An Aldi in Auburn Gresham is the latest South Side supermarket to be shuttered by a corporate grocer. Community members and local elected officials say they were not notified of the store’s closure in advance.
A company spokesperson confirmed Aldi closed its store at 7627 S. Ashland Ave. on June 12. Block Club Chicago first reported on the closure Monday.
In an interview, state Sen. Jacqueline Collins of Chicago, who said she learned about the closure from community members late last week, described Aldi as having “absconded in the middle of the night.” Ald. David Moore, whose 17th Ward includes the shuttered Aldi, said he found out about the closure from a constituent last Monday.
Tim Thomas, a neighborhood resident who said he was the secretary of the 79th Peoria Block Club, found out about the store’s closure when he stopped by on a regular grocery store trip on June 12. “The gates around the parking lot were locked, and we looked up and we saw that there was a banner, or a big sign — the building’s boarded up — and it said this location is permanently closed,” he said.
“We do not take the closing of this location lightly,” Aldi said in a statement Monday. Aldi did not respond to a question about allegations from officials and residents that they were provided with no notice of the store’s closure.
Aldi cited both “repeated burglaries” and declining sales as its rationale for closing the store. “Out of concern for our employees and customers, keeping this store open was no longer a sustainable option,” the company said.
As of last week, the city’s data portal on reported crimes shows no reported burglaries on the 7600 block of South Ashland so far this year. The portal shows seven total burglaries on the block within the last five years, only two of which were reported to have taken place at a grocery store. The most recent reported burglary on the block took place in September of last year.
Aldi did not respond to a request for comment about the burglary numbers on Tuesday.
“You can always throw that out in a Black community, because it’s just assumed that in a Black community you have crime,” Collins said. “I want to dismiss that, I think it’s a fallacy.”
When asked about the grocery store closure at an unrelated news conference Tuesday afternoon, police Superintendent David Brown said the department was “well aware of the historical crime in that particular area,” referring to Auburn Gresham, and said it had an “enhanced focus” on violence and quality of life issues in the neighborhood. Brown also said the area had seen “significant declines” in crime without citing a specific time frame.
In its Monday statement, Aldi said it looked forward to “continuing to serve customers at one of our many stores nearby.” It provided a list of stores that are located over 2½ miles away from the Auburn Gresham location.
A Walmart Neighborhood Market is located just north of the former Aldi on South Ashland. A Food 4 Less location is about a mile away.
This isn’t the first location Aldi has closed in a historically disinvested neighborhood on Chicago’s South and West sides. The company also closed a location in West Garfield Park in 2021. Earlier this year, aldermen authorized the city to purchase that property for $700,000.
In a statement, state Sen. Collins called the Auburn Gresham closure a “devastating blow to our community, who already faces food insecurity.”
“We must work to provide market incentives to keep grocery stores open in underserved areas so that all our neighbors can provide healthy meals for their families,” Collins said.
Moore said he would work with the property owner and the mayor’s office on the future of the former Aldi site. “We have to fight and invest in operators, store operators where we’re not just relying on large chains,” he said.
“This is a neighborhood that has to fight and scrape for every resource that it gets,” said AJ Patton, the founder and CEO of 548 Development, which owns property in the neighborhood and currently has two developments under construction there. Patton said he had not heard the Aldi was closing until this week.
“For it to leave, without really much notice, is a real concern,” he said. “If it has legitimate concerns that would lead it to wanting to leave, then it should have communicated those.”
Aldi said it had given all employees at the Auburn Gresham location the opportunity to work at other locations “in the immediate area.”
The Auburn Gresham closure also comes just a couple of months after Whole Foods announced it was closing its Englewood location, news that came as a gut punch to the neighborhood. The Whole Foods had opened to much fanfare in 2016, when it was heralded as an attempt to bring high-quality groceries to a neighborhood that had long struggled with inadequate access to healthy food.
The city’s sale agreement with the Englewood site’s developer requires a full-service grocery store to be up and running in the Englewood Square development within 18 months of the store’s closure. In a May interview with the Tribune, the site’s developer, Leon Walker of DL3 Realty, said he was in conversations with “several” local grocers and a couple of national ones regarding operating at the Whole Foods site.
Chicago Tribune’s Paige Fry and Alice Yin contributed.