City officials and Valli representatives.       Photo by Genie Lemieux, Evanston Photographic Studios

Close to 100 shoppers clogged the entrance with their shopping carts on July 22 to witness the ribbon cutting at Valli Produce, 1910 Dempster St., in Evanston Plaza.

“I have never had so many people ask me to do a ribbon cutting,” said Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl to the crowd. “I want to thank Valli for opening in Evanston.”

Adding to the festivities was the presence of Evanston Dance Studio, also a tenant of Evanston Plaza. Dance Studio students waved their dance scarves as Second Ward Alderman Peter Braithwaite, Mayor Tisdahl, and Valli President Carmine Presta cut the ribbon. With Valli officially open, shoppers flooded the store.

Ald. Braithwaite said Valli “hired 120 people, 85% of whom are Evanston residents.” He added that, “not only is this place an anchor but owner-occupied, meaning they’ll be thoughtful about who they put in here. I think this is going to be great for Evanston.”

Mr. Presta said he was drawn to the City because of its “population and diverse culture.” To show the love, Valli is using brown bags branded with the words, “We Love Evanston.” The bags are reusable, compostable, and recyclable.

“The store will also use 100% LED lighting,” said Frank Schwab, president of Schwab Realty & Development, the current developer of the Evanston Plaza.

In February, the City approved a $2 million forgivable loan to Valli to help finance construction.

At 70,000 square feet, the store is considerably larger than the 58,000-square feet Dominic that was previously located on the lot. The additional space is necessary to prepare food on site

Valli is another step in the revitalization of the plaza, along with the AT&T store that opened in mid-July. Two other businesses are slated to open in Evanston Plaza next month: Play it Again Sports, to open on  Aug. 1, will buy and sell new and used sports and fitness gear.

A 2,400-square-foot orthodontist and pediatric dentistry office is scheduled to open in “mid to late August,” said Jazime Dillard, co-owner of the business.