anyone who's been involved in starting or running a co-op is "P6," aka "Co-operative Principle #6: Co-operation among Co-operatives." Chicago Market has been fortunate enough to learn from and share knowledge with food co-ops from around the country, and at the recent Up And Coming Food Co-op Conference in Milwaukee, we were excited to hear that neighboring Wild Root Market in Racine, Wisconsin has just signed a purchase agreement for a site!

Author, Board member and Owner #17 Heather Lalley caught up with them for a chat about the challenges of being a startup, and their next steps.



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Chicago Market Owner Profiles: Meet Annette!

Chicago Market Volunteer & Owner #148 Annette Mambuca recently had an idea: what if we invited co-op Owners to answer a few fun questions about themselves, and share with the rest of us?

We've enjoyed meeting Owners at our new monthly Meet-Ups and our newsletter 'Volunteer Spotlights' are a popular feature...so here's another way we can virtually 'meet' and build community with each other.

Check out Annette's profile below...and then, click on the "I'm An Owner!" link and fill out your own profile, for us to feature in our next newsletter!


Annette Mambuca

What's your name and tell us about who else shares your fridge (i.e. is part of your household's Ownership)? I'm Annette Mambuca, and I have shared my fridge (and other appliances) with Peter M. Cooke since college, albeit when we lived bicoastally for about 8 years. I had my own appliances then. 

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What's Up in Uptown - A Walking Tour of the Neighborhood

Owners #43 Karen Jacobs and #55 Sofia Jouravel recently joined a walking tour of the Uptown neighborhood on a lovely Sunday afternoon. Our guide was Patti Swanson, who runs Chicago for Chicagoans, a pay-what-you-can walking tour service that partners with residents and neighborhood organizations to share their history with others. For the Uptown tour, Patti partnered with Vitaliy Vladimirov of Uptown United.

Uptown Walking Tour

Covering about two hours and wandering across city blocks that covered Uptown's famed Jazz Age district, the lakeshore, and a huge diversity of residential, commercial and community centers, we learned about the people and events that have given Uptown its unique and diverse character. Some fun facts:

* Broadway Avenue was originally named Evanston Avenue, but the name was changed in 1913 as part of an effort to market Uptown as an entertainment destination that could compete with...well, you know. 

* It was only in 1980 that Edgewater broke away from Uptown and became its own designated Chicago community area. Uptown still includes an extraordinarily diverse collection of neighborhoods, including Sheridan Park, Buena Park, Castlewood Terrace, Margate Park, Little Vietnam and the Uptown Entertainment district.

* Essanay Studios in Uptown was a pioneering silent film studio (films starring Charlie Chaplin, among others) until Chicago's weather and the rising popularity of Westerns pushed the industry ever-westward.

* The homes of Studs Terkel and (for a short while) George R. R. Martin were in Uptown.

* The Argyle street district, running eastward from under the El tracks, was once a Jewish enclave (and you can still see signs of this on certain buildings...). After the fall of Saigon in 1975, the area brought an influx of South East Asian refugees and took on its current pan-Asian commercial character.

* During and immediately after WWII, tens of thousands of Appalachians migrated to Chicago as the coal mining industry modernized and jobs became scarce. Affordable housing drew them to Uptown, and while there are few signs of it now, even through the 1970's the area supported a distinct Southern, rural subculture. Other waves of migrants and immigrant communities have also been part of Uptown's history and development.

* Not coincidentally, Uptown has a deep history of activism, especially around racial and economic justice issues. Grassroots organizer Peggy Terry fought passionately for racial equality and was an early proponent of what we now might call "intersectionality," the concept that poverty, racism and sexism can be understood as interdependent and not independent struggles. Radical organizers including the (white, largely Appalachian migrant) Young Patriots Organization, the Black Panther Party and the (Latino) Young Lords Organization in the 1960's worked together to push for a "Hank Williams Village" cooperative community in Uptown and even first coined the moniker "Rainbow Coalition." This name was later co-opted by Jesse Jackson's Rainbow/PUSH Coalition; the urban planning vision was co-opted in quite a different way as Mayor Richard J. Daley and other interests established Truman College in that location, instead. Today, activism still plays a huge role in Uptown's development and community organizing, especially around issues of affordable housing and preserving the neighborhood's extraordinary multicultural diversity.



"Patti and Vitaliy did a such a wonderful job of making the social and architectural history of Uptown come alive," says Karen. "It was fascinating to learn about the role played by the original train station - which eventually became the site of the Gerber Building and hopefully will soon become the site of Chicago Market - both in creating and responding to social changes in the neighborhood. I'm even more excited about the possibilities of our co-op becoming part of the story!"

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Wilson Station - Community Meeting May 10

5.10.17_Community_Mtg_Steven_Gross_199.jpg Check out some more great pictures from our meeting on Flickr!

On May 10 at Chase Park, Chicago Market hosted a public community meeting about our pursuit of the CTA’s renovated Wilson Station, aka the Gerber Building. This was the second in a series – the first was held April 18 with Chicago Market Owners, and the next, another public session, will be held on Saturday afternoon, May 20 at Bezazian branch, Chicago Public Library. 

Despite an intense thunderstorm that hit right before we started, attendance was solid and the room was full. For many there, this was their first exposure to the food co-operative model, and to Chicago Market’s vision and plans to open a full-service, community-owned grocery store: focused on bringing local, sustainable food and products and being a hub for community gathering, education and growth.

We continue to be thrilled and inspired by the community’s response to this project, and to our bid for space in this very special location. Owners and supporters who’ve been engaged with Chicago Market since the beginning have joined us for meetings, signed our community petition, helped spread the word, and stepped up to volunteer their efforts. New supporters, especially those connected to the Uptown area, have listened thoughtfully and contributed their own knowledge, ideas, and networking connections to help us move our plan forward in ways that will ensure Chicago Market will be a proactive and productive part of the neighborhood – not just another chain retailer.

We’ve also had some great questions asked – at meetings and via other communications. And while not all of them are easy to answer, we want you to keep ‘em coming! It is both a core value and a key point of difference versus traditional grocery stores, that a food co-op exists to be responsive to our Owners and our community, not just to extract profit for outside investors or management.

We’re working to post all of these questions and ideas on a consolidated page on our blog – we’ll share that link here and on our Facebook page very soon!

In the meantime, here's a rundown of the May 10 session:

Board President Grant Kessler kicked off a presentation that outlines Chicago Market's history, our vision and our growth so far.

Founder, Funding Director (and Board member) Greg Berlowitz talked about the history of the Wilson Station site, and some of the ways in which we see Chicago Market taking advantage of this location. We even brought some first draft layout drawings from our partners at Wrap Architecture - they are super excited about this unique opportunity. 

You can check out the presentation here

Sharon Hoyer, who is General Manager of Chicago’s Dill Pickle food co-op in Logan Square, then talked about how Dill Pickle partners with food justice organizations and is an engine of economic growth within their neighborhood. She shared how working in a values-based, community-engaged organization is both challenging and inspiring to her, every day. Chicago Market will bring 75-80 local jobs to Uptown!

Alderman James Cappleman (Chicago Market Owner #500!) talked about his own history with food co-ops, and the special opportunity the Gerber Building represents for Uptown – he shared data that 50% of Uptown residents’ disposable income and much of their grocery dollars are currently spent outside of the ward. He is enthusiastically supporting our project with the CTA and the Mayor’s office. Our formal application for the space, as well as letters of support from community organizations and our community petition, will be submitted to the CTA on June 9. 

Board member Karen Jacobs then opened the room up for questions and facilitated a great, idea-filled discussion among the co-op’s elected Board members and everyone in attendance.

As the meeting broke up, attendees were invited to show their support for Chicago Market and our Wilson Station bid in a number of ways:

* Sharing thoughts on camera, via the cool pop-up studio created by Owners #843 Michael Davis, #870 Benjamin Holland, #14 Malcolm Haar and #817 Sharon Jin – check out this fun video

* Signing our community petition of support (now almost 1,800 signatures strong, and aiming for 3,000!)

* Taking a Chicago Market yard sign (suitable for yards, flower boxes, windows) to help spread the word among their neighbors. Let us know if you’re an Uptown resident and would like one, too!

* Checking out Chicago Market’s upcoming events, including our upcoming BBQ Co-op Po-Up Market on Saturday June 10, at Truman College

* Considering becoming an Owner of Chicago Market. While our store will be open to all, Owners receive special discounts and benefits - including a share of the store's eventual profits. And, you'll play a critical part in helping us make our vision a reality for all!

* Volunteering with us! We are an all-volunteer organization in this phase, and we have so many opportunities to get involved and support the co-op. Click here to learn more, or email us.  

And on that note, we’re especially grateful to all those noted above who helped make this meeting a success, as well as photographer/Owner #237 Steven Gross, note-taker/Owner #909 Kate Samano, greeter/Owner #872 Dana McKinney, and Board members (Owners all!) Anthony Todd, Emily Crespo, Bill Petty, Dan Miller, Linn Austin, Larry Gast and Jen Vest


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Wilson Station - Owners Meeting Summary

Two weeks ago, Chicago Market hosted the first meeting about our pursuit of the Gerber Building at the Wilson Red Line station. Because Chicago Market is a cooperative committed to transparency and Owner democracy, it was fitting this first meeting was exclusively for our Owners.

The meeting was completely packed.
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Board Meeting Minutes for April 26, 2017

Chicago Market Board Meeting, 4/26/17
At Emily's house
Present: Grant, Anthony, Greg, Mike, Heather, Linn, Emily, Dan, Karen, Jen, Kelly, Bill
Guests: Dana, Audrey

Notes: Heather

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Our hat's in the ring: a site at Wilson Station

For the last year, Chicago Market has been in the process of searching for the perfect site. We've worked with our real estate broker, commissioned a market study and visited tons of sites around the city. We're pursuing a few of these sites, but we've been unable to talk about them publicly.

Until now.

Chicago Market is proud to announce that we, in collaboration with Alderman Cappleman's office and community leaders, are applying to be part of the new Wilson Red Line stop.

What is it?

The gorgeous Beaux-Arts-style Wilson Station (aka the Gerber Building) was designed by architect Arthur U. Gerber in 1907, and was considered to be the hub to the north side's renowned entertainment district during the Jazz Age. Now, as part of a $203 million CTA restoration which moves the train station across the street, we are ready to take advantage of this one-time-opportunity to make this historic blue-speckled terra cotta building Chicago Market's potential home.

You said "potential." What does that mean?

The CTA has issued a Request for Proposals, or RFP, asking for bids on the property. We are working with Alderman Cappleman's office, our commercial real estate brokers, our architect and designer, and our community partners to craft the best professional and community-oriented proposal possible. We anticipate that mainstream chains like Popeye's, Dunkin Donuts and Mattress Firm will seek the space, but we believe our community owned grocery store will make the Wilson Station a destination like no other. It's an ambitious project for the CTA, which is why we need your help and input.

We've spent the last two years searching for sites, and there are some other promising options still under consideration. This property, however, is an incredibly exciting opportunity on a tight timeline. 


If we are chosen, and we are doing everything we can to make sure we are, the CTA tells us that the building will be ready for build-out by January 2018. Our goal is to have our financing, design and construction teams in place to begin right away.


How Can I Help?
If you've been waiting to become an Owner of Chicago Market, now is the time. Our store is poised to become a reality, and we need to be able to show as much community support as possible. We have over 900 Owners - but we're going to need 1500 in order to make this project a reality. Want to bring amazing, sustainable, locally-sourced food to a neighborhood near you? Join us today.

The easiest way to help RIGHT NOW? We're putting together a petition of support to show the CTA how many people want a great, locally-owned grocery store to open in this space. Please sign it.

This seems complicated. I have questions!

Join us April 29 at our Spring Co-op Pop-Up for tomato seedlings, great local food shopping, and stop by our Wilson information table to learn more. 

Or, stop by Dovetail Brewery on May 2 for our Ownership Info Session - we'll talk about Ownership and the co-op in general and will also speak to this exciting bid for the Wilson location. 

And read about us in the Tribune!

We've all been waiting a long time for this news. Thank you for being part of this journey with us.

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Volunteer Spotlight: Meet Lee Herman

Lee Herman

 Owner #490 Lee Herman brings almost four decades of skills in information technology to Chicago Market, and we are so lucky to have him. Lee started coming to Chicago Market Board meetings nearly a year ago and quickly signed on as a fully engaged volunteer. Here are some of the reasons he's committed to building this community co-op:

Why did you start volunteering with Chicago Market?

I was looking for a way to help get Chicago Market off the ground but I'm not in a position to make the sustained commitment of being a Board member. I was attending a Board meeting when there was discussion of some web-related topic. It became clear there was some frustration at lack of progress in making some changes to the site, since the same people doing that work were on the Board and had other things that took priority. As a longtime IT professional, it looked like I could make a contribution. 

What is your background, professionally?

Almost 40 years as an IT professional in operational, programming, system administration and leadership positions in a variety of companies and industries. Currently I'm a Senior Technical Architect and Consultant for SAS Institute, Inc., an industry-leading Big Data and Analytics software company. 

What work have you done with the co-op so far?

I'm now the Chicago Market Webmaster, working to improve our website for a better user experience, make it easier to show more information and change it quickly to keep present and prospective owners informed and plugged in to the latest happenings. 

You attend many of the monthly Board meetings. What's your sense of Chicago Market's progress so far?

It was an education to me to discover the complexity of starting a grocery co-op at this scale: a genuine alternative to other groceries with the scope and selection to be your primary shopping destination. As a former owner of a small leather shop, I already knew there was a lot to starting up a business. The Chicago Market Board has done an amazing job of pulling together all the financial, organizational, legal and business aspects needed to launch. Site selection has been the biggest challenge, to find the right combination of location and space, but there are dedicated efforts by the Site Team with Aldermen, developers and realtors and I know we'll get there. 

What do you wish you could tell other people about Chicago Market?

When I lived in Las Cruces, New Mexico, I did 99% of our grocery shopping at Mountainview Market, a 40-year-old grocery co-op. While I love Chicago, one of the things I miss most is having a nearby co-op to shop at. People who have not shopped regularly at a co-op grocery literally don't know what they are missing. For anyone committed to healthy eating and improving the experience of living in Chicago, joining Chicago Market is an investment in your home city and your future health. It will be amazing! Join now to help make it become a reality! 

What else would you like to add?

There are opportunities to help in many ways. Joining is the first way and payment plans are available to spread out the $250 ownership fee. Volunteers are always needed, whether for an ongoing role or just from time to time. Chicago Market is a community and the members are a great bunch of people to be around and work with. I feel like I'm at home with this group.

We love Lee, and all our terrific volunteers! And there are so many different ways to get involved - email us to learn more!


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Bob Zeni Tomatoes

Master Gardener Bob Zeni will be bringing his heirloom tomato seedlings to Chicago Market's Spring Co-op Pop-Up on Saturday, April 29.

All seedlings are home-grown, without pesticides, herbicides or growth treatments. They are 24" tall and ready to transplant into your home garden!


We all know heirlooms offer taste, texture and color that's just not available from traditional grocery stores or big-ag farms.

Check out the wonderful variety Bob will have available for sale: Amana Orange, Amish Gold, Amish Paste, Arkansas Marvel, Arkansas Traveler, Armenian, Basinga, Black Cherry, Black Ethiopian, Black Krim, Black Zebra, Blondkopfchen, Box Car Willie, Brandywine, Brimmer, Chadwick Cherry, Cherokee Purple, COPIA, Dixie Golden Giant, Giant Red Oxheart, Green Grape, Green Zebra, Gregori's Altai, Hillbilly, Indigo Apple, Italian Tree, Lemony, Lollipop, Merrill Schulz, Minibel, Mortgage Lifter, Pink Ping Pong, Principe Borghese, Pruden’s Purple, San Marzano Redorta, Thessalonoiki, Tula Black, Watermelon Beefsteak, Yellow Marble, Yellow Pear.

And if you want to learn more about Bob, check out last April's Chicago Market newsletter.

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Public Board Minutes for March 22, 2017

At Beermiscuous
Present: Mike, Linn, Grant, Greg, Heather, Anthony, Emily, Jen, Karen, Bill
Guests: Tomas, Lee, Dana, Lisa

Notes: Heather and Greg
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