Independent grocery store, Sugar Beet Food Co-op is embedded in the community and dedicated to providing a one-of-a-kind shopping experience in Oak Park. The small, but mighty store is community-owned in the truest sense of the word. The ownership model gives invested shoppers the opportunity to be actively involved in co-op governance, but Sugar Beet, 812 Madison St., Oak Park, is open to the general public.

“People still worry if they walk in the door they will get kicked out,” said Lissa Dysart, Sugar Beet’s marketing manager. “But the number one thing people need to know is that you do not need to be a member to shop here.”

Though it can be difficult to decipher what is going on behind the tinted window of the historic building housing the co-op, shoppers should expect Sugar Beet to be a welcoming and fun place to shop. The colorful produce section is 99% organic and relies largely on locally sourced fruits and vegetables to stock the department. Spur Farms, owned by Veronica Cibotaru of Oak Park’s Delia’s Kitchen, is among the produce purveyors for the co-op. Of course, available produce rotates with the seasons, but Cibotaru grows items like cucamelons, ground cherries, eggplant, green and yellow beans, and beet bunches for Sugar Beet.

Sugar Beet’s café is also a celebration of all things local. They offer sweet treats from Chicago-based, Latina-owned, You’re a Cookie — makers of vegan, nut-free and gluten-free items. The dough is offered for sale in the co-op’s freezer section for a takeand-bake option, but freshly baked cookies are also available in the in-house café. Other pastries are sourced from Holcomb Hollow, West Town Bakery, Mindful Bakery, and Silverland Bakery. The café proudly serves freshly brewed hyperlocal Whirlwind coffee, nitro cold brew, healing turmeric lattes, and fruit smoothies with optional nutritional add-ins.

Though unassuming compared to larger grocery stores, Sugar Beet has a robust prepared foods section. There are not traditional service counters, but all the sandwiches, soups and salads are made fresh, on-site daily by a team of 40 employees. Peek into the upright case and discover the famous “VLT” sandwich made with veggie bacon from Chicago-based Upton’s Naturals and Mighty Vine tomatoes. A rotating menu of soups include gluten free varieties like Chicken Tortilla, Ginger Carrot, Quinoa & Sweet Potato Chili.

This month Sugar Beet will debut a reflowed shop they have designed with guidance from National Co-op Grocers whose mission is to optimize operational and marketing resources, and strengthen purchasing power for grocery co-ops across the nation. A reception and new owner drive is planned for October 22. Plan to pop by — after all the co-op is owned by the community and open to everybody!

Sugar beet co-op
812 Madison, Oak Park

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