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Dominick's Closing, Cold Snap Lead to Sales Spike for Neighborhood Grocers

By Alisa Hauser | January 28, 2014 6:46am
 Small neighborhood grocers in Wicker Park and Ukrainian Village are seeing an increase in business due to the extremely cold weather and the closure of an area Dominick's.
Small Grocers Thrive in Wake of Dominick's Closure
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UKRAINIAN VILLAGE —  The shuttering of a local Dominick's — set to reopen within the next two months as a Mariano's Fresh Market — along with subzero temperatures have spurred sales at small neighborhood markets, according to workers and shoppers.

On Saturday, Roundy's Inc., the parent company of Mariano's Fresh Market, took over the lease for Dominick's at 2021 W. Chicago Ave. in Ukrainian Village and plans to convert the store into a Mariano's within 30 to 45 days, said Jim Hyland, vice president of Investor Relations for Roundy's in an email statement.

But in the meantime, East Village resident Suzi Wahl has been buying groceries at Rich's Deli, 857 N. Western Ave., Ann's Bakery and Deli, 2158 W. Chicago Ave., and Farmers Pride Produce, 756 N. Western Ave.

 The closure of the Dominick's at 2021 W. Chicago Ave. last year has been a boon for local grocers.
The closure of the Dominick's at 2021 W. Chicago Ave. last year has been a boon for local grocers.
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DNAinfo/Alisa Hauser

All three neighborhood markets are within a few blocks of the closed Dominick's, which Wahl said she frequented "as a function of being lazy."

Wahl said she feels like her family is spending less money on groceries because they're "not making any unnecessary runs and doing more targeted shopping," whereas when she shopped at Dominick's, she'd be more likely to also "pick up a bottle of wine or rent a movie."

Wahl's husband, a stay-at-home dad, recently came home with a pineapple he bought for $2.99 at Farmers Pride Produce, a full dollar less than what Dominick's at times charged for the fruit, Wahl said.

Wahl said she's also been enjoying smoked salmon from Rich's Deli, which is "$6 for a big piece" and bread from Ann's Bakery, which she described as "amazing."

Walter Siryj, owner of Ann's Bakery, said that there's been "maybe 30 percent more business" since Dominick's closed, and most of the new faces are from outside of the store's core customer base of Ukrainian and Polish residents.

Fresh fruit, bread and hot food, sold in containers stuffed with meats like chicken and duck, are among the top sellers at Ann's Bakery, along with blintzes and European-style salads, Siryj said.

Siryj said the 5,000-square-foot store, just one block west of the future Mariano's, is stocked with "a lot of things you cannot find at Dominick's or Jewel."

When asked how Ann's Bakery will compete with Mariano's when it opens, as well as keep some of its new customers, Siryj said, "We believe Mariano's will not be a threat because the prices are higher [there]."

But even at markets like Plenty, a grocery and deli at 2036 W. Division St. in Wicker Park, where sliced turkey is as much a $12 per pound, high prices haven't seemed to be keeping locals away.

On Saturday afternoon, Jim Carr, a West Town resident, was holding a basket of fruit and cheese and waiting on a deli order.

Carr said he's been shopping at Plenty about once each week since Dominick's closed.  Before the closure, Carr said he said he would shop at Plenty "maybe every other week" and buy fewer items.

Matthew Davis, Plenty's deli manager, said that the market is seeing "about twice as many [new] people" in its aisles since Dominick's closed.

"Mostly from the media, the panic that they're never going to eat again. ... Every time I looked up, someone was posting [pictures of] empty shelves on Facebook," Davis said of the days leading up to Dominick's closure.

The cold weather also has helped sales. Davis said the Saturday before the first polar vortex hit Chicago was one of Plenty's "strongest sales days ever."

David said "single young people and families" are the bulk of Plenty's customer base and that the biggest sellers before and during the freezing weather were bacon and eggs.

At Farmers Pride, manager Roddy Cash said he's been seeing "new people that tell me they have never been in our store and say they are only here because of Dominick's and they are glad it closed and they stumbled upon our store."

Cash said one customer told him she still plans to be a regular customer at Farmers Pride if Mariano's produce is comparable to Dominick's.

"She said that in all the years she's been shopping at Dominick's, she hasn't found produce like ours," Cash said.

At Amish Healthy Foods, 1023 N. Western Ave, owner Lucy Firov said there's been a greater demand in recent weeks for fresh milk, vegetables and fruit, but it's "not too exciting" in terms of overall sales.

Still, not all the business is going to small shops. The nearest Jewel-Osco, at 1341 N. Paulina St. in Wicker Park, is seeing more sales, too, according to spokeswoman Allison Sperling.

"We have seen a significant increase in customer traffic and sales over the last several weeks. Our 1341 Paulina Jewel-Osco location has hired and trained over 30 new associates since the holiday season in anticipation of the newly acquired business," Sperling said.

During December, Jewel offered a one-time discount to any former Dominick's shopper who was willing to hand over a Fresh Values loyalty card to Jewel.

Sperling declined to share how many cards from former Dominick's shoppers were turned over to Jewel.