By SAMANTHA SMYLIE
After months of speculation, the University of Chicago announced on May 13 that Trader Joe’s will be the new grocer, filling the void left when Treasure Island Foods left in October 2018.
Diana Burnham, executive director of the South East Chicago Commission (SECC), is excited to see Trader Joe’s coming to the neighborhood to fulfill the needs of all resident — especially seniors in the area.
“The SECC is very happy that the university has announced Trader Joe’s as the new grocery store to the area,” said Burnham. “We are so happy that there will be more access to fresh foods. For most of us, the biggest concern was seniors who lived within that half-mile radius that would often walk there. That seems to have been the biggest population that has been impacted the most.
“We hope that the opening of an anchor store of this type will draw new businesses to many of the vacant properties to the area and spur job creation. We are really looking forward to seeing how the university partners with Trader Joe’s to bring those jobs in as well as minority and women-owned contractors to help work on the project.”
“We recognize the importance of a grocery store in this location to the community. We carefully selected Trader Joe’s based on a number of factors, including community input and timeline to opening. We look forward to working with Trader Joe’s to open its doors to the community later this year,” said Angie Marks, Associate Vice President of Real Estate Operations.
“I’m happy to announce another grocery store. This is important. This is something that people have been looking forward to. It is necessary, and I’m pleased to have successfully brought another grocery store,” said Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th).
“We couldn’t be more excited to bring a Trader Joe’s store to the Hyde Park community. Our focus is on making sure it’s a great neighborhood grocery store that offers quality products at everyday prices and is run by a team that is passionate about being a part of the community and providing a welcoming customer experience,” said Kenya Friend-Daniel, Trader Joe’s spokesperson.
During a November 2018 online survey taken by more than 3,400 community members, U of C. found that residents valued a new grocery store with fresh produce, reasonable pricing, quality meats, and specialty foods. In an optional field for comments, 1,000 respondents commented on a specific grocery store and 628 of those responses requested a Trader Joe’s.
U. of C. believes that Trader Joe’s will offer everything that local residents want in a new grocery store. Trader Joe’s plans to employ community members from within Hyde Park and surrounding neighborhoods on the South Side. Trader Joe’s will release more information on hiring soon.
According to a press release by U. of C, “In 2019, Trader Joe’s was named America’s Best Employer by Forbes and also ranked as one of the Best Employers for Diversity. Trader Joe’s was also ranked on Forbes’ 2018 lists of America’s Best Employers, Best Employers for Women and Best Employer for New Grads.”
Many local Hyde Park residents miss Treasure Island, but they welcome a new grocer into the area.
Emily Grant, who lives in Hyde Park, said, “I miss Treasure Island.” When asked what she thinks of Trader Joe’s, she mentioned the chain’s reputation for abundant, eccentric snacking options and said she will likely shop there.
Marc Schwertley looks forward to having a grocery option near his home again and was excited to hear it will be Trader Joe’s. “I find them quite good,” he said. “They’re not run-of-the-mill, you know.”
Randy Hardy has lived around the Shopping Center for 30 years and misses the Co-op, though he liked Treasure Island for the convenience. “We need something here,” he said.
Trader’s Joe will occupy only a portion of the space at 1526 E. 55th St. CREO will lease the rest of the space for retail that will complement the store and share what businesses will move in once the information is available.
Staff writer Aaron Gettinger contributed to this story.