by Jill Dale
Carnival Grocery has always been a staple of the neighborhood, providing fresh produce, a local butcher, a large selection of beer and wine, as well as many other essentials. However, over the past year Carnival became even more critical to the community, as many shied away from chain grocery stores.
“Our business has done very well during the pandemic because people preferred to shop at smaller stores rather than larger ones,” said Arthur Paris, owner of Carnival Grocery. “It was a struggle to keep the store staffed and stocked, but I have a strong team who kept the store running and a supportive neighborhood of loyal customers. It is gratifying when your business is doing well and to be able to serve the community.”
Paris is a native of River Forest who has lived in Chicago for more than 20 years. He has worked in the grocery business since he was young, when his grandfather owned a grocery store in Little Italy. Paris purchased John’s Finer Foods with his brother when he was just 25. He then bought Carnival in 2000 from a Greek family, the Costas, who owned it since the 1950s. Prior to that, there isn’t much knowledge of the history of the store, but it is assumed it has been in the neighborhood since the 1920s under the same name, Carnival.
Since Paris has a young family and lived in the area for many years, he understands the needs of the neighborhood. Because of that, he loves hosting community events that bring residents together. Prior to the pandemic, Carnival hosted pumpkin carving contests, Easter egg hunts, wine tastings, ice cream socials and even block parties.
“The store location is really central, so I try to engage with the community when I can,” said Paris. “We like to do free events for the community, including the most recent block party in summer of 2019. The history of the block party goes back to the Greek family who used it do it. The owner even used to dress as a clown for it.”
Carnival is also known for its brightly colored murals on the Dickens side of the building. The original mural was painted by well-known artist, Romano Maschietto, in the 1990s. When it was time to have the mural re-painted, Paris enlisted the help of local artist Cheri Lee Charleston, a part-time art professor at Columbia College and teacher at the Francis W. Parker School.
“I love the look and feel [of the current mural],” Paris said. “I wanted a whimsical look to the building that people would remember.”
While the pandemic has made Carnival’s community engagement activities more challenging, the local staple continues to serve the community by offering a safe, close-by spot to pick up groceries and other essentials.
“I feel very lucky to own a grocery store in such a supportive community. I love Lincoln park. It is a great place to run a business and I couldn’t be happier with it,” Paris added.
Carnival Grocery is a business member of LCA. It is open seven days a week and located at 458 W Dickens Ave.
Images courtesy of Carnival Grocery.