When Angelo Palivos opened his new grocery store at 6209 W. North Ave. last fall he said straight out that for the business to be a success, “I need Oak Park to support it.”
The buzz on Facebook neighborhood groups and elsewhere at the time suggested people living in the area were ready for a store of their own.
But since opening in October, customers at the 13,000-square-foot store have been practically non-existent, Palivos said in a recent interview.
Palivos needed a few hundred shoppers a day to make the business work, but the turnout has been more like a few dozen, he said.
Now he’s looking to close the store unless things turn around fast.
“Most likely we’ll be shutting down at the end of the month,” he told Wednesday Journal.
He made it clear that the store’s imminent closure is not due to bad financing.
“Oak Park Market was funded correctly,” he said. “We opened with no debt and a paid-off inventory. The lack of its success was due to the lack of Oak Park shopping support.”
Palivos said he saw customer after customer enter the store and turn around and walk out.
He said the shop cost him about $700,000 to remodel and stock with products. Palivos suspects that the store also hasn’t attracted Galewood and Austin residents because it’s assumed the store is meant for Oak Parkers.
The store is limping along and Palivos is hoping for a change of heart with residents who said they wanted a grocery store in the northeast part of the village.
It is the third attempt at a grocery store in the location since 2014, when the store, then-known as North Avenue Fresh Market went out of business. The location reopened under different owner in February 2015 as Market Fresh Foods, but that business closed by 2017.
Judith Alexander, chairwoman of The North Avenue District, a community organization, said she believes more residential buildings on North Avenue would have helped the grocer. Better marketing also would have brought more people into the store as well, she said.
“This will become easier after we have more multi-family development, and this is coming,” she said in an email. “On the Oak Park side of North Avenue, 40-50 units are being built at North/East Avenue and in the middle of the next block to the west.
One the Chicago side, the Sears site redevelopment is on track.”
Oak Park Trustee Deno Andrews, who owned and operated Felony Franks fast-food restaurant, 6427 W. North Ave., before closing the shop in 2017, encouraged Palivos to open the grocery store.
“I am disappointed. I have talked to residents who live near there who said they’re not interested in going to North Avenue to shop,” he said. “It’s one of those major streets that has a lot of traffic and people aren’t on the street looking for places to go. They’re on North Avenue to get somewhere.”
Andrews said taxes on North Avenue commercial property also are a barrier to running a successful business on the strip, adding that Felony Franks failed in part because “the taxes haven’t adjusted to the lack of customers coming in.”
He added that it’s an “unfortunate attitude to take that [Oak Parkers] wouldn’t go five blocks to support a business.”