The Crusader Newspaper Group

Businesses rebuild and reopen in Black neighborhoods

But many remain closed with an uncertain future

By Erick Johnson

Some businesses in Chicago’s Black neighborhoods that were hard hit a week ago from looting have reopened with large support from patrons.

But while many supermarkets are back in business, the future remains uncertain for some popular retail stores, bank branches and pharmacies that operated in Black neighborhoods. They were looted as police protests rocked Chicago and angry leaders and residents accused Mayor Lori Lightfoot of protecting businesses downtown and not those on the South and West Sides.

By Monday, the Crusader found four Jewel Osco supermarkets in Black neighborhoods were back open for business. They include the Bronzeville store at 35th and King Drive, the Woodlawn store at 60th and Cottage Grove, the Pill Hill store at 95th and Stony Island and the Chatham store on 87th Street.

The Jewel Osco supermarket in South Shore at 75th and Stony Island was still closed on Monday one week after looters cleaned out many shelves and left many products on the floor. On Monday, all entrances to the store’s parking lot were blocked. The store remained boarded up but cars filled the parking lot in a sign that the store was being prepared for reopening.

Next door, a K&G Fashion store and another business in the small shopping center remained boarded up as the city moved into the Phase 3 stage where some stores and non-essential businesses reopened with the number of new COVID-19 cases continuing to decline.

On Friday, Mariano’s supermarket in Bronzeville reopened, but plywood decorated with many colors covered the store’s windows. The store had a disc jockey playing the latest hits from the closed dining area. Later that day, Mayor Lightfoot held a press conference and said Chicago police officers should be fired after news outlets reported that some officers were covering their badges during demonstrations blasting the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

In South Shore, the six month-old Local Market in the Jeffrey Plaza reopened on Thursday, June 4 with large crowds. Plywood remained on the front windows that were also protected by two large merchandise trucks. A swarm of Chicago police stood nearby as shoppers entered the store.

However, most businesses in Jeffrey Plaza remained closed and boarded up. In Pill Hill, the Jewel Osco supermarket was also the only business operating in the shopping center when the Crusader visited on Monday.

At the Jewel Osco supermarket in Bronzeville, only two self-serve checkout registers were open after four were raided and damaged by looters the weekend of May 29.

In Englewood, the Whole Foods supermarket on 63rd Street was back open as well as the Chipotle eatery in the shopping center.

On the West Side, many supermarkets were reportedly closed on Monday after suffering heavy damage from looters more than a week ago.

Many discount stores, including Dollar Tree, Dollar General and Family Dollar remained boarded up and closed in South Shore, Woodlawn and Chatham. In South Shore, a currency exchange that was looted was open on Monday with its windows still boarded up.

The Crusader also found several Walgreens and CVS pharmacies were still closed in South Shore, Chatham and Englewood.

Last Friday, a man who didn’t give his name told the Crusader that he visited four Bank of America branches in South Shore, Pill Hill and Hyde Park before he was able to make a deposit. Two branches in South Shore were boarded up and the one in Pill Hill was closed after looters ripped out the ATM machines in the drive thru. He said the ATM machine at the Bank of America branch on 53rd Street in Hyde Park was not dispensing cash or accepting cash deposits. He said he finally found a working ATM machine at the Bank of America branch on Roosevelt Road in the West Loop.

Meanwhile, Mayor Lightfoot has vowed to help businesses rebuild, under heavy criticism for policies that led to the destruction of businesses in Black neighborhoods.

Lightfoot and the Chicago Police Department deployed police officers and city trucks to areas on the South and West Sides that were hard hit by looters. Critics said the move came a little too late as Lightfoot steps up plans to guide the city through tough times.

“Our highest priority is ensuring the safety of Chicago’s residents and visitors during the multiple protests planned for this upcoming weekend, which is why we’ve worked in close collaboration with the organizers to enact several systems to maintain the peace and put safety at the forefront,” said Lightfoot.

“I commend and stand with those peacefully protesting this weekend, as I too feel outraged and indignant over the unjust death of George Floyd, but I encourage those attending to do so thoughtfully and respectfully.”

To ensure the safety of residents in Chicago’s neighborhoods, police department patrols will be strategically positioned with high visibility throughout key commercial and retail corridors, with a focus on Chicago’s South and West Sides.

As part of this effort to protect Chicago’s communities, all 22 police districts will have their designated Business Liaison Officers deployed to work closely with local businesses in their neighborhoods and ensure they have the latest public safety information throughout the weekend.

“This plan stresses the safety and security of our communities throughout the city by focusing our resources on our commercial corridors while maintaining a highly visible presence in residential areas,” said Chicago Police Superintendent David O. Brown.

“CPD has been working around the clock and we continue to work with our federal, state and local public safety partners and the private sector to help secure our South and West Sides.”

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