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CHICAGO — The owner of a small independent grocery store in Chicago’s West Town neighborhood is asking shoppers to once again don masks before entering.

The move by Green Grocer Chicago, located at 1402 West Grand Avenue, has created some pushback from customers who say they are vaccinated. Store owners say there is no way to know if people are relaying the truth about their vaccination status, however. The precautionary measure comes as a surge in coronavirus cases, spearheaded by the Delta variant, continues to raise fears among the region.

“We’re a health-focused store, health-conscious,” said Max Whitfield, wine director for Green Grocer Chicago. “[The decision to require masks is] not one we wanted to make. Obviously, these things, nobody really likes them.”

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Yet Whitfield says customers wishing to shop inside the Green Grocer must do just that.

“We want to be ahead of the curve here as far as things,” he said. “So anything we can do to stop the Delta from coming here, we wanted to be the first people to do it.”

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Only 156 million Americans are vaccinated. According to an unpublished internal CDC report, 153,000 COVID-19 breakthrough cases occurred just the last week.

“We do get those people that don’t like it. Nobody likes their freedoms infringed on and that’s not our intention here. We just want to keep everyone safe,” Whitfield said.

Max Whitfield

The West Town neighborhood is only 63% vaccinated, which Green Grocer Chicago workers say leaves them no other choice. But not all shoppers are opposed.

“Better safe than sorry, I suppose,” said Drew Pearson, a West Loop resident. “I mean, if we’re not all used to it, at this point, then who knows? We’ll see. But I carry it around just to be safe.”

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While many big-name stores no longer require masks, Green Grocer Chicago will provide customers one free of charge if they spend at least $5.

“I think them offering one is pretty cool,” says Pearson, “because I think people are starting to get used to not wearing one.”