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Dominick's Closing Could Create a Food Desert in South Shore

By Wendell Hutson | October 15, 2013 7:14am
 Dominick's Finer Foods expects to close 72 stores in the Chicago area by early 2014.
Dominick's Closing
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SOUTH SHORE — Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) said she was actively trying to recruit another full-service grocer to replace a Dominick's Finer Foods in her ward that's set to close next year.

"I would support a Whole Foods or Mariano's store in that space. Without a new grocery store it would be challenging for residents to shop," said Hairston. "It would [also] be nice to have a Target store."

Officials with Whole Foods Market, Mariano's Fresh Market and Target Corp. did not return calls seeking comment.

While there are discount grocery stores such as Save-A-Lot and Aldi in her ward, she explained that those stores were not within walking distance from the Dominick's store at 2101 E. 71st St., and said neither store had a large variety of products.

"We want to have options like the people who live near Roosevelt Road and the North Side," she added.

Dominick's is an anchor tenant at the Jeffery Plaza, 7131 S. Jeffery Blvd., and Hairston said one of her biggest fears was the potential of a vacant store there after Dominick's closed.

Safeway Inc., which operates 72 Dominick's in Illinois including 15 in Chicago, announced Thursday it was leaving the Chicago market by 2014.

During a recent conference call, a Safeway official said the company hoped the Chicago-area Dominick's stores 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."

But beyond a food desert being created by the closure, Teyonda Wertz, executive director of the South Shore Chamber of Commerce Inc., said there were other repercussions that would follow.

"Anytime a business moves out of the community the local economy takes a hit," Wertz said. "No business wants to be located next to a vacant space."

Replacing Dominick's with a discount grocery store might not work either, Wertz said.

"Discount grocery stores do not have a large produce section because [they cater] to low-income shoppers," Wertz said. "And the perception is that shoppers with low-incomes do not eat healthy."'

Latoya Williams said she did most of her shopping at a discount grocery store.

"I shop mostly at Food 4 Less on 87th Street even though I live in South Shore. Food 4 Less has better prices and I am on a budget," said Williams, a 28-year-old hospital worker.

But there's a disadvantage when you shop at discount grocery stores, contended Elaine Stone, a 37-year-old hospital worker who has lived in South Shore for 14 years.

"There's an old saying, 'You get what you pay for.' And at most discount grocery stores the quality of food is not that good," said Stone. "It's messed up that Dominick's is closing because we don't have any other major grocery store in this area.

Radiah Ellis, another South Shore resident, said she didn't know where she would shop once Dominick's closed.

"I have been shopping at Dominick's for 15 years and I like shopping in my neighborhood," said Ellis, a 39-year-old teacher's aide. "I am a big coupon user and that's why I like coming to Dominick's so much. You can't use coupons at discount grocery stores."