The long-awaited downtown food co-op, Beans & Greens, will open in downtown Homewood at noon Wednesday, Sept. 21, according to an email announcement from its parent organization, the South Suburban Food Co-op (SSFC).
The co-op, which has been serving the South Suburbs since 1974 from several locations in Park Forest and Matteson, announced in April that it would move its store to 1941 Ridge Road.
Officials had hoped for an opening earlier this summer; however, renovations at the new location took longer than expected. Most of the work was done by staff and volunteer co-op members.
The decision was made to relocate to downtown Homewood as part of a fresh vision for the community-driven co-op. The desire to be in a more populous area, while meeting the growing demand for sustainable, healthy, organic foods and merchandise, brought them to Homewood for a new generation of health conscious consumers, according to store manager Patrick Miller.
Beans & Greens will bring the convenience of a local grocery store to the heart of downtown, something that has not been available in more than four decades.
As is the case with most small towns, independant local groceries have slowly disappeared and have been replaced with larger chains outside the heart of downtown. The village’s downtown master plan calls for a shift toward a more walkable, bikeable and socially connected lifestyle in Homewood, and an independant grocer returning once again to the heart of town seemed to be a good fit.
The co-op began as a buying club with seven founding members, and for some time, membership and volunteering were mandatory. SSFC now welcomes anyone to shop with them.
Members are now considered owners, and while it is no longer a requirement, being an owner has advantages, including 5 percent price discounts on purchases, owner-only sales, discounts on classes and the right to vote for and/or run for a seat on the board.
Beans & Greens is a non-profit organization that is 100 percent owned and operated by its members.
The co-op grows organic produce on five acres in Richton Park, as well as two acres and 50 fruit trees in Park Forest that is all donated through St. Irenaeus church. Recently, Ravisloe Country Club owner Claude Grandeau offered the co-op one acre of land to grow organic produce for distribution through the co-op. Details on creating the garden at Ravisloe are still being worked out.
John Franzese, a 25-year board member of the co-op explains, “It is important to have healthy food, but that’s not the be-all-end-all. The be-all-end-all is educating people on food, the philosophy and the community.”
“The important thing is to reach out and get people to understand: If you want things to be better, make them better, with your health and your life,” he added.
The Homewood location will continue to offer the same value and difficult-to-find favorites the store is known for, he said.
The bulk items which have always been a signature of the store will be available in the new location, and there are plans to expand those offerings. The store will also feature grind-your-own organic peanuts and organic almonds.
Future plans include a coffee and smoothie bar, as well as a dedicated classroom space for classes, demonstrations and community events.
Also continuing will be their selection of gluten-free ingredients, local organic produce, grass fed meats, vegan and non-genetically modified organism (GMO) foods.
The organization’s mission will also remain the same. The SSFC will continue to support local organic farmers to ensure the procurement of quality foods for building and maintaining optimal health for the community and the planet.
SSFC is committed to environmentally responsible business practices. Franzese said the store is could soon replace plastic packaging for dried food items with reusable glass jars, for example.
According to the member-written mission statement, “Local sources for food and merchandise improve quality of products while reducing distribution costs.”
The community response has been overwhelmingly positive from local residents to village officials, according to co-op officials. The co-op has had a booth at the Homewood Farmers Market each week all summer, and market patrons have regularly inquired about the store’s opening.
Beans & Greens will be open Monday-Saturday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.