Grocery co-op taking shape in Logan Square

A group of Logan Square residents desiring a healthier alternative to the large grocery chains are organizing to bring the neighborhood its first food co-op.

The Dill Pickle Co-Op, as they're calling it, would be the neighborhood's first member-owned grocery store. A benefit for the project is scheduled to begin 8:30 p.m. Aug. 27 at the Empty Bottle at 1035 N. Western. The line-up includes Willis P. Jenkins, Tirra Lirra and Alla. Tickets are $10 in advance and $12 at the door.

The store takes its name from Chicago's historic Dill Pickle Club, a speakeasy and cabaret of sorts that was created by radical Jack Jones in 1914. The club was home to many writers, artists, actors, and free-thinkers who used the space as a forum for free speech and artistic expression.

The co-op has a storefront at 3039 W. Fullerton Ave., and board members who plan to open its doors by March 1.

Board members hope to lure new members for the co-op by renting a space at the Logan Square Farmer's Market on Sundays to promote awareness. They have also gone door-to-door to encourage local support.

So far, the most effective source of income for the project has come from local residents who make individual donations and spread the word, says founder and spokeswoman Kathleen Duffy.

"Most of the feedback I hear is very positive, and is most often expressed by folks taking out their checkbooks to sign up and encouraging their friends to do the same," Duffy says.

The group has just over 200 members so far and hopes to reach 500 by September, she says.

Duffy, 39, is a native New Yorker and communications director for the Campaign for Better Health Care. Although she is the project's organizing force, she works alongside other members, including Scott Althoff, Todd Edwards, Gajus Mikinaits, Billy Burdett, Jen Cozad, Payton Chung, Breanne Heath, and Julia Goode. 

"We're really lucky to have such a dedicated group of people around," Duffy says.

For $250, which can be paid over five years, Dill Pickle members become part of a program to "meet community needs and strengthen area diversity through products, services, and education," according to a mission statement.

"You have a voice in how the store is run, which is something that none of the larger grocery chains will offer you," Duffy says.

In addition to a commitment to selling local, organic, and healthy foods, the group also strives to educate its members on co-operative practices and nutrition, according to the mission statement.

Duffy says once the store begins to turn a profit, member-owners will also be eligible for rebates as profits are returned to the member-owners, based on how often they shop.

Though the neighborhood has a variety of larger chain stores, including Rodriguez Groceries, Tony's Finer Foods and La Economia Grocery, co-op members say they're looking for more options.

"I'm just looking for some good produce," says Kellyn McLean, a 24-year-old Logan Square resident. "If The Dill Pickle Co-op can provide me with alternatives to what I am restricted to buy now, I would gladly become a member and shop there when the store opens. It sounds like a great idea."

"Being a part of the food co-op sounds like being a part of a close-knit community," says Sarah King, another Logan Square resident. "Anything that brings a group of people closer together, especially in the interest of its individuals and his/her health, is a step in the right direction."

The group's next board meeting is scheduled to begin 6:45 p.m. Sept. 18 at the Logan Square Public Library. 

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