Park Forest Foods Grocery Store Opens To Positive Community Reviews

Gloria Parker, Donna Simmons, Park Forest Foods
Gloria Parker, left, and cashier Donna Simmons, both of Park Forest, took a moment Saturday to talk about Park Forest Foods. (Photo: Gary Kopycinski)

Park Forest, IL-(ENEWSPF)- A grocery store opened at 120 South Orchard Drive, a “soft opening,” Friday, and early reports from shoppers were positive. “Soft openings” generally happen without a lot of fanfare, giving the owner and employees time to experience the day-to-day operations and demands before a grand opening. However, the weekend debut of Park Forest Foods showed a grocery store full, well-stocked, and early shoppers took notice.

The plaza where the nascent business operates would be familiar to long-time residents. Just north of St. Irenaeus Church, there are businesses in place that have stood the test of time. Residents have expressed a desire for a grocery store in town, and Mr. Paul Patel, owner of the business, is eager to see the store become a destination for shoppers.

“We hope to keep the door open, bring the people in, keep the store clean,” Mr. Patel said when asked about his hopes for the business.

The shelves were filled Saturday, one day after the grocery store opened for business the day before.

“I’ll do what I have to do” to make that happen, Mr. Patel said.

Mr. Patel is not new to the grocery industry, having operated a half dozen or so through the years.

He said the people in Village Hall have been good to work with “so far, yes. So far, everything is going smooth,” adding “The customers have all been nice, the neighborhood is really nice so far.”

Business Owner: Matanky Realty Did Not Help Much

Mr. Patel was not so happy with Matanky Realty, the owners of the property. He had intended to open the store last summer, but discovered that the building had not been well maintained since the last tenant moved out, and says he received no help from James Matanky or anyone else at Matanky Realty to repair the building and bring it up to code. The roof leaked, according to Mr. Patel, and the owner/landlord of the property did not assist with the costs of any repairs, according to Mr. Patel. He was told Matanky Realty owned many properties, and, essentially, he was on his own to bring the structure up to code so he could finally open the doors to the public.

Now, after laying out considerable expense, Mr. Patel appeared pleased with the results of his efforts.

“Everything is operating, everything is working fine,” he said.

Debit and credit card readers are operational. These also accept Link cards. The store has its liquor license, and a variety of alcoholic beverages were available in the aisles and on the shelves in the customer service area. The Illinois Lottery machine is operational, and scratch-off tickets are for sale.

Positive Grocery Store Reviews From Residents

Gloria Parker of Park Forest was pleased with her shopping experience Saturday. Interviewed just after paying for her groceries, she said, “I like it.” She remarked that the store was clean (several online reviews mentioned this), the shelves were “clearly stocked,” and she was happy to find fresh catfish and shish kabob.

Mark Harvey, Park Forest Foods
Park Forest resident Mark Harvey pauses shopping for a moment. (Photo: Gary Kopycinski)

Early online reviews of the business were also positive.

Victor “Dizz” Blackful said in a Facebook social media post, “Very Nice.. Store smells nice. Well Stocked. Not cluttered. Friendly staff. Meat selection was excellent. Some items are cheaper other places but that’s all over. I will be glad to give them my business. Shop Local.”

“The meat section looks incredible,” Cassandra Jensen wrote.

Vernice Johnson-Warren said she was able to put together dinner at a reasonable cost, “Just like in any store—some are good and some are bad but my son was happy to find ice cream for $1.79. We purchased our entire dinner there tonight for less than $20 (stuffed porkchops, green beans and potatoes.) We had so much to do that I limited my cooking with one stop.”

Stephanie Effort shared her determination to help the new business succeed, “I doubt they will be closed in 3 months. I do believe that for a business to take a risk and open in this area where everything is closing and leaving the area we should support them. I will do so and I GUARANTEE THEY WILL HAVE SALES. Competition in this area demands that.”

“Just returned from Park Forest Foods and was very impressed,” wrote Karen Ennenbach Pursley. “It’s very clean, staff is very helpful and the produce and meat counters were terrific. Picked up some beautiful California asparagus, stew meat, yogurt and a couple of bottles of wine. All were reasonably priced and an employee helped me carry it out to the car. Every employee I talked to was from Park Forest or Richton Park. They are still working out the kinks and will have their Grand Opening in May. Check them out!”

produce, cabbage, peppers, lettuce, asparagus, Park Forest Foods
Some produce at Park Forest Foods is sprayed with water Saturday, keeping it fresh, “Singing In The Rain.” (Photo: Gary Kopycinski)

Annie Stuart was also pleased, “Nice store – produce was fresh…. VERY important to me. Everyone in the store was lovely!”

” I did shop there today and found some items that I did not expect to find,” Judith McGee added. “Very clean and neatly organized. As I have too many items on my agenda this weekend having a place in town really was appreciated.”

Village Manager Tom Mick also sounded pleased with his first shopping experience, “My family just went there. Picked up chicken wings and pork tenderloin for the grill to go with some baked potatoes for dinner. The store looked very clean. If this is their ‘soft opening’ I look forward to how good the store will be as foot traffic picks up. Please remind your friends the importance of shopping local.”

Residents Take Exception To Matanky Realty, The Property Owner

Peggy A. Cherrington Michael said she was pleased with the prices, requesting specific items “so I would not have to go elsewhere.” She was not as impressed with the parking lot. The lot north of the main entrance to the plaza especially requires serious navigating. There are hills and valleys of asphalt, requiring some care while driving to avoid damaging vehicles. There are also a fair amount of potholes in places.

This is the responsibility of the property owners at Matanky Realty.

Vernice Johnson-Warren said she contacted Matanky Realty two weeks ago about the lights in the parking lot. “Maybe we will see changes in the future. It takes a village,” she wrote.

meat, pork chops, poultry, steaks, Park Forest Foods
Part of the meat selections at Park Forest Foods. (Photo: Gary Kopycinski)

Village Manager Tom Mick expressed his gratitude to Ms. Johnson-Warren, “Vernice, thanks for contacting Matanky. The Village has raised the parking lot issue numerous times over the years.” He also addressed Cassandra Jensen who suggested Village Hall take firm action with Matanky, “Maybe the village can fine them or something to force them to fix that mess of a parking lot.”

“Cassandra,” Mr. Mick wrote, “take the lead of Vernice and let Matanky know your frustrations. It would be greatly appreciated.”

Mr. Mick provided contact information for Matanky Realty in the thread on Facebook: 312-337-1001. He also provide the URL for the company’s web site: http://matanky.com/. The company provides a general email on its page: [email protected]. It has an office at 200 N. LaSalle St. in Chicago, and locally at 153 W. Joe Orr Road in Chicago Heights.

“I emailed all the company heads including the President so everyone has heads up on my complaint [regarding the condition of the parking lot],” Vernice Johnson Warren reported back to a group on Facebook. “If a company is giving you all of the team’s emails then use it. I did receive an reply from the property manager and plan on calling him next since they now offered a phone number. If they hear from the community then they will listen. I guess if I heard only from the Village of Park Forest then maybe I could be I could slack a bit since the people of the community aren’t complaining. Not all of Matanky’s properties are in need of repair so use their communication resources and let them know we care too.”

What does Mr. Patel wish residents to know at this point? “I need help [to keep the business running], so keep coming in! See if there’s anything wrong, tell us, and we can fix it.”