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New Full-Service Supermarket Planned For Peoria's South Side

Save-A-Lot Peoria
Tim Shelley
The former Aldi/Save-A-Lot grocery store at 210 S. Western in South Peoria, seen on Aug. 16, 2021.

A locally-owned full service supermarket is planned for the former Save-A-Lot grocery store space on Western Avenue on Peoria's South Side early next year.

Pastor Chuck Brown of Victory Christian Church closed on a three-year lease of the building, with the ability to buy it outright upon the lease's expiration.

He plans to open Harvest Supermarket with around 20 employees. He's currently targeting an opening date sometime in February 2022.

"The concept that I came up with, obviously, you know, with the south side of Peoria and other urban areas across the country struggling, you know, with what's considered a food desert, not having access to healthy food choices, produce and deli and such," Brown said. "And so this idea that I was able to come up with to help bring a very fresh grocery, meat, deli, everything necessary to the community for the people in that area."

Brown said it's not a church purchase, but a separate business venture drawing on his decades of experience as an entrepreneur.

In addition to the supermarket, Brown plans to run two other businesses out of the South Peoria facility. "Dinner At Your Door" features a food court and a delivery service. "Brown Coffee and Cream" will offer up breakfast pastries, as well as items like sweet potato pie and peach cobbler.

Education will also be a component, with cooking classes among the offerings.

"There's going to be some creative things but a lot of our focus is going to be on helping people make healthy choices," he said.

Brown said he's a believer that everyone should have the opportunity to choose healthy foods. He said teaching different recipes incorporating fresh foods and offering up samples may provide encouragement for adopting healthier diets.

The store will look to accept government food assistance like WIC and LINK cards, Brown said.

The store at 210 S. Western first opened as an Aldi in 1989, and closed in 2014. Save-A-Lot opened a location there in 2017, but closed up shop after less than a year in business.

The former Save-A-Lot building has sat vacant ever since, though the neighborhood group Southside Community United for Change has occasionally used the space for its farmers' markets.

Peoria's South Side became a food desert when Kroger closed its store in Madison Park Shopping Center in 2018.

Brown said his business strategy involves reaching out beyond the South Side.

"We definitely will also target 61606, so it's not going to just be for a specific group. But we've got that Bradley area. We've got some great citizens up the hill there, West Peoria," he said. "So we just got to try to offer as many opportunities as we can for choices for our customers."

After closing on the lease, Brown said it will probably take around six months for him to acquire the shelving and other supplies needed to get a supermarket up and running in the space.

In the meantime, he said not to be surprised to see some farmer's markets or other community outreach happening during the lead-up to the store's opening. Brown said he wants the store to look the same as if it were in the affluent Dunlap area.

"I really hope that this can began a very positive trend of business growth and development, you know, in our south (Peoria) community," he said. "You know, we've had some of the greatest people on the planet come from South Peoria, and, and we would certainly like to be a part of revitalizing that community and, you know, offering support."

Ultimately, he hopes the Harvest Supermarket serves as an impetus for more reinvestment in the 61605 ZIP code. Peoria's South Side is considered to be one of the poorest ZIP codes in the United States. About two-thirds of the neighborhood's population is Black.

"It's so much larger than just the supermarket, but (we're) just really hoping we can make an impact in people's lives, as well," he said.

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Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.