North Chicago Mayor Leon Rockingham said residents have requested a grocery store in their community, located about 40 miles north of Chicago, since he took office 16 years ago.
“That’s something that’s always been brought to me: ‘Mayor, we need a grocery store in our community,’” Rockingham said. “And North Chicago being a minority community surrounded by affluent communities around us, for our people to have to go outside of North Chicago to get groceries – this now gives them an opportunity to shop local.”
North Chicago is a diverse, low-income community sometimes referred to as a food desert – an area with few to no affordable and nutritious food options.
Rockingham hopes to change that this spring with the opening of George’s Fresh Market – North Chicago’s first full-service grocery store in 20 years, according to the mayor.
George’s Fresh Market co-owners and Chicagoans Peter Dremonas and George Anderson are no strangers to the food industry. Dremonas’ family owns the grocery store chain Pete’s Fresh Market and Anderson, a childhood friend of Dremonas, opened his first Harold’s Shrimp and Chicken in 2017.
“We’re going to offer fresh produce from across the world – that’s gonna be our highlight, of course,” Dremonas said. “We’re going to have various different meats – we’ll have beef, pork, chicken, lamb, goat. We’ll also have some halal; we are going to have seafood as well, from all across the world.”
The pair expect George’s Fresh Market, located at 14th Street and Louis Avenue, to open sometime in April. Before then, they’ll open an adjacent Harold’s Shrimp and Chicken in March.
“The people of the community will be getting some good-quality, fresh food,” Anderson said.
In order to spur economic development and ensure the grocery store sticks around, the city of North Chicago granted George’s Fresh Market a $300,000 loan that’s forgiven as long as it stays open for 10 years.
While plenty of grocery stores exist not far from North Chicago’s city limits, Rockingham said having a local option for North Chicagoans saves residents money while financially benefitting their community.
“Some of those in North Chicago don’t have the opportunity and have to spend more money because now they’ve got to take public transportation to get their food,” Rockingham said. “Bringing it closer gives them an opportunity to keep more of their resources. And additionally, it brings in more revenue to our community – more tax dollars, more sales tax dollars to North Chicago.”
Dremonas said he plans to keep prices low at George’s Fresh Market by utilizing family connections in the wholesale food industry while aggressively buying products for the market.
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