Oak Park Market near closing

Owner calls on Oak Parkers to support store in last push

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By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

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, 30 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."

tim@oakpark.com

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Reader Comments

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Dan London  

Posted: October 28th, 2019 1:46 PM

I was one that walked into this store and then walked out w/out buying anything. Not one employee greeted me, no greeting from anyone working at a store will tick me off and I will never return. The prices were quite high, even by OP standards. and the selection was not good.

Jason Cohen  

Posted: April 6th, 2019 8:47 AM

@Christopher, I am a bit confused. On the one hand you say we should support our community and on the other you say people should have supported your initiative that actually isn't in our community. We live in Oak Park. Isn't it possible these organizations didn't want their people to go to your facility literally because they wanted them to support our community and not a different one? If they were really talking about blackballing people that's ridiculous of course. I mean if this store was in Berwyn I would want people to shop in Oak Park not at a store in Berwyn ideally.

Christopher Bell  

Posted: April 5th, 2019 7:07 PM

@ Jenna - fair comments. Thank you.

Jenna Brown Russell  

Posted: April 5th, 2019 6:27 PM

Christopher, I don't think anyone blackballed OP Market. In fact, many personally lobbied for patronage of the shop all over social media. I live a block from Pete's. Thank goodness, because the lot is full most days. So I never visited that store. Whether it was location, selection or prices, something didn't work for enough consumers for it to work. It's not the non-consumers fault. It's the free market, and the last thing we want is mandated distribution lines for bread.

Christopher Bell  

Posted: April 5th, 2019 5:44 PM

Jason - of course it is equal blend of owner and community. My point from experience is OP can be very cruel / unkind toward those businesses that are not in bubble /they believe are good people/good business. For example, 8 years ago, I invested 650,000 of my money (after software IPO) in a sports facility in Berwyn that has done well. Two OP organizations told members not to come to the facility and they would be black marked if they did. After giving free services to the other, they also treated us very poorly. THANK GOD Riverside and LAgrange for helping keep it going. I cant also help but wonder if I was white would they treated me so poorly. By was of background, U of C educated, son going ivy and mom is Harvard. My point it OP can be cruel and indifferent toward businesses. Thank god I am out of here ...

Jason Cohen  

Posted: April 5th, 2019 3:50 PM

I don't wish failure on anyone but it seems unfair to somehow blame the community for a failed business. The taxes were known. This is also barely in Oak Park. What about Galewood or RF? Businesses thrive when they provide goods or services people want. Maybe there's simply not enough of a need here for this store? I don't get why I should be somehow responsible for a store closing that I have no need for. I definitely sympathize but blaming others doesn't seem like it's productive at this point.

Jim Frenkel  

Posted: April 5th, 2019 3:37 PM

@Christopher, if you're the same individual I met through the Julian school community, I'm sorry to hear that you're considering leaving. From our short interactions, it was clear how committed you are to the ideals of this community even if the ways that we've tried to achieve them are debatable, especially of late.

Christopher Bell  

Posted: April 5th, 2019 11:19 AM

PLease stop acting as if Oak Parkers support all businesses here or in area. If view as consistent with their values (aka kiss their ass)- then will support. Otherwise Oak Parkers can be very fickle /cruel to those deemed un worthy. My oldest is going Ivy League in fall and house already on the market. Can wait to leave

Derrick Bounds  

Posted: April 5th, 2019 10:27 AM

Im not rich by far. but it was close, and the food and variety were far better than "Fresh Market" North Ave needs trees! It changes peoples perception of it being an "expressway".

Alice Wellington  

Posted: February 20th, 2019 2:04 PM

This store is located at the intersection of the poor, middle class and rich neighborhoods. Maybe the focus on organic groceries and craft beer was not the best idea, because it excluded so many potential customers?

Kimberly Jones from Oak Park  

Posted: February 20th, 2019 12:27 PM

I think that with the location being where it is, the prices of the food in the store did not appeal to the budget of the shoppers who frequented the store the most. The prices were expensive and the community shoppers weren't able to afford what they were offering. I think they should have considered that aspect and perhaps the store would've lasted longer. Although I don't live very close to the store, I liked going to the store but only for small items. I wouldn't have tried to buy a months worth of groceries there as the prices were to high. Its unfortunate for the people who depended upon the store being so close to home. I hope the next store that utilizes that space considers the communities that surround that area and not only Oak Park.

Judith Alexander from Oak Park  

Posted: February 20th, 2019 10:45 AM

The North Avenue District thanks Tim Inklebarger and the WJ for covering this story, as well as all who support Oak Park Market. There appear to be many reasons why it doesn't have enough customers. If it stays open, the District stands ready to assist with new marketing/promotions. If not, we intend to learn from what went wrong to assist the next market. This may need to await the addition of more multi-family development. Correction: About 30 new units are under development on the Oak Park side. Another 90 are proposed on the Chicago side, in addition to the former Sears site. In response to Ms. Gabor, OPM did not consult the District on how to stock the store. They stocked what people said they wanted on Facebook, and lost money on their organic product line.

George Irving Thompson  

Posted: February 19th, 2019 8:10 PM

I have shopped at this store and made an effort to support it. I really would like to encourage my neighbors to shop at it as it offers good quality food and adds a lot of value to our neighborhood. I will make a commitment to shop there at least once a week as long as it is open.

Barbara Purington from Oak Park  

Posted: February 19th, 2019 5:54 PM

Surprised it is not succeeding because location for northeast Oak Park is convenient. Went on first day open which was a mistake. It opened a day or two early; prices weren't posted. We walked out, friend left her items at check out because no one could find prices and cashier was GUESSING at amounts. We gave manager on duty a few suggestions, but he was not receptive or was overwhelmed. Was focus upscale and overpriced? Carnivale on S. Oak Park Ave., formerly Pan's, remodeled and raised prices. Seems the smaller places are trying to be mini Pete's. Just stick with the basics for people to run in for a gallon of milk or missing ingredients for dinner prep. Demand for prepared and gourmet items must be high, because of short turnaround time re: freshness. Not sure the small places have it.

Klara Gabor  

Posted: February 19th, 2019 4:14 PM

Mayor Alexander doesn't understand the customer base. If, she did she could have given her expert advice to the owners that they didn't provide what was wanted by her community.

Joyce Porter from Oak Park  

Posted: February 19th, 2019 3:29 PM

I am so disappointed in my neighbors for not supporting this fine business. I have had no problem doing all my shopping there and getting everything I need. It is always pretty empty and I can't figure out why. It is so convenient for people who live nearby and small enough to run in and out quickly when I just need an item or 2. I wish they had had more events there and coupons in our mailboxes, but the main fault is the residents, not the owners.

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