Light Wave


Chicago Mayor to replace theft-wasted groceries with gov’t stores

By Jake Beardslee · September 19, 2023

In brief…

  • Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson announced plans to open city-owned grocery stores in "food deserts."
  • Four Walmarts and a Whole Foods in Englewood closed in recent years, saying their stores were not profitable.
  • Republicans criticized the proposal as "Soviet-style central planning," arguing private chains will keep closing due to theft and that taxpayers will be burdened.
  • A feasibility study must be conducted before timelines are provided for the proposed city-run grocery stores.
Chicago Mayor Johnson wants to open publicly funded groceries in areas where Walmart and Whole Foods have closed due to low revenues and high theft.  Ben Schumin/Wikimedia

Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson plans to open city-owned grocery stores in underserved areas that have become “food deserts.”

This comes after four Walmart stores and a Whole Foods location closed in the city. Johnson will partner with non-profit Economic Security Project on the proposal. Chicago Republican Party Chairman Steve Boulton slammed the proposal, calling it “something out of Soviet-style central planning,” according to the New York Post.

While four other Chicago Walmarts remain open, a company spokesperson said, “Collectively, our Chicago stores have not been profitable since we opened the first one nearly 17 years ago.”

The Englewood Whole Foods store closed in 2022, a year before its lease was set to expire. South Side residents were sad to see it go as it offered discounts on the chain’s popular organic goods. However, its aisles were often empty on what should have been busy shopping days.

Experts say rising retail theft across the U.S. has been hurting both large and small businesses. While the reasons for Whole Foods’ and Walmarts’ closures in Chicago are unclear, theft in the city is up 25% this year, according to the Chicago Police Department statistics.

Boulton trashed the city-run grocery proposal, saying, “Private chains should just pull out of all the neighborhoods because the city stores will have better police protection and lower prices subsidized by the long-suffering Chicago taxpayer.”

Johnson’s administration must conduct a feasibility study before issuing timelines for development of the proposed new stores.