Sunday, February 24, 2008

Chatham Food Center in the news again

We wrote about Chatham Food Center already, with a customer review some time in the near future.

They are initially featured in today's Chicago SUn Times metro section under an article :Chicago Urban League: Getting down to business --
Urban League program offers the keys to success to black-owned companies

They have a more specific feature -- 'Aha' moments change Chatham Food owners

Here's that article:

Leonard and Donna Harris, founders of Chatham Food Center have had some "aha" moments, since linking with the program.

"The primary 'aha' was that as a CPA and MBA from the University of Chicago, I'm thinking that I'm an entrepreneur. I came to the understanding that I wasn't," Leonard Harris said.

"I was a small-business operator No. 1. No. 2, I wasn't a growth business. I was a lifestyle business, but the third thing was as long as I was working in the business and wearing all these hats and not necessarily doing any of them really well, I was never going to grow the business."

The Harrises opted to hire a general manager to run things at the store, so they can fully take advantage of the program.

Since being in the program, they've examined research conducted by the Local Initiatives Support Corp./Chicago, which found that in 12 South Side communities, roughly $250 million is spent on groceries outside those communities because of the absence of stores.

That's opportunity, the couple said.

"Our goal is to come up with a new model, to open stores in a couple of different communities simultaneously," said Donna Harris.

They envision their stores as anchors in the development of new South Side shopping centers that include other businesses that meet the needs of inner-city communities. That way, dollars that are now leaving will stay.

"What this program is all about is jump-starting, revitalizing small businesses in the community for the purpose of economic development," Donna Harris said. "We're talking about employing people from the community, about wealth creation, about being a part of the revitalization of communities, so it's about more than just opening more grocery stores."

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