“In a highly competitive retail space, there aren’t many independent [stores] anymore. They haven’t been able to survive with the likes of Walmart and Amazon,” said Jim McInnis, general manager and co-owner of Village Market. “But we’ve been here since 1997. One of the reasons we’ve been here for so long is because we’re involved in the community.”
When ABCD South Side applied for state funding, Village Market was there to advocate for the program’s value to the community. That value, from the store’s perspective, includes the preparation immigrants receive to fill needed customer service jobs.
“Their work ethic is extremely good,” McInnis said. “They learn quickly with the volume of customers coming in, speaking with them. I can’t say enough about their attitude and what they bring to our business.”
When Mbaresa Cela began her job as a cashier at Village Market in January 2018, she thought it was a dream. In her native Albania, jobs were so scarce, she couldn’t get one at all. Cela, her daughter, and her parents-in-law all relied on her husband’s income of $400 per month. They barely scraped by.
But what started as her dream job at Village Market turned into so much more. Soon, Cela was promoted to handling money orders, and now she closes the store two nights a week. Her English classes at ABCD South Side made those promotions, and the raises that came with them, possible.
“It was very hard for me before, with no school. Customers, they asked me something, I think, ‘Oh my god, what is she saying to me?’” Cela said. “Now I repeat what I’m learning in class with the customers at Village Market.”