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South Side's Schwartz Market seeks community input for a greener future. 

Passersby on recent Saturdays might have seen that the South Side's Schwartz Market is back in business -- sort of. The East Carson Street landmark, which shut its doors in March after 73 years, opened them from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. on April 23. It will be open Saturdays at least through May.

Most of the big storefront is still empty shelves, but on Saturdays the checkout area hosts a rotating cast of vendors of local food -- from eggs, brownies and pierogies to bottled kombucha and fair-trade coffee from Building New Hope.

It's far from full-service. Rather, building owner Elisa Beck's goal is to engage the community around her dream of turning the structure into an eco-friendly "living building" housing some kind of sustainable, food-based enterprise.   

Beck, of Monroeville, says she's already rejected rental offers, including one from a beer distributor. She's also held a series of community meetings to exchange ideas and build support. Speakers have included Richard Piacentini, head of Phipps Conservatory.

Beck's husband's grandfather founded the Schwartz chain. But whether this site becomes a commercial community kitchen, a co-operative grocery or something else depends on who participates and what ideas and resources they contribute, she says.

By year's end, she hopes to at least be covering the building's basic expenses.

"We can do it if the community helps," says Beck.

Follow the project at www.1317eastcarson.blogspot.com.

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