The site of the former Maywood Market grocery store, which closed in 2011. | Google Earth
Thursday, February 2, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews || Updated: 2/3/17
It’s been a little more than a month since Aldi, the village’s only full-service grocery store, exited Maywood, but things are already looking up, says Village Manager Willie Norfleet, Jr. Maywood’s top administrator said that he’s confident that a grocer will secure the former Maywood Market grocery store, located at the corner of 5th Ave. and Washington Blvd., within the year. The property is currently owned by the village.
“Each day that goes by, the odds get stronger and stronger because of one factor — you don’t have to compete with Aldi,” Norfleet said in a recent phone interview. “I know [a vendor will purchase the former Maywood Market] very soon.”
Norfleet said that, last year, the village entertained at least four prospective tenants, all grocers, that are looking to setup shop at the boarded up location. He didn’t identify them or reveal their sizes (i.e., whether they’re independent stores or national chains).
Whichever can negotiate an agreement first, he said, would be poised to capture a market with little competition now that Aldi is no longer in the village. Last year, Aldi announced that it was closing its Maywood location due to increasing property taxes and declining sales revenue.
One of those prospective vendors is Thom Alcazar’s EATS Groceries, an unconventional supermarket that is designed to bring high-end services and quality food to food deserts, or areas where residents are located at relatively long distances from supermarkets and other sources of quality meats, fruits and vegetables.
Alcazar, a logistics and supply-chain expert, has eyed Maywood and Chicago’s North Lawndale area as two prospective areas he’s willing to locate his concept, which Chicago Tribune reporter Mary Schmich described last year:
“Everything about this store is different. Instead of aisles of groceries, the shoppers are greeted by touch-screen kiosks and cheerful shopping assistants who show them how to order with their fingers.
“You want bananas? Touch here. Green or ripe? Touch here.
“Many of the shoppers — single mothers, grandmothers — come with kids, and while the adults work the kiosk, the kids are escorted to the kid zone to play and eat healthy treats.
“Meanwhile, in the back, the cold, giant warehouse is bustling. Workers, many of them ex-felons who before this store arrived couldn’t find a job, line up along a conveyor belt, loading the orders into grocery totes. They’re all wearing gloves, ensuring that the fruits and vegetables, unlike most supermarket produce, haven’t been squeezed and poked countless times by whoknowswho with Godknowswhat on their hands.”
In a phone interview Wednesday, Alcazar said that an EATS architect has drawn up plans for the former Maywood Market site and the site of the shuttered Moo & Oink in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood. The store closed in 2011, around the time when Maywood Market shut down.
The village had put up more than $3 million in taxpayer money towards the store’s development. Last year, the village paid off a $250,000 loan, taken out for the purposes of floating cash flow operations, on which the Maywood Market developer defaulted in 2011. When the lender, the now-defunct Seaway Bank, couldn’t find the developer, it decided to pursue the village.
Alcazar said that the Maywood Market building is in much better condition than Moo & Oink and “is a little more ready to move into.” He said the store could be open within a year after his team acquires the property.
“We’ve already determined that [Maywood Market] would be adequate for our needs, what we don’t know is the political aspect,” Alcazar said, adding that “if the trustees want us there, we’d take over the property.”
Last year, Alcazar told Austin Weekly News that he was waiting “to get $5 million in Tax Increment Financing district funding. Once he gets the TIF funds, he said, he’ll purchase the building.”
Norfleet said that EATS hasn’t made any serious offer to purchase the former Maywood Market despite village officials conducting at least two walk-thru’s with Alcazar’s team. Norfleet said that the board isn’t interested in giving the property away for free. The village manager didn’t disclose the property’s appraised value.
“If a business is not able to purchase the property, what’s the likelihood that the business will survive? We’ll just be in the same scenario we were in before,” said Norfleet. “If you need public funds to finance the grocery store, you’re going about it the wrong way.”
Nor fleet said that village officials want to find a grocer for Maywood Market that can recapture sales taxes that, currently, are leaking out of Maywood and being captured by other villages.
“A new grocery store would help diversify our revenue flow,” Norfleet said. “It would help to stanch some of that sales tax leakage.”
Norfleet said that sales tax revenue is the village’s third-highest source of income. Last year, the village realized $12 million from property taxes, $3 million from income taxes and $1.6 million from sales taxes.
He said he couldn’t say how much sales tax revenue Maywood stands to lose now that Aldi is closed, adding that, often, business try keeping those figures confidential.
“However much it is, we’ll feel the loss,” Norfleet said, before pointing out an obscure silver lining in Aldi’s exit.
“They still have to pay property taxes on that building and if the incentives run out, they’ll possibly pay more,” he said. “You can see how they might have great interest in selling that building.”
Alcazar and EATS officials are scheduled to discuss his concept with community members tonight, Feb. 2, 8 p.m., at St. Eulalia Parish, 1851 S. 9th Ave. in Maywood. For more info on EATS, click here. VFP
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