The developers of Living Fresh Market, the grocery store at 7520 Roosevelt Rd. in Forest Park, gave the public a glimpse of what a second Maywood location might look like during Maywood Mayor Nathaniel George Booker’s town hall meeting on Oct. 27.
Village officials announced in August that the Living Fresh owners were eyeing the former Maywood Market at 615 S. 5th Ave. in Maywood for its second location.
At Thursday’s meeting, Living Fresh representatives said they envision the Maywood store operating in the mold of the current Forest Park location — a quality grocery store that’s also a community hub.
If shoppers enter the Forest Park location, they’ll see fresh juice offerings at the entrance, self-checkout aisles, a deli and fully stocked shelves.
The store, which is still being remodeled, will eventually feature a coffee and juice bar, a sushi bar and a wellness center where customers can order prescriptions and get information on healthy eating, they said.
“We want to base it off food as medicine,” said Melody Winston, the executive director of Living Fresh Market. “We don’t want to be selling 4,000 pills a week […] That is not our model.”
Winston said while the center will have “physicians, nurses and records,” its emphasis will be on holistic health.
Trez Pugh, the founder and CEO of Sip and Savor Coffee Houses, said he’s planning to open his fifth location inside of the Forest Park Living Fresh Market and indicated he’d be open to operating a sixth one if the store comes to Maywood.
Pugh said his coffee houses mostly sell imported coffee from African countries and operate as meeting spaces and entertainment venues, hosting musicians, artists, photographers and other creatives during numerous live events. He said he’s still looking for employees before officially opening in Forest Park but the space is largely built out.
Many of those who spoke during Thursday’s meeting gave the new and improved Forest Park store positive reviews, adding that it’s a marked improvement over its predecessor.
Living Word Church, the Forest Park megachurch that is located behind Living Fresh and pastored by Bill Winston, Melody Winston’s father, purchased Living Fresh Market last year from Ken Casaccio. The megachurch, which counts Mayor Booker as a member, bought the Forest Park Plaza shopping center that Living Fresh anchors in 1998.
Before Cascaccio opened Living Fresh Market, the 70,000-square-foot store was an Ultra Foods. The store closed after Ultra’s parent company went bankrupt in 2017.
“When you come into the store I want you to have the same feeling [of home],” said James Buford, the Forest Park store’s manager. “We’re trying to really, really brighten that up. You’ve got Sip and Savor gourmet coffee — somewhere you can come in, sit down, relax and take a load off your feet before you even start shopping.”
Loretta Brown, a Maywood resident and the cofounder of Proviso Partners for Health (PP4H), a community wellness coalition based in Maywood, said she visited the store when it was owned by Casaccio and after he turned it over to Living Word.
“You’re doing an excellent job remodeling [the current store],” she said. “I’ve gone in when you first started, I was in the store before you started and I see a significant difference and I’m very pleased with what I’m seeing.”
Brown and other residents said if another Living Fresh opens in Maywood, they hope that the owners cater to the needs of local senior citizens, ensure that employees are courteous and professional, stock fresh fruit and vegetables, and implement a rewards program that is digital, among other concerns expressed at the meeting.
Brown also said she hopes a Maywood Living Fresh has food that’s representative of the village’s growing Hispanic population.
Barbara Cole, the founder of Maywood Youth Mentoring, asked if a second store can be supported at the location where Maywood Market lasted for barely a year. The store closed in 2011.
Buford said he believes “there’s more than enough [market demand] out there for us to survive here.” Representatives said Living Fresh Market’s wraparound experience and emphasis on being a community hub and not just a grocery store gives it a competitive advantage over other conventional grocery stores.
Mayor Booker said he hopes that a Maywood Living Fresh Market can be “an anchor of revitalization” for the village’s downtown corridor. He added that a grocery store would complement a planned federally qualified health center that village officials are hoping to build across the street from Maywood Market.
At a board meeting on Aug. 16, Living Fresh Market representatives said that it could take at least $1.2 million to open a Maywood location. The proposal is still being vetted by village officials.