Photo by Michelle Gan

If you’re looking for high-end African products that you can’t find anywhere else in the South Loop, L’Afrique Market is the place to shop. From fresh produce to spices to baked goods, the quality of their items is hard to beat. 

Owner Ibrahim Agoro is a first-generation immigrant originally from Nigeria. When he moved to the South Loop, he found few shops that carried ethnic products like Obiji, Ola-Ola plantains, Asiko spices, or Aboniki balm, and noticed that the stores were not run by Africans. At times, he would reach out to family members back in Nigeria who would ship items to him. 

Frustrated and determined, Agoro put matters into his own hands. “Over the years, I took my time to really see how we can tackle the need for provision of ethnic foods to the highest level, just like you can walk into Mariano’s and be assured that you can make any meal from a whole range of items,” he shared. 

Immediately, he knew that he wanted his shop to be located in the South Loop, because he did not see any stores that catered to Black and Indigenous residents. 

By last September, things were finally coming into place, and Agoro was ready to open the store. A week before the grand opening, a woman knocked on the storefront’s door and expressed her appreciation for opening a shop with the products that she desperately needed. She took some flyers after she shopped, and within an hour, six more customers arrived, all before the actual store opening. 

Now, L’Afrique Market is celebrating its one-year anniversary. Over the course of the last year, the team has continued to sell hard-to-find products, and now offers curbside pickup and delivery services. They also collaborate closely with the community to make sure their voices are heard and the products they desire are available. 

As for what’s next: “The master plan for L’Afrique Market, my key idea, is to be as close [as possible] to the doorstep of every desired customer,” Agoro told me. He hopes for L’Afrique Market to become a franchise and to expand to Dallas, Houston, New York, and Atlanta. As Agoro and L’Afrique Market have made African products accessible to South Loop residents, he hopes to provide an identical service to other Black communities throughout the United States.

L’Afrique Market, 2001 S. State St. Open noon–8pm Mon, 10am–9pm Tues–Fri, 9:30am–8:30pm Sat, and 11am–7pm Sun. (312) 344-1931.

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