Sugar Beet gets sweetheart deal on 10-year lease

Food co-op makes one-time rent payment of $45K for Madison Street location

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By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

Representatives of the Sugar Beet food cooperative have an official new home at 820 Madison St., after signing a 10-year lease deal today for $45,000.

Sugar Beet co-founder Cheryl Munoz said in a telephone interview that the group hopes to have the 5,300-square-foot store open by early 2015.

The member-driven grocery store will be on the ground floor of the newly renovated Grove Apartments, a 52-unit affordable housing development run by Interfaith Housing Development Corporation of Chicago and the Oak Park Housing Authority.

Munoz said the housing group "really took a leap of faith" on the co-op startup.

"We love the synergy between Sugar Beet and Interfaith Housing," she said. "The residents upstairs that we will be serving every day is meaningful to us."

Perry Vietti, chief operating officer for Interfaith, said in a telephone interview that the housing organization's mission does not include commercial ventures, but the village's zoning required ground-floor retail in the space.

"This is something that came as part of zoning, so that's why we're doing it. It's not about money; it's about doing what we said we would do," he said, adding the group aimed to find a tenant that the community would support and which would serve the building's residents.

"To me that's a win-win all the way around," he said.

Vietti noted that when Interfaith first proposed the four-story housing development about five years ago, "there was not widespread support for what we were doing." Critics argued that the group would not be able to find a retail tenant and that the space would sit empty.

He acknowledged it is difficult to attract retail in the Madison corridor but Interfaith cast a wide net in its search for a tenant, and the organization is "pleased we've able to identify someone, and they're very serious about making this work."

Munoz said Sugar Beet already has raised $200,000 in its $1.6 million capital campaign, which was launched earlier this month. The group expects to raise the first $800,000 to $900,000 from its member loan program.

Sugar Beet also is meeting with the village and the Oak Park Economic Development Corporation to request tax increment finance district funding. She did not reveal how much TIF money Sugar Beet plans to seek.

"Membership and excitement is building, but we are going to start working on our capital campaign in earnest now," she said. "Now is the fun part where we get to meet our neighbors."


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John Butch Murtagh  

Posted: July 31st, 2015 11:27 PM

All of Marco's issues were brought up to the Plan Commission when the neighborhood residents challenged the sweet deal that the board and Plan Commission granted to Interfaith Housing Development Corporation of Chicago. The sweet deals included trucks blocking alley, no loading area, Insufficient parking, traffic, etc. At best, all that residents can find out from our silent board, the press, and village administration is that all is well on the "Dole Express" and the missing promises from the Plan Commission were not renege-proof.

Marco Lemoncello  

Posted: July 31st, 2015 4:44 PM

Haven't even opened yet, and semi-trucks block the alley every morning because they did not plan a loading area. Garbage piled as high as my head in the alley. No open spaces on Grove Ave. because there is not ample parking for shoppers. Welcome to the neighborhood.

John Butch Murtagh  

Posted: July 31st, 2015 12:51 PM

"1" Comment since the opening and "35" from a year ago. Is someone at WJ stacking the promotion machine?

Laurel Peters  

Posted: July 31st, 2015 12:19 PM

Just left the store. Probably won't be back until cashiers have completed training, all items have prices on the shelf, paid $5.50 for a sandwich that came on stale bread, saw several items that are about 40% cheaper at other stores

Cheryl Munoz from Oak Park  

Posted: March 20th, 2014 9:48 AM

Thanks for all of the great questions! Parking: although not ideal- we will have access to the lot to the west and all of the spots along Madison and Grove. We hope that neighbors will walk or bike and we are considering delivery as well as packing shopper's trunks for them when they pull up. There are ways to work around it. Membership: we offer a $50 membership for seniors, people who use LINK- really anyone who wants to be a member but cannot afford the $250 membership. JOIN!

Thornton from Oak Park  

Posted: March 19th, 2014 9:04 AM

This is an incredible deal on the space-- $375 a month. I would love to see a Co-op in the community and would support it with my custom. The energy is there, but now is the time for Sugar Beet to leaven in the idea in the community that for it to succeed, above all it must be a _business_. That means generating profit so it can reinvest, pay taxes, stay open. IMHO the best way for us to support them is to invest and ask not for up front discounts, but rebate checks from the profit.

Brian Slowiak from Oak Park  

Posted: March 19th, 2014 8:20 AM

Will Sugar Beet discount the entry fee or give memberships for the low income residents to shop at their co-op?

Katerina Lesniak from Oak Park  

Posted: March 19th, 2014 6:35 AM

I do understand Sugar Beet is a grocery store and just few blocks down is Jewel isn't that putting one of that stores out of business ?


Posted: March 18th, 2014 10:09 PM

Gave it away. How many corporations would take that deal? The new high priced village Economic Development conglomerate has started out with a bang. Is the next plan to give away the Lake and Forest land?

OP Expat from Elmhurst  

Posted: March 18th, 2014 8:29 PM

Well, for everyone who is always saying they want to shop local - here is potentially a very attractive opportunity. Now, people need to put their money where their mouths are and maybe go a bit out of their comfort zone to shop there. Hope they do well so people quit being lemmings to Whole Foods.

Parking from Oak park  

Posted: March 18th, 2014 8:28 PM

As you remember Interfaith stated that their residents wouldn't be driving. They can designate 10 spots in their for Sugar Beet, plus street parking in front of store.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 18th, 2014 8:12 PM

The village board should go back and look at the Madison Ave. Plan Commission Hearing Report. Parking was the most contentious zoning exception given to Interfaith. Parking at or near the site will be very limited. Parking allowed by the Planning Commission is well below the expectations for Sugar Beet.

Field of Dreams  

Posted: March 18th, 2014 6:33 PM

if you build it they will come...but where will they park?

Kristen Hollinden  

Posted: March 18th, 2014 3:47 PM

If you build it, they will come!!! Congrats Sugar Beets!! So excited for all the work the coop is doing and all the exciting adventures ahead!!

OP Transplant  

Posted: March 18th, 2014 3:37 PM

They're in a little bit of a tough spot, in terms of marketing. They were given a great deal on the space because no one else wants it. No one else wants it, because it's an undesirable location for a business. Now they have to convince potential members and donors that they are viable in that location.


Posted: March 18th, 2014 3:09 PM

These guys are proving to be quite intrepid. I wouldn't bet against them.

Concerned, but excited  

Posted: March 18th, 2014 2:10 PM

This is great. I just do not know how sugar beet is going to raise the money to open up. They need so much money for this to be a reality. I hope the residents of the area will now become members and other sources of funding can be found. I almost wish the coop had less ambitious goals rather than the current plans.

Anna from Oak Park  

Posted: March 18th, 2014 1:20 PM

I'm thrilled about this! Sugar Beet represents good produce, good karma and a good cause. Looking forward to shopping there.

M.G. Bertulfo from Oak Park  

Posted: March 18th, 2014 1:02 PM

We had Berkeley Bowl, a food co-op in Northern California, when I lived there. It was wildly popular because it was run by the people. Oak Park has a stated mission of supporting diversity and this is one great example. Plus, sustainable produce. Welcome to our neighborhood Sugar Beet Co-op. Count me in on your positive community contribution!

John Murtagh from oak park  

Posted: March 18th, 2014 12:43 PM

Bridgett comment made me read the article again and I found out that my first post was dead wrong. I responded as if the village owned the property. It doesn't. The property is owned by Interfaith. They rented the space to Sugar Beet for $375 a month. My apology for misleading post.

Chris from Oak Park  

Posted: March 18th, 2014 11:55 AM

This is terrific! Such good news for the community. This represents the kind of values I moved to Oak Park for with my family. Congratulations Sugar Beet team!


Posted: March 18th, 2014 11:19 AM

Glad to see the community support for the SB, as in turn the SB will be a service for the community.

OP Transplant  

Posted: March 18th, 2014 10:51 AM

I think it's fair to say that very few businesses are looking to open onsite in subsidized housing. That, coupled with the fact that both parties in the lease negotiation were playing with other people's money, has led to a rent below market value. Still, I don't think it's a choice between SB or another tenant paying market-value rent. I think it's a choice between this deal or a perennially empty storefront. With that in mind, good luck Sugar Beet!

Ali O.  

Posted: March 18th, 2014 10:00 AM

Really proud of the formidable Sugar Beet team, especially Cheryl Munoz, for making this happen and bringing their dream to life. The Sugar Beet is going to be a beautiful place!


Posted: March 18th, 2014 9:13 AM

I am equally impressed with SB leadership. I have raised hundereds of millions, taking a company public (7 times stock value) and much more, ivy MBa/JD... this is a SWEET deal for them. Perhaps I can get some pointers...


Posted: March 18th, 2014 9:11 AM

This is a wonderful deal for the co-op given they state below they are for profit, want tif and are raising outside money? This is an idiotic deal for Oak Park - why would you give the space (basically) when they raised hundreds of thousands and are for profit. Also, this is BAD standard for other wanting to invest. Again, there is NO strategy - are we that desperate?

Jim Bowman from Oak Park  

Posted: March 18th, 2014 4:30 AM

Jn Butch: Moxie? I'd say chutzpah. And yes, the rent subsidy is in this mix. The village seems to have thrown in the towel on this one in terms of economic development, and west of Oak Park Ave. at that.

M. Austin-Williams from Chicago  

Posted: March 17th, 2014 11:30 PM

This is wonderful news! My husband and I are very proud to belong to Sugar Beet and we're thrilled that a brick and mortar storefront is the next chapter of our co-op's future. This is a real achievement on behalf of SB leadership and a significant addition to the Oak Park community.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: March 17th, 2014 10:46 PM

Sugar Beet will pay property taxes? In addition to the rent?

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 17th, 2014 9:41 PM

Sugar Beet gets an incredibly low rent for the large retail space ($375 per month) and then has the moxie to ask for TIF funds. Sugar Beet proved to be a sharp negotiator. The village not so much.

Bill Dwyer   

Posted: March 17th, 2014 9:09 PM

Cassandra--- a food desert? Really? An urban area in which it is difficult to buy affordable or good-quality fresh food? Which the USDA defines as---at least 500 people and/or at least 33 percent of the census tract's population must reside more than one mile from a supermarket or large grocery store (for rural census tracts, the distance is more than 10 miles.) Leaving aside the fact a store near Oak Park and Madison won't address that dire situation, I think people can find food if they try.

M Perkins from Oak Park  

Posted: March 17th, 2014 6:53 PM

I am thinking of joining the co-op. What a good investment in not only the co-op itself but to be a part of a community that does so much good for its members and the environment. Sure hope that you only use non-GMO fruits and vegetables.

Regina Ripley from Oak Park   

Posted: March 17th, 2014 6:44 PM

This is such great news for the community! I am so impressed by the coop's leadership and support. And I can't wait to shop at it!

Regan from Brooklyn  

Posted: March 17th, 2014 5:32 PM

I'm excited for this project in my hometown and hats off to the hardworking folks behind this. A food co-op is a great resource for any community but a perfect fit for Oak Park and the residents upstairs. I'm a proud member if a 100% member labor co-op and it us the largest and most successful one in the world. These co-ops generate serious revenue for their municipalities. Looking forward to checking it out!

Cassandra West from Oak Park  

Posted: March 17th, 2014 5:24 PM

This a real step forward in offering a locally based grocery store option in Oak Park. It also addresses what many fail to see: Oak Park is essentially a food desert. North of Lake Street between Austin Boulevard and Oak Park Avenue, there are no grocery stores.

Cheryl Munoz from Oak Park  

Posted: March 17th, 2014 5:07 PM

The Sugar Beet Co-op will pay property tax and generate sales tax for the Village of Oak Park. Many people assume that co-ops are NFP but, in fact, they are powerful economic engines that keep dollars in our community, provide jobs and our members will receive patronage dividends when the store is profitable. Join the co-op!

OP Transplant  

Posted: March 17th, 2014 4:57 PM

Did you actually imagine there would be a square inch of this entire project that didn't need to be subsidized? At least the ground-floor space will be occupied for as long as the coop survives, assuming they get it open in the first place. Personally, I'm holding our for free onsite parking/charging of electric vehicles before I decide whether to join.


Posted: March 17th, 2014 4:49 PM

and there go any hopes of the site generating taxes. thanks ray jay and the pope(pimp) of madison street.

Stephen Miller from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 17th, 2014 4:32 PM

Wow, that is awesome. The big risk for ventures like Sugar Beet is that they head in under-capitalized and facing too much overhead. With this great deal on space, they can avoid a lot of that risk. Big thumbs up to all involved!

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