Category: Economy

Aldi to Spend $180M Remodeling Most Chicago Area Stores

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A remodeled Aldi store | Crain’s Chicago Business | Below: The redesigned Aldi in Virginia | Business Insider/Hayley Peterson

Aldi redesign.jpgThursday, May 25, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews

According to a May 16 Chicago Tribune report, “Aldi, one of the fastest growing grocery chains in the U.S., plans to spend about $180 million remodeling 130 of its 150 Chicago-area stores by 2020 — part of a broader effort to move its no-frills model into modern times.”

The remodel positions the grocery chain to compete with high-end chains like Whole Foods Market and Trader Joe’s. Aldi is also looking to build 400 new stores by 2020, going from 1,600 to 2,000, the Tribune reports.

“We’re becoming more and more mainstream with more customers,” Aldi U.S. CEO Jason Hart told Crain’s in February. “We’ve got older stores. We need to get up to date.”

Bellwood, Broadview and Melrose Park each have an Aldi location. Last December, the Aldi located in Maywood (the village’s only full-service grocery store), closed due to high property taxes and lagging sales, according to company officials.

So far, there’s been no word on whether the Bellwood, Broadview and Melrose Park Aldi locations will be included in the $180 million Chicago area remodeling effort. Attempts to contact company officials were unsuccessful.

For an idea of what the remodeled stores will look like, refer to a redesigned Aldi that opened on Montrose Avenue in Chicago in April.

According to a report on the store opening in the Daily Herald, “Remodeled stores will also get a more modern design, open ceilings, natural lighting and environmentally friendly building materials, such as recycled materials, energy-saving refrigeration and LED lighting.”

And last October, Aldi debuted a newly designed store in Richmond, Virginia that Business Insider said “looks almost identical to Whole Foods’ new cheaper chain of stores called 365 by Whole Foods.”

“The Aldi store has softer lighting than its older stores, as well as a larger fresh produce section, wider aisles, and electronic displays on the walls.” VFP

Get to eating healthy now!

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Quick Fix: Want Better Schools? You Might Have to Pay More for Your House, Make a Longer Commute

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Thursday, March 30, 2017 || By Local News Curator || @maywoodnews

The New York Times’ “The Upshot” blog has developed an interesting interactive graphic that shows the correlation between the price of homes (per square foot), the quality of schools (based on grade-level proficiency) and the average commute time of residents within a given school district.

The authors of the post, 

“There are many factors in a home price, of course, but economists have estimated that within suburban neighborhoods, a 5 percent improvement in test scores can raise prices by 2.5 percent. And for many cities, this is largely the pattern — prices rise with school quality. But there are some districts that break this pattern: schools that deliver on quality with homes that are relatively cheap.

Using home price data from Redfin, a national real estate brokerage, and school quality data based on test scores from the Stanford Education Data Archive, we developed a set of charts that look at school quality, home price and commute.”

You can read the entire article here. Below, we’ve extracted information available in the graphic that’s relevant to the Chicago area, particularly four local school districts.

For instance, Bellwood District 88, where residents pay $80 per square foot for housing, students perform 1.9 grade levels below average. The average commute time is less than 30 minutes.

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P A I D  A D V E R T I S E M E N T S 

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Crain’s: Failed Seaway Bank Gets Yet Another Owner — A Credit Union

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Friday, March 10, 2017 || By Local News Curator || @maywoodnews

Seaway Bank & Trust — once the state’s largest black-owned minority bank and the sixth largest in the country — has yet another owner after the bank shutdown and its assets were acquired by State Bank of Texas in January.

A March 10 Crain’s report announced that the Dallas-based bank is selling the branches and deposits it acquired  from Seaway to a North Carolina-based credit union called Self-Help Federal  Credit Union.

According to Crain’s, Self-Help “specializes in lending to low-income and minority customers and already owns a Chicago lender focused on Hispanics.”

State Bank of Texas “will continue to hold and manage Seaway’s existing loans and will operate the foreign-exchange concessions at O’Hare and Midway airports,” Crain’s reports.

“Self-Help,” Crain’s adds, “is clearly a better fit with the mission of what had been Chicago’s largest black-owned bank for decades — provide credit in communities other banks avoid.”

Crain’s notes that Self-Help, which will have $200 million in deposits “but none of Seaway’s loans” will “quickly establish a mortgage lending operation from scratch.”

Martin Eakes, the credit union’s CEO, said that his institution will focus what it does best — “lend to households without a lot of savings but with steady income.”

Self-Help isn’t black-owned but most of its board members are African-American. Eakes said the credit union won’t “try to pretend we’re black-owned.” He noted, rather, that the institution is “multi-ethnic and member-owned.”

Seaway still has branches in Maywood, at 150 S. 5th Ave., and Broadview, at 2100 Roosevelt Rd. The Crain’s article didn’t detail what might happen to those branches once Self-Help takes over the Seaway franchise, a process that is expected to begin in May. VFP

Read the full Crain’s article here

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Crain’s: Seaway Bank’s New Owners Will Preserve Its Name, Say Deposits are Safe | But Who to Blame for the Failure?

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Seaway Bank & Trusts’ Maywood branch. Chicago’s largest black-owned bank failed earlier this year. | File

Monday, February 13, 2017 || By Local News Curator || @maywoodnews

A Feb. 4 Crain’s Chicago Business report caught up with Sushil Patel, the president of State Bank of Texas, which now owns the now-defunct Seaway Bank & Trust, once the state’s largest black-owned bank.

Patel told Crain’s reporter Steve Daniels that he knows he isn’t a blank bank, but that should be of secondary importance to depositors.

“I’m not a black bank,” Patel, whose bank is owned by Indian-Americans, told Daniels. “I’m not a white bank, but I’m definitely not a black bank.”

“Banking is still banking,” Patel said. “I respect the idea of depositors wanting to put money into a bank that will put money back into that community.”

“To that end,” Daniels reported, “the Patel family, which owns State Bank of Texas, will preserve the Seaway name for the 10 Seaway branches in the Chicago area and Milwaukee. State Bank of Texas’ one other branch in Chicago, on Devon Avenue, will continue with that name.”

Now with Seaway out of the picture, the Chicago area’s only remaining black-owned bank, Illinois Service Federal, is looking to seize the moment.

“Those who want to bank black have a place they can do that in Chicago,” ISF Executive Vice President Monica Thomas told Daniels.

Crain’s Greg Hinz investigates institutional homicide

In a Feb. 10 article, Crain’s columnist Greg Hinz put on his detective’s hat and began sniffing out the main suspects responsible for Seaway’s demise:

“As in an Agatha Christie mystery, there are a lot of perpetrators in its demise,” Hinz wrote. “But in the end, no one with the wherewithal in Chicago cared enough to intervene, not City Hall or anyone in the city’s still substantial black business community. And Chicago is left with a stinking corpse.”

For a list of perpetrators, read Hinz’s full article here. Read Daniels’ full article here.

Don’t forget First Suburban National 

While journalists conduct a postmortem of black-owned Seaway, let the locals not forget the death of the local bank, First Suburban National, in 2010. First Suburban had served Maywood since 1943.

You can read Crain’s coverage of Seaway’s takeover of First Suburban seven years ago here.

So, remember, this isn’t  just a story of the demise of black-owned business. It’s also a story, told over and over again, of the demise of the small business that prioritizes the interests of a particular community over those of dispersed, atomized investors. VFP

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Crain’s: Over 230 Homes Sold in Maywood in 2016 as Values Rise | Bellwood, Melrose Park See Similar Gains

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A visualization generated by Open Street Map and published by Crain’s shows median housing prices up by at least 10 percent in many area suburbs at the end of 2016 compared to the year before. | Crain’s Chicago Business 

Tuesday, January 24, 2017 || By Local News Curator || @maywoodnews

According to a Jan. 24 Crain’s Chicago Business report, median home prices throughout Proviso Township were up significantly by the end of 2016 compared to that point in 2015.

From the Crain’s report:

“Prices and sales are expected to continue experiencing modest gains over the first quarter,” Geoffrey Hewings, director of the Regional Economics Applications Laboratory at the University of Illinois, said in a statement from the Realtors’ group.

“Consumers appear to be waiting to see what the new president and Congress plan for the economy. As a result, it may be several months before there is an appreciable impact on the housing market.”

Crain’s compiled maps and charts from data released by Midwest Real Estate Data and the Chicago Association of Realtors.

To read the full Crain’s report, click here.

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Maywood Kwanzaa Ceremony Highlights Day Five’s Nia, or Purpose, By Emphasizing Black Economics

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Attendees at Afriware’s annual Kwanzaa celebration on Friday recite Amy Jacques Garvey’s “This Flag of Mine.” | Michael Romain/VFP

kwanzaa_123016Saturday, December 31, 2016 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews || Updated: 1/3/17

Dozens of people packed a second-floor conference room inside of the Eisenhower Tower, 1701 S. 1st Ave., on Friday night to commemorate the fifth day of Kwanzaa, whose principal, Nia (which means purpose), was celebrated in a keynote address by Maywood-born author TeQuila Shabazz.

The event, sponsored annually by Afriware Books — which partnered this year with Maywood Youth Mentoring — also featured Atiba Jali’s African drum rhythms, a ceremonial candle lighting and a book givewaway. The Dec. 30 gathering was Afriware’s 22nd annual Kwanzaa celebration.

Shabazz, the founder of the BRIJ Embassy for Black America and the author of The Neo-Green Book, said that her purpose is to help build capital in the African American community by emphasizing the importance of buying, and building, while black.

“You hear a lot about ‘buy black, buy black, buy black,’ which is good, but you have to also give black, too,” Shabazz said. “And time is money. We give a lot of it away.”

Shabazz, 39, worked for 15 years in sales at various media companies, including the Tribune Company, before she discovered that her purpose was beyond Corporate America.

“Today is purpose and I can tell you that it is quite fitting that I would be standing here in Maywood, the community where I was born,” Shabazz said. “My family is from here, parents went to Proviso East. Twenty years ago, at Afriware, I bought my first set of books that brought me into knowledge of self.”

Five years ago, Shabazz said, she left her six-figure job with the Tribune-owned CW TV network. She was stationed in Dallas, which she described as “a perpetual suburb” with no shortage of racial animosity.

The growing frustration and dissatisfaction Shabazz felt with her corporate job and the city’s cultural environment combined with life circumstances to draw her to what she described as another phase of nia.

Her best friend had been killed by the police in 2010. Her daughter, who was born when Shabazz was still a teenager, was about to go off to college on a full scholarship. One day, while driving in Dallas roughly five years ago, Shabazz felt tormented by the pain of being pulled one direction by a job and a culture she despised and what she believed was her true calling.

“In that moment, I swear to you, I was hit by a utility vehicle, smashed into a cement wall and was hit from behind by a little sports car,” she said. “My car was totaled, but I was unscathed. That’s what sent me home [back to Chicago]. I was in a job that required me to be in the field all the time. I’d just bought a new car and I was like, I can’t buy another one. So, I returned home.”

Instead of going back into Corporate America, Shabazz said, she started the BRIJ Embassy, which she describes as “cooperative of people who want to eradicate poverty and build wealth in black America.”

The cooperative has since grown into around 5,000 members whose goal is to “intentionally and strategically” eradicate poverty and build wealth in Black America.

The members, Shabazz said, collect receipts, conduct secret shopper visits, make phone calls and do extensive research in order to make sure that they’re supporting black-owned businesses.

In addition to having a presence on Facebook, the group also regularly hosts single-day shopping events for black-owned businesses, pouring thousands of dollars of money into the enterprises within a matter of hours.

Shabazz’s Neo-green Book includes about 500 black-owned businesses, most of them in Chicago, and is released quarterly. The book is an echo of The Negro Travelers’ Green Book, once considered the “Bible of black travel during Jim Crow.”

First published in 1936 by Victor Hugo Green, a black postal employee from Harlem, the Green Book was designed “to give the Negro traveler information that will keep him from running into difficulties, embarrassments and to make his trip more enjoyable,” according to Kathleen Franz’s and Susan Smuylans’ Major Problems in American Popular Culture.

Shabazz said her book “the next generation to [Hugo’s] book,” which went out of print in 1966, shortly after the passage of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts.

“Today, we have to expose and highlight places that are safe to shop at,” she said in an interview earlier this month. “This is an economic war. There are companies we give our money to that fund the prison industrial complex [among other social problems that ensnare poor and minority consumers].”

The struggle, however, is real. That’s a dictum, Shabazz indicated, that holds for all ages, it seems. While looking through the original green book’s archives in New York City, Shebazz discovered a sad truth. Hugo was careful to add a publisher’s caveat to his editions, cautioning his readers that some businesses, while operational before the book went to print, may no longer exist after the publication rolls off of the presses.

Shabazz said part of the motivation to publish her book quarterly was the fact that the lifespan of many black businesses is short, making regular, frequent updates a necessity. In addition to going out of business, some enterprises may change contact information as well, she said.

But the struggle extends deeper than that tough reality, Shabazz noted.

The $1.3 trillion spending power of African Americans that’s often touted as a sign of economic strength, the author said, is less potent when scrutinized. The key word, she said, is spending.

“Spending power, spending, spending, spending,” she repeated. “Not saving, not accumulating wealth, spending, which means I’m giving it away constantly.”

Only around two percent of that black spending power, Shabazz said, gets invested into black businesses. The factoid elicited a collective gasp from the audience.

“That’s terrible, terrible,” said Maywood Youth Mentoring Founder Barbara Cole.

“There is no reason why we shouldn’t support our own all of the time,” said Pamela Hunt, of Hunt Cultural Brilliance Group, who introduced Shabazz.

“We only get $26 billion of $1.3 trillion,” Shabazz said. “That’s not even a dent. True wealth is in ownership, which means that our wealth is reflected in our black businesses. Those black businesses earn about $186 billion per year, which is really sad, because we’re spending, like, 10 times that.”

Shabazz said that, of the roughly 2.6 million black businesses in existence, around 90 percent of them are sole proprietors making about $50,000 to $60,000 a year. That means, she said, “we have to increase the intensity of our support to them if, realistically, we are going to have them employ our young people. Right now, [black business owners] are only making enough to survive day-to-day.”

Shabazz suggested that the widely held belief, particularly acute among blacks, that black businesses are often substandard or not very professional often omits the responsibility of black consumers.

“Instead of complaining, contact the business and say, ‘This is what I experienced coming into your place. I really loved this, but if you changed this, you’d be exceptional,” Shabazz said. “That’s accountability, y’all. That’s reciprocity, y’all. That’s among the small things we can do, instead of making excuses all the time about what we ain’t doing.” VFP

Correction: This article has been updated to clarify statements of Pam Hunt. VFP regrets the error. 

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Maywood-born Author Publishes Guide to Black-owned Businesses, To Present During Dec. 30 Kwanzaa Event

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The Negro Travelers’ Green Book, published from 1936 to the early 1960s, was responsible for helping black travelers navigate the country’s roadways safely. | PBS || Below left, Tequila Sahaya Shabazz has authored what might be called a Green Book for the 21st generation, The Neo-Green Book. || R. Amon Photography/Facebook

tequila-shabazz-photoThursday, December 22, 2016 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews

In its heyday, The Negro Travelers’ Green Book was considered the “Bible of black travel during Jim Crow.” First published in 1936 by Victor Hugo Green, a black postal employee from Harlem, the Green Book was designed “to give the Negro traveler information that will keep him from running into difficulties, embarrassments and to make his trip more enjoyable,” according to Kathleen Franz’s and Susan Smuylans’ Major Problems in American Popular Culture.

Circulation of the book may have been discontinued shortly after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but one Maywood-born author says that the book’s disappearance doesn’t mean that something like it is no longer needed.

TeQuila Sahaya Shabazz, the author of The Neo-Green Book, said in a recent phone interview that her book is a successor of sorts to the Green Book.

“This is the next generation to that book,” Shabazz said, adding that her work, which was published this year and is now available for purchase online and at select book stores (including Afriware Books in Maywood), provides information for consumers who want to shop at businesses that are black-owned, local and socially responsible.

“The Green Book published places where people could safely stop during their travels,” Shabazz said. “Today, we have to expose and highlight places that are safe to shop at. This is an economic war. There are companies we give our money to that fund the prison industrial complex [among other social problems that ensnare poor and minority consumers].”

Shabazz, 39, worked for 15 years in sales at various media companies, including the Chicago Tribune and PBS, before retiring in order to dedicate herself full-time to guiding people on ways they can “buy, give, love and live black.”

In addition to publishing the Neo-Green Book, which she plans on releasing quarterly, she also heads up the BRIJ Embassy for Black America, which Shabazz describes as a “cooperative of people who want to eradicate poverty and build wealth in black America.”

Shabazz said that she and her colleagues log how much money they’ve spent at black-owned and socially responsible businesses. They also conduct secret shopper visits to stores and analyze a businesses investment patterns, cleanliness and customer service, among other baseline indicators that businesses must satisfy if they’re to be included in The Neo-Green Book.

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Shabazz said she’s been gathering data herself for four years and has worked intensively at data-gathering with her colleagues at BRIJ for roughly a year. So far this year, she said, they’ve invested over $700,000 into businesses within black communities in metro areas across the country, including Chicago, Gary and Cleveland.

Shabazz will present a keynote address on Dec. 30 during the annual Kwanzaa celebration hosted by Afriware Books, 1701 S. 1st Ave. in Maywood. The event will be from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Doors will open at 5:30 p.m.

The timing is particularly ripe, considering the village’s recent woes. Shabazz, who grew up in Maywood and the West Side of Chicago, said she was shocked to learn that Aldi was Maywood’s only full-service grocery store and dismayed when she discover that it would be closing on Christmas Eve.

How, she was asked, might she translate her philosophy of economic self-sufficiency to some of the residents of her hometown?

“First, you have to analyze your capital base,” she said. “It’s going to be hard work. It’s not easy and won’t happen overnight. But you have to know what human capital — what knowledge, skills, resources and tools — you have access to immediately.”

Shabazz said that Maywood residents should look to places in Chicago, such as sustainable farms and cooperative grocery stores, for examples of what economic independence looks like and for potential investment opportunities.

“How do we open grocery stores owned by the community and in which the community invests and receives the profits?” she said, adding that the key isn’t to protest or to pressure large private and public institutions.

“In the city, there are many areas without grocery stores, but people have created mobile grocery stores and opened up stores of their own,” she said. VFP

For more info, or to purchase Shabazz’s book, click here

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