A new grocer is looking to move into the former Moo & Oink store and it promises to be unlike any grocery store Chicago has ever seen.
Eats Groceries wouldn’t have aisles and shelves. Instead, customers would order food through touch screens, and it would be delivered to them from the warehouse space in the back. Shoppers would have to buy memberships. Shuttle buses would deliver customers to the store, and they’ll be able to take advantage of the kids area and cooking demonstrations.
Owner Thom Alcazar told Austin Weekly News that all he’d need is to get $5 million in Tax Increment Financing district funding. Once he gets the TIF funds, he said, he’ll purchase the building. He expects to have the store open in 6 to 8 months.
Moo & Oink was located at 4848 W. Madison Ave, near the Madison/Cicero intersection. It closed in 2011 after 30 years in Austin. Since then, the store has been vacant. In July 2014, Ald. Jason Ervin (28th), whose ward includes that part of the community, told Austin Weekly News that he was looking for a new tenant to move into the facility, but he wanted to make sure it was something the community wanted.
By that point, Alcazar was already pitching his concept in various neighborhoods. He said that he has experience in warehouse management and transportation, and noted that he will have people with experience running grocery stores on board.
“We got several investors and we got investors that are actually experts in varied fields,” he said. “My area of expertise is in supply chain management, and we’re using those supply chain management principles to make [Eats Groceries] successful long-term.”
In the spring of 2016, Alcazar was looking for a space on the West Side. He grew up in K-Town, near the intersection of Van Buren/Keeler intersection. He originally wanted to open Eats Groceries in North Lawndale, but he said that the TIF district on the site he was looking for expired and he decided to look elsewhere.
Alcazar said that the amount of TIF funds he’s seeking are less than what the much-touted Whole Foods Englewood store received.
“We’re going to be doing about half the funds that were allocated for that Whole Foods store that’s in Englewood,” he said. “Because of our small location, we need $5 million.”
Alcazar approached Ervin and Ald. Emma Mitts (37th). He said that he and Ervin had several meetings over the past few months. He also met with Austin clergy. Alcazar said that they all urged him to use the Moo & Oink location.
Alcazar presented his concept to 28th ward residents at an August community meeting, and he presented the concept to the 37th Ward residents at Mitts’ Sept. 22 community meeting.
He told the residents that he was optimistic about the store’s prospects.
“If there isn’t a supermarket within two miles of us, there isn’t much competition,” Alcazar said. “Probably we’re going to be popular if we have good prices.”
He also said he would hire staff locally.
“We think it’s going to be easy to hire in the community, because there are a lot of people who need jobs,” Alcazar said. “If we hire people from the community that are unemployed, underemployed or disadvantaged, we get [government] money for training.”
In a follow-up interview, Alcazar said that he would be reaching out to organizations that help ex-offenders find jobs, as well as organizations that specialize in job-training.
The store would also have a “youth entrepreneurship program” for local teens, where they would be paid to distribute fliers advertising Eats Grocery.