Joliet Grants Incentive To Supermarket Chain Over Objection

Bernie Tafoya
February 21, 2019 - 1:51 pm

Joliet City Council


CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- The Joliet City Council has voted to give an Hispanic grocery store chain more than $1 million in tax incentives to open on the city’s East Side, but that’s not sitting well with at least one mom-and-pop operation.

El Guero is a supermarket chain that caters to the Hispanic community. There are six of them in the Chicago area. Now El Guero plans to open in Joliet on the site where Certified Warehouse Foods closed three years ago. 

Small grocer Ariel Sanchez disputes that the area is a food desert and said he’d rather the City Council offer tax incentives to small businesses like his.

"The City Council should consider helping existing longtime businesses on the East Side, expand their product selection instead of bringing in a large-chain Hispanic grocer," Sanchez said.

He disputes what Joliet Deputy City Manager Steve Jones said, that residents of the East Side drive to New Lenox and Lockport to shop because they can get what they need and what they want. 

Sanchez told the City Council on Wednesday before it voted: "If people of our community are leaving the area to go to other stores, it’s not a matter of access, it’s a matter of choice."

Jones said El Guero plans to put nearly $6 million into rehabbing the 36,000-square-foot store and the 19,000 square feet of retail that's connected to it. Jones said the community welcomes the idea.

He said the property has been vacant for more than three years and that no one but grocers have expressed any interest in it.