Chi-Town Whole Foods Comes Out, Naturally

Austin-based Whole Foods makes history as the first anchor tenant of a GLBT community center, Chicago's Center on Halsted.

Chicago's Center on Halsted isn't your boilerplate queer community center.

We're not talking a couple of out-dated computers, brightly festooned community bulletin board, and Ping-Pong table here, folks. We're talking a rec center worthy of the name Bille Jean King, a rooftop garden named after Richard M. Daley, a performing arts center, and cyber center, all wrapped up in the healthy glow of cutting-edge green technology – a massive community hub that serves as Chicago's welcome mat of gay-friendliness.

Another thing that makes this new addition to Chicago's queerscape so unique is its anchor tenant: Austin-based Whole Foods.

According to Kate Klotz, Midwest public relations specialist/copywriter for the natural grocer's Chicago stores, "We knew we really wanted to develop Whole Foods [in the Halsted neighborhood]."

Once the plans for the community center came to fruition, Klotz says, "We wanted to help them broaden the scope of building and the center and to really establish Whole Foods in the community."

Born out of decades-long history as Horizons Community Services, the center had existed in the margins in a number of locations and permutations. The LGBT social services facility has existed in Chicago since the early 1970s and plans for the current center have been in the works for over five years. The fact that the area is represented by openly gay Alderman Tom Tunney certainly helped the center gain a foothold.

Elizabeth Smith, Whole Foods Austin Community Relations Coordinator is excited at the news of the Chicago store's July 25 grand opening. "We take our relationship with the community that we serve and live in very seriously. We take cues from our guests and our team members."

Locally, Whole Foods has been a presenting sponsor with Equality Texas for a number of recent with gay pride events, a sponsor of aGLIFF's Bloom event and a partner with Waterloo Counseling.

"It's amazing what small numbers of people can do for the community. I'm happy to say our involvement in Austin's gay and lesbian community will be ongoing."

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