Forty Acres pop-up brings fresh, affordable produce to Austin neighborhood

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Liz Abunaw is the owner and operator of Forty Acres Fresh Market, a pop-up produce market in Chicago's Austin neighborhood.

"I wound up at the corner of Chicago and Laramie," she said, "and it was at that moment that I realized that I needed cash, and I couldn't find a bank or a grocery store and I was kind of like, where am I, and why don't theses basic things exist?

It was that experience of inequality in Chicago that gave birth to Abunaw's idea of a pop-up produce market on the city's west side.

"Forty Acres is a start-up grocer, so our goal is to open a grocery store in the Austin community and in order to get there we have been running pop-up markets, a delivery service and bringing fresh, affordable produce to the neighborhood," she said.

"Forty Acres carries a full line of produce, so we have everything from strawberries, blueberries, grapes, blackberries, apples, oranges, mangos, pineapples to, you gotta have your greens, you know, your spinach, your cabbage, carrots, potatoes, onions," Abunaw listed off.

"I love it, I come here every week, every Thursday," said Teresa Cox. "Fresh food, good service, the people are so nice!"

"I come here because I like to support it," said Sean Gunderson. "I think we need more markets like this in the City of Chicago."

"What that tells you, when she does this, it should encourage others to step out on a vision and try it," said 37th Ward Alderman Emma Mitts.

When the pandemic hit, Abunaw thought that that would be the end of her business. It turned out to be just the opposite.
"I thought the pandemic was going to shut us down indefinitely," she said. "By March 15th I realized that, oh my gosh, we're an essential business, people needed produce so our delivery orders skyrocketed!"

Forty Acres is now focused on delivery orders since the outdoor market is done for the season- but this spring, plans are in the works to open the first brick and mortar grocery store in the Austin neighborhood.

"My whole entire staff is like, I just can't believe we did this and we all feel a part of something that's bigger than ourselves," Abunaw said.
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