Green Grocer focuses on local items

November 12, 2009 1:14:29 PM PST
A lot of restaurants proudly feature local products on their menus. But when it comes to grocery stores, it's more of a challenge. Yet a small, family-owned store in West Town is emphasizing local brands by offering a selection of fresh and packaged items almost exclusively from Chicago and the surrounding area.

There are movements around the country focusing on the support of local farmers. In some places, restaurants claim to serve nothing from outside of a 100-mile radius. But it's more rare in the grocery business. Yet for the past year or so, a couple in West Town has been focusing their store's purchases almost exclusively on Chicago-area products.

West Town isn't exactly full of high-quality, mom-and-pop grocery stores. In fact, there really isn't any store quite like the Green Grocer, which occupies a hard-to-find storefront in an area that is slowly gentrifying. Like many food-related businesses, it started with dissatisfaction at a previous job.

"Kind of at the same time my husband and I happened to be walking around the neighborhood -- which is where the store now is -- we realized there was no good market. He basically said maybe this is your calling. So we opened it," said Cassie Green, owner of the Green Grocer.

What they opened is a hybrid of neighborhood necessities, along with a hyper-local focus. There's Coupla Guys marinara sauces, Das Carmelini treats and Nice Cream -- a local ice cream company rarely found outside of farmer's markets. There's also vegan tamales from Uptons in Skokie, Milk & Honey's famously addictive granola produced in Wicker Park and local organic bread from Red Hen.

"With the local piece you're not transporting stuff from New Zealand when it grows in Michigan so you're saving a ton of carbon emissions, and then there's just the idea of having good stuff in your body, when something's fresh and picked you get it the next day; you've got more vitamins more nutrients," Green said.

Even the hot sauce is local -- coming from a Co-op in Humboldt Park. A focused beer and wine selection also features local players like Two Brothers from Warrenville, and you know they take their local produce seriously: not only do they highlight farms from within a 100 miles, you can occasionally catch them making deliveries themselves, like the chance encounter with the farmer dropping off pig lard; a coveted -- albeit decadent -- cooking ingredient.

"Supporting your local economy and having strength within your community or your region is really important. I'd rather give money to someone that I know and that I can call up and say 'Hey what's going on at your farm' than somebody halfway across the world that I couldn't possibly coordinate time zones with," said Green.

Other great local products at the store include Koval spirits from Ravenswood, and Trader's Point Creamery from Zionsville, Ind.

Green Grocer
1402 W. Grand Ave.
312-624-9508


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