In River West, a neighborhood with few options for food shopping, locals have long called for an independent grocery store with fresh meat and produce and prepared meals. Their wish is now answered with the debut of Urban Market, a new family-owned grocery emporium that’s now open at 1001 W. Chicago Avenue.
At 40,000 square feet, Urban Market is designed to address the latest in customer concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic. It has roomy, seven-foot wide aisles to allow for social distancing; a produce section that’s more than 60 percent organic; a cafe with contact-free purchasing for made-to-order food; and even biodegradable plastic bags, which co-owners Christina Palivos and Maria Dernis say they’re the first in the state to offer. Palivos and Dernis have also made an effort to highlight locally-owned purveyors of meat, seafood, deli items, and vegan products, and have established partnerships with more than 200 Chicago-area businesses.
The design of the store is intended to distinguish it from corporate-owned supermarkets: it has warm lighting, wood finishes, and colorful wall murals from local artists. There’s a cordoned-off cafe space that’s not yet open for indoor dining, but patrons can still get sushi, pizzas, burgers, smoothies, and more to go or via walk-up window. Eventually, they’ll be able to belly up to an espresso and wine bar (also closed for the time being).
The market offers made-to-order food in lieu of a self-serve hot bar.
For Palivos and Dernis, Urban Market is an opportunity to bring a much-needed resource to a rapidly growing community. “There are no [grocery] stores within a mile of this location,” says Palivos, a Chicago native whose family owned the now-shuttered restaurant Athens Cafe in Rogers Park. “We feel like it’s an up-and-coming area and the store will bring more people who want to open a business [in River West].”
Urban Market is the first store from Palivos and Dernis, but the co-owners have a convenient pair of advisors: their husbands co-own Centro Fresh Market in Belmont-Cragin, and Angelo Palivos is the new store’s general manager. The team had hoped to open in 2021, but were stymied by now-notorious supply chain issues that kept essential pieces of equipment in limbo. After a few technical hiccups, the store debuted just before the new year and Christina Palivos says she can “finally exhale.”
It’s a good time to open a grocery store: while the pandemic has roiled the restaurant industry, grocery stores have seen record profits during the pandemic, as the general public is cooking and dining more at home
But the Urban Market team understands that a grocery store can have more than just utilitarian value to a community. “We’re Greek and the word for market is agorá,” Angelo Palivos says. “It’s a meeting place to talk shop, a focal point for the village or town. That’s how we see this business, too — we want to make it a destination.”
Explore Urban Market in the photographs below.
Urban Market, 1001 W. Chicago Avenue, Open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.