Wild Onion Market, a new community-owned food co-op, signs lease in Rogers Park


Photo courtesy of Jaime Padgett

Michelle Parker-Katz, Ricky Burton-Romero, Mary Meyer, and Brooke Langton (left to right) photographed in the Wild Onion Market’s newly confirmed location at 7007 N. Clark St. in Rogers Park.

Jacob Wendler, Reporter

A new community owned grocery store will soon plant its roots near Evanston.

Wild Onion Market, a new food co-op coming to Chicago’s North Side, recently signed a lease for a space in Rogers Park. The store will provide residents of Evanston, Rogers Park and West Ridge with a chance to support local farmers and producers and have a say in their food provider’s operations. With the newly acquired space at 7007 N. Clark St., which was previously home to Express Market Place, Wild Onion’s Board of Directors hopes to open the market by the end of 2022.

Evanston resident and Wild Onion Market Vice President Lisa Gibbons (Weinberg ’93) said the location’s accessibility, sustainability and financial feasibility made it stand out from about 40 other sites the group considered for the lot.

According to Gibbons, the preexisting grocery store infrastructure from the location’s previous tenant means Wild Onion Market will only have to raise a little over $1 million in owner investments and donations to open their doors, compared to the usual $2 to 5 million often required for other co-ops. Gibbons said her time at Northwestern exposed her to the democratic principles at the heart of food co-ops. 

“I’ve really used my experience from Northwestern in terms of listening to every voice, not being judgmental and really hearing people before making a decision and coming with sort of preconceived ideas,” Gibbons said.

Wild Onion Market has doubled their owner base since the beginning of 2021, with close to 1,200 owners. The team hopes to reach 1,800 by their opening date, according to founder Mary Meyer.

Anyone can become an owner for a $250 investment, which offers community members lifetime ownership, a vote in the co-op’s Annual Election and a say in important decisions. Wild Onion Market offers community funded scholarships and flexible payment structures to make investment more accessible. Owners also have the opportunity to earn dividends in profitable years.

“Everything about the co-op model has a high appeal for me personally,” Meyer said. “In terms of giving back to the community and also treating everyone in the circle fairly.” 

Meyer and Gibbons both said that they saw heightened enthusiasm for the project when the COVID-19 pandemic sparked supply-chain disruptions that shed light on the importance of supporting local producers.

Evanston resident Kate Bressand, who serves as director of business development for Fred’s Bread, said she and her husband became owners because they saw an opportunity for both their business and their family. She said she’d love to also become a vendor at Wild Onion Market in the future.

“For example, we’re looking for a partner for honey, and we know we’ll be able to do that with local partners, local makers,” Bressand said. “And personally for our family, we love using local products and supporting farmers.”

Community members can help Wild Onion Market by becoming owners, donating or contributing to the Capital Campaign, Gibbons said. The campaign will run from March 6 through May 22 and aims to raise $1,160,000. Owners who have volunteered to help will be trained by professional callers to mobilize the campaign, Meyer said. 

“It’s an opportunity for people to invest in their values,” Meyer said. “It’s going to provide a market for farmers. It’s going to be a welcoming space for community members to come in and gather. So it’s an investment that will keep on giving, so to speak.”

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @jacob_wendler

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