July 29, 2009
Racine Produce store not closing, but it is for sale
No, Racine Produce isn't closing, as some customers have feared.
But the Hispanic-centered grocery store on Durand Avenue in Elmwood Plaza, is for sale.
Brothers Dino, left, and Jimmy Gregory opened the grocery store known for its abundant produce and Mexican foods in 2001. Dino says, "Business used to be good, but now it's down 40 percent from two years ago."
"It's not just us that are hurting," Dino says, gesturing to Racine -- and the entire country -- beyond. "Racine is very bad off," he says. "We need to get some jobs here," adds Jimmy.
"I see no hope here," says Dino. "People are leaving."
The brothers are Greek, but see nothing unusual in their running a store that caters to Racine's Hispanic population. Jimmy notes: "It's easy for Greeks to speak the Spanish language. There are cultural similarities between our countries. And it's traditional for Greeks to be in this business." He says many Hispanic-centered stores in Chicago are owned by Greeks.
If they sell Racine Produce, the brothers say they will open a similar store in Milwaukee, where they believe there is more opportunity. Right now, they say they've had interest in the store from "five or six" different individuals -- but "they've had difficulty getting bank credit."
The shelves at Racine Produce remain well-stocked. The bread aisle has plenty of churros, pan de platano, calabaza, canela and piedras. (Even some white bread rolls on a bottom shelf.) There is a full case of queso fresca; the deli section -- carniceria -- is stocked with pollo and pescados y mariscos. The cookie shelf has plenty of Marias, Sandwich Marquez, El Mexicano Canelas -- alongside the Oreos. And, of course, the fruit aisle is overflowing with the familiar and unfamiliar.