Two years after a grocery chain abruptly closed its doors to South Side neighbors, a Black-owned company will use city funding to bring the store back to the community — and it’s not stopping there.
Yellow Banana, which owns and operates grocery stores under the Save A Lot name, was one of nearly 80 companies and organizations to receive key city funding Monday through the second round of the city’s Community Development Grant program, designed to funnel money toward small businesses and community initiatives.
Yellow Banana received about $13.5 million to buy and revitalize six closed Save A Lot across the South and West sides, including an Auburn Gresham location, 7908 S. Halsted St., that closed in 2020 and a West Garfield Park location, 420 S. Pulaski Road, that closed in February because of a rat infestation, Yellow Banana co-owner Michael Nance said.
Yellow Banana also will rehab Save A Lot stores in Morgan Park, 10700 S. Halsted St.; South Chicago, 2858 E. 83rd St.; South Shore, 7240 S. Stony Island Ave.; and West Lawn, 4439 W. 63rd St.
The company will combine the city grant with another $13 million in “new market and private funds,” to transform the stores, Nance said.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot said the effort will help fill food deserts.
“Auburn Gresham has been calling for exactly this kind of solution, and we are very, very happy to be answering the community by providing this opportunity to Yellow Banana,” Lightfoot said. “We’re here to support Yellow Banana in our effort to provide quality healthy and affordable food stores that are comfortable and enjoyable to shop in.
“We want to make sure that the shopping experience of people on the South and the West Side is every bit as enjoyable as Downtown and on the North Side. Our residents deserve no less.”
Yellow Banana operates 38 other Save A Lot stores across the country, according to the company’s website. Nance previously said its goal is to “bring them under more localized leadership” and to “invest in these stores in ways they had not been invested in for many years.”
If it succeeds in reviving the Auburn Gresham store as planned, it will offer higher-quality products and redesign the interior so it’s not “beat to all hell,” Nance previously told neighbors.
Most of the grocery chain’s locations slated for overhauls are “dreary and dated,” Nance said.
“They need more than a paint job,” he said.
Yellow Banana will update the interiors and exteriors of the stores, adding bright lights, clean floors, shelving and signs, Nance said.
The “newer, sleeker look” will make the stores a place the “community can take pride in,” Nance said.
If all goes as planned, Yellow Banana will “deliver” a new store to the Auburn Gresham community “before the year is out,” Nance said.
“My hope is that we deliver as promised in these locations, and that we do so quickly, particularly in Auburn Gresham, where the Save A Lot we’re reopening shut down in 2020,” Nance said. “We want to continue to scale our impact. We want to be the go-to grocer of choice that can come in and be creative and think of ways to make private-public partnerships benefit local communities.”
Seventy-nine organizations were awarded around $50 million worth in funding from the city in this round of grants. The recipients got between $23,000 and $13.5 million, according to a press release.
Some include grants to bring Batter and Berries to 5924 W. Chicago Ave. in Austin, and to build the Chicago Market inside the historic Wilson CTA station at 4620 N. Broadway Ave. in Uptown.