By Amanda DeVoe and Kelsey Miller
As Dominick’s plans to close nearly all of its stores in the Chicago area on Dec. 28, some customers are left wondering what will take its place.
The store’s parent grocery chain, Safeway, filed a notice through the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act. According to the Chicago Tribune, Dominick’s lost $36.2 million in the first 36 weeks of 2013. Safeway accepted bids from competitors interested in buying the stores until Nov. 1.
According to reports, grocery store Jewel-Osco purchased four of Dominick’s 72 stores. After the holiday season, these stores will reopen as Jewel. Only about 450 employees will remain working at the new Jewel locations while approximately 5,000 employees will be left without jobs. Several news outlets report grocery stores Mariano’s and Kroger have also expressed interest in opening stores in Chicagoland. Neither company has given specifics on exact locations.
DePaul sophomore Samantha Carzoli anticipates a more reasonably priced store to occupy the empty space.
“I’m hoping that a Jewel does go in there,” she said. “I shop at Jewel back home so I’m not too upset about it.”
The Dominick’s at the corner of Fullerton and Sheffield avenues, which serves Lincoln Park and DePaul communities, shares a building and a parking deck with DePaul’s Centennial Hall, and conveniently located at the Fullerton red line stop in the Lincoln Park neighborhood. The university owns the building while Dominick’s rents the space. Some students say they are confused about how they will fulfill their grocery needs.
As a freshman, Austin Woodruff anticipated shopping at Dominick’s during the rest of his time at DePaul. His reactions of the closings were similar to most of his Lincoln Park peers.
“I thought it would be a successful business,” he said. “You have all these students who live on campus, like thousands I think. Where are they going to get their groceries? Dominick’s is right there. I found it very surprising.”
Woodruff and many other Dominick’s customers find the store to be one of the most cost-friendly in the area. One graduate student, Demetria Mosley, is not eager to compromise her budget.
Mosley has been shopping at Dominick’s since she moved to Chicago in September. As a South Carolina native, her grocery options back home compared to Chicago were already limited. She is a frequent shopper at the Fullerton location since she is often studying on the Lincoln Park campus.
Although Mosley lives closer to a Target, she said their groceries are not as cheap as she would like, especially on a compromised budget. She is afraid that she will not be able to find affordable cuisines once the store shuts its doors.
“I hate Target. There’s no way I’m shopping at Whole Foods and CVS, and Walgreens prices are too extreme. I might ask my boss to give me a raise just so I can afford to eat,” she said. “Hopefully Chicago will be smart and bring some cheap grocery stores for people to shop at but I wouldn’t be mad if they replaced it with a Chinese restaurant. Ain’t no reason to hate on Chinese food.”
Students and residents alike also take advantage of the Dominick’s extended store hours. The store closes daily at 2 a.m. Starbucks also shares a section of the store, which always has a high volume of customers. Customers who conveniently shop while their prescription is filled also use the pharmacy.DePaul also offers a convenience store, ETC, which is located in its student center. However, items in the store are often up to three times more expensive than Dominick’s, according to Carzoli.
“I’m a sophomore so I don’t have a meal plan,” she said. “I do put money on Demon Express so I would never actually pay real money in there. Their prices are higher because kids with meal plans and stuff are buying from there.”
The store also carries a large variety of toiletries and kitchen accessories, uncommon to other grocery stores. Activists and local organizations also take advantage of the heavy volume of customers entering and leaving the store. They are often seen approaching and soliciting customers for donations.
Not all north Chicagoland residents believe the struggle to find affordable groceries will exist. Edgewater resident Justin Swinson said he does not think Dominick’s is the ideal place to shop for a cheaper selection.
“There are actually other, cheaper grocery stores closer to me other than Dominick’s,” he said. “I preferred Dominick’s because of the quality of their products. I’ve been shopping here since I moved here in July and would be surprised if they replace Dominick’s with another grocery store since it was one of three in the area. Hopefully they use the space for a department store, my neighborhood really needs one.”
Some residents such as Swinson believe Dominick’s is not one of the cheapest grocery stores in Chicago, although it remains more cost-friendly to consumers than its competitors in Lincoln Park. The next closest grocery store to DePaul is Whole Foods at 1550 N. Kingsbury Street, which is not easily accessible via public transportation.
Lincoln Park is considered one of the more expensive neighborhoods in Chicago. Many of its residents own a vehicle and would not consider losing the Dominick’s a disadvantage. Additionally, the Fullerton store just opened in 2012. Lincoln Park residents will more likely patronize old grocery stores.
Some residents are concerned about whether or not the Lincoln Park area will turn into a food desert due to the lack of easily accessible grocery stores. Are north Chicagoland neighborhoods, especially at Fullerton, going to experience deserts in these areas with the closing of Dominick’s? How will DePaul students without cars carry groceries to and from their homes in the winter months and months to come?
Woodruff hopes the city will follow similar grocery footsteps.
“I’m not sure, but if another grocery store would move in, that would be fantastic,” he said.
Dominick’s and Ward 43 representatives declined requests for comment.