I’m pleased to announce that Mayor Emanuel has appointed me to a high-level City task force to assist in marketing vacant Dominick’s stores, including the store at Gateway Center.
Chaired by Deputy Mayor Steve Koch, the task force will focus on three critical goals: identifying grocers for vacant Dominick’s stores, ensuring continued community access to fresh food and vegetables, and protecting and supporting workers who are affected by the store closings.
Task force members include industry experts and representatives of City departments, agencies and organized labor. The task force will work with Safeway, local food store chains and retail industry consultants to identify potential new grocers for the shuttered Dominick’s stores.
Dominick’s parent company, Safeway, announced in October it was pulling out of the Chicago area market by the end of the year, including its 13 stores in the City of Chicago. The company recently sold three of its Chicago stores to Mariano’s. However, plans have not yet been announced for the remaining 10 stores, including the stores at Gateway Plaza in the 49th Ward and Ridge and Pratt in the 50th Ward.
Given the critical importance of finding new operators for the shuttered Dominick’s stores in our area, I asked the Mayor to appoint me to the task force to help ensure that these stores, as well as the others in the City, are returned to market as quickly as possible.
I worked very hard during my first two terms in office to bring a full-service grocery store to Gateway Center. During its 14 years of operation, the store at Gateway operated at a profit. I remain very confident that we will find a good operator for that location, as well as the Damen/Ridge location. My involvement in the task force will assist me greatly in those efforts.
Though finding new operators for the stores is a key objective of the task force, the task force will also focus on helping the workers affected by the closures. This is especially important to me, as most of the Dominick’s workers at Gateway and Pratt/Ridge live in our neighborhood.
The task force will marshal all the resources of the city to protect the jobs of the workers, where possible, and provide training, resources and support to workers and their families. The task force will work closely with organized labor to help the workers find jobs with the new operators of the Dominick’s locations. It will also draw on the resources of other public agencies, such as the Chicago Cook Workforce Board and the City Colleges of Chicago, to provide assistance to workers who are laid off as a result of the store closures.
Representatives from the City and County workforce development agencies have already met with the Dominick’s employees in our area to assist them in finding new jobs.
My appointment to the task force is the latest in a series of efforts I’ve undertaken to find a new grocer for Gateway. From the day the Dominick’s closings were announced, I’ve worked hand in hand with theRogers Park Business Alliance and the company that manages Gateway, Mid-America Asset Management, Inc., to identify a new grocer.
I’ve communicated with the executives of all the major food store chains and independents in the Chicago area, sharing demographic information and marketing studies that show our neighborhood to be an excellent location for a full-service grocer. These chains include:
- Fresh Thyme
- Kroger/Food 4 Less
- Pete’s Fresh Market
- Strack and Van Til
- Tony’s Finer Foods
- Trader Joe’s
- Treasure Island
- Whole Foods
In addition, I’ve asked my staff to personally visit those stores that reportedly have expressed an interest in the Gateway site or otherwise seem to be a good fit for our neighborhood, including Jewel-Osco, Strack and Van Til, Caputo’s, Pete’s Fresh Market, Tony’s Finer Foods, and Food-4-Less.
My staff reported that all the stores they visited appeared to be well-run and offer a full range of brand name products. The prices offered at each store were comparable, with the exception of Food 4 Less where the prices were noticeably lower.
I’ve spoken with industry experts and Grocery Store Task Force Chairman Deputy Mayor Koch. They tell me they are confident, given Gateway’s location and the strong profit margin of its Dominick’s store, that a new food store will be found.
I will continue to keep you informed as my efforts continue.