Arthur Paris, Ravi Parakkat and Amy Parakkat pose by Carnival Grocery's display of Takeout 25 water. | Stacey Sheridan

Takeout 25 has launched a new boxed water project that supports local restaurants and sustainable living, while encouraging people to stay hydrated responsibly. The non-profit rolled the product out at Carnival Grocery in a soft launch March 15, where a reporter from Wednesday Journal was the first to purchase the 99-cent box of spring water, which tasted as fresh as any of its bottled competitors.

“This is so exciting; it’s been almost two years in the making,” said Oak Park Village Trustee and Takeout 25 Founder Ravi Parakkat.

The boxed water is currently available at Carnival Grocery and the West Cook YMCA, but will soon be carried at Candycopia, FFC gym, Fritzi’s and Fitzgerald’s, among others. Sugar Beet Food Co-Op will have it on shelves starting April 4. Over in Forest Park, you can soon pick up a box at Kribi Coffee, Brown Cow and Fiore. Parakkat will be scheduling deliveries to even more locations in the coming weeks.

Takeout 25 was started in November 2020, when COVID-19 restrictions were still very much impacting restaurants. The founding principle behind the organization was to encourage residents to support local businesses by ordering takeout. Takeout 25 got its name based on the logic that, if Oak Park residents spent $25 in takeout per week from local independent restaurants, that would bring in $1 million in takeout revenue.

The first box of Takeout 25 water purchased. | Stacey Sheridan

On Takeout 25’s Facebook group the names of the restaurant owners are used as often as the names of the businesses themselves. This decision caused people to relate differently to the restaurant community, according to Takeout 25 group moderator and events coordinator, Amy Parakkat, who also happens to be the founder’s wife.

“It’s not, ‘I like their menu,’” she said. “It’s, ‘I know their kids. I know they’re part of our community, and they’re just trying to get along the way the rest of us are.’”

The organization grew from its humble beginnings as a Facebook group, becoming a registered 501(c)6 non-profit and branching out to include restaurants and independent groceries in neighboring suburbs of Oak Park, as well as in Chicago’s Austin community. Owners of grocery stores and restaurants can participate at will in Takeout 25, which does not require any sort of compensation from the businesses it promotes.

Takeout 25’s core principle of supporting local remains at the heart of its boxed water initiative. Each box of water has a QR code that, when scanned with a smart phone, leads to a special page on the Takeout 25 website dedicated solely to restaurant and grocery specials, which will be consistently updated so all deals stay current.

The boxed water initiative has been in the works for some time, but supply chain delays slowed the project. Now that the product has arrived, Parakkat is elated to have it stocked on shelves.

“It’s so exciting to be able to finally see this out in the open, living its life,” he said.

The boxes are made in the U.S., while the water inside comes from two sources: Shasta Springs, Calif., and Blue Springs, Ga. Each box contains just over a pint of water. Price per box may vary depending on the location of purchase. The boxes are made of 100% recyclable materials and can be refilled at home for future use, making them a more sustainable option than Dasani or any other manufacturer of plastic bottled water. 

“We learned pretty early on in Takeout 25 that Oak Park really wants to make a difference to the planet,” said Amy Parakkat. “This allows them to do it.”

A portion of boxed water sales proceeds will go toward addressing food insecurity. Previous Takeout 25 initiatives have benefited local food pantry Beyond Hunger. This past winter, Takeout 25 was also able to provide 650 meals to warming shelters. Since the boxed water is so new, what percentage of the proceeds Takeout 25 will take has yet to be determined, as has the beneficiary of those proceeds.

Takeout 25 boxed water is sponsored by West Cook YMCA, Pillar Financial Advisors, Oak Park Apartments and Carnival Grocery, where Takeout 25 held the product’s soft launch. Videographers from Black Thai Entertainment were there March 15 filming promotional videos, featuring the Takeout 25 team and Carnival Grocery owner Arthur Paris.

“Ravi’s effort with Takeout 25 is just one of these really rare efforts where local businesses can promote themselves in their own community in a way that gives them an advantage over national chains,” Paris told Wednesday Journal.

As a small business owner himself, Paris believes in championing local and small businesses as he knows the challenges facing them. Paris said he was eager to get involved with Takeout 25’s boxed water project, having gotten to know Parakkat through his work as a village trustee and with Takeout 25.

“There’s a shrinking merchant class in this country. I support what he’s doing,” Paris said. “The effort supports my business and I support him.”

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