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Chicago Grocery Owner Shows Other Entrepreneurs What Real Investment in the Black Community Looks Like

A Chicago grocery store is reaching out to the community by infusing Black culture into the store’s functionality, design and service.

According to ABC 7 News, the latest Mariano’s grocery store will open on the South Side — a neighborhood in need of healthy food options.

“It gives them a place to gather, a place to meet, a place to get great products, fresh foods,” says store director Stephen Lenoir.

Prior to the new store, the site was home to one of the city’s oldest Black housing projects — the Ida B. Wells Homes. However, those were torn down due to crime and the land remained vacant for a number of years.

But the store’s owner and founder Bob Mariano wants to inspire hope in the community. So he requested that the store be built by an all-Black design team, have local Black art and feature historical figures like Muhammad Ali, Nat King Cole and Louis Armstrong. There will be live jazz, piano music and vocalists during the live opening.

“We wanted to build something here that has the ability to sustain itself for a long period of time,” Mariano tells reporters. “Not in three or four years it gets into disrepair, it’s got to go away and the community is left empty again … I believe if we’re going to make a difference in this world, you got to do it. You can’t talk it; you just got to do it, and then people see it and they see the example and that speaks volumes and then they know how to follow.”

The new Bronzeville store will have its grand opening Tuesday, Oct. 11.

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