LINCOLN PARK— Outside the Dominick's store at Sheffield and Fullerton, news announced Thursday that the chain's owner was pulling out of the Chicago market worried some shoppers.
"I don't know where I'm going to shop now," said Jeff Verenski, a DePaul University student. "The only place near here is Walgreens, but that's not a place you can actually buy food."
In Dominick's parent company Safeway announcing it will leaving the Chicago market, the fate of the some 15 grocery stores across the city is uncertain.
On a conference call, a company official said Safeway hoped the 72 stores located in the Chicago area would be sold.
"We'd love to find a buyer for 72 stores but it'll probably play out in pieces," he said. The company described Chicago as "the lowest performing division we have."
Late Thursday afternoon, Safeway said it sold two city stores to Jewel: 2550 N. Clybourn Ave. and 1340 S. Canal Street. Safeway said that during "a short transition period" the two stores will operate under the Dominick's name until Jewel-Osco completes its conversion.
"Dominick's will be working with Jewel-Osco and the unions to ease the transition for store employees, and to facilitate continued employment for as many of them as possible," Safeway said in a statement.
The transition is expected to be smooth, as Jewel and Dominick's are both under the same local chapter of United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, said representative Eric Bailey.
"These workers are the heart and soul of these stores," he said. "We're committed to making them run the right way for these communities, and working with whoever buy these stores to make this happen."
Safeway, which operates stores across the nation, said it hopes to be out of the Chicago market by early 2014.
The chain was started in 1918 by Italian immigrant Dominick DiMatteo, who opened a deli at 3832 W. Ohio Avenue and named it after his son, Dominick DiMatteo, Jr., according to Dominick's website.
Safeway acquired Dominick's in 1998 for $1.8 billion.
Bailey said the takeover by Safeway changed the chain for the worse.
"They took a successful grocery store and ran it into the ground with their mismanagement," he said. "It's a shame."
Some employees said they were stunned by the news.
An assistant manager at the Ukrainian Village store at 2021 W. Chicago Ave., who said he has worked for Dominick's for 17 years, learned about the closing from TV news reports.
"They talked about it a long time ago, leaving Chicago. But we were not aware of" the latest plan, he said. In 2003, Safeway's efforts to rid itself of Dominick's was derailed over labor issues.
At the Dominick's on Chicago Avenue, a 33-year veteran Dominick's employee was telling shopper Robin DiBuono that he was planning to "just keep on working being strong..."
DiBuono, who learned of the shutdown after hearing bakery workers talk about it, said that as a daily shopper she knew many of the employees by name and would miss them.
"Can you call Mariano's and tell them to buy this Dominick's?" she asked a reporter.
Shopper Kelly McFarland, a Logan Square medical student, said she was saddened by the news. Dominick's prices on organic foods are often cheaper than she finds at Strack and Van Til, where she also shops, she said.
Alfredo Rodriguez, 31, and his 11-month-old daughter, shopping in the baking aisle, said he lives one block from the store and visits at least three times per week.
"I'm pretty shocked," Rodriguez said.
These are the 15 stores in Chicago:
2101 E. 71St St. in South Shore
3145 S. Ashland Ave. in McKinley Park
1340 S. Canal St. in the West Loop
1 N. Halsted Ave. in Greektown
2021 W. Chicago Ave. in Ukranian Village
255 E. Grand Ave. on the Near North Side
424 W. Division in Old Town
959 W. Fullerton Ave. in Lincoln Park
2550 N. Clybourn Ave. in Lincoln Park
5233 N. Lincoln Ave. in Lincoln Square
5201 N. Sheridan Rd. in Edgewater
6009 N. Broadway in Edgewater
6623 N. Damen Ave in Rogers Park
1763 W. Howard St. in Rogers Park
6312 N. Nagle Ave. in Norwood Park