When the Dominick’s Stores Close

by Dave Schuler on December 4, 2013

The fate of the 72 Dominicks stores in the Chicago area has been uncertain since Safeway announced it was leaving the Chicago market back in October. It’s becoming clearer now. Jewel will buy a few stores. Whole Foods will buy a few stores. With the announcement that Mariano’s will purchase another eleven stores, the picture is becoming more complete. Roughly half of the stores will close and the other half will continue operations under other names.

Neither of the two Dominicks stores nearest to me are on anybody’s buy list so I guess they will close. I used to be a regular Dominicks shopper. However, when Safeway purchased Dominicks from Fisher Foods fifteen years ago, the quality dropped immediately while prices rose. When the Dominicks employees went on strike against the new owners it was the last straw for me. I moved my custom to a small, local store, Happy Foods, and I’ve never looked back. The selection is great, the quality is high, and the prices are lower than when I was shopping at a major chain. Now I set foot in a Dominicks store perhaps two or three times a year.

The acquisition of Dominicks stores by Mariano’s is an instance of coming full circle. IIRC Bob Mariano was the CEO of Fisher Foods when it was acquired by Safeway and the ideas he was implementing in the Dominicks Fresh Stores have reached full flower in his Mariano’s chain. There’s a Mariano’s about ten blocks from me. I go there occasionally but I remain loyal to my beloved Happy Foods.

Mariano’s is a good store, very reminiscent of the Dierberg’s chain in St. Louis. As I think I’ve written before I’m not certain there’s really a niche for Mariano’s here in Chicago, positioning itself as it does somewhere between Whole Foods and Jewel. From a merchanising standpont the layout of my nearby Mariano’s store is awful.

With the shuttering of Dominicks Jewel’s consolidation of the Chicago market will be nearly complete. I suspect that most Chicago are customers will transfer their custom to Jewel or Walmart. With the city of Chicago and Walmart’s mutual aversion that will leave city-dwellers in the lurch even more than they are now. There are a number of Dominicks stores on the South and Southeast sides and my guess is those are the stores most likely to close.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

PD Shaw December 4, 2013 at 9:49 am

We appear to be experiencing the opposite of consolidation, Springfield is in the middle of doubling, if not quadrupling, grocery space right now. The industry rule of thumb is one supermarket per 10,000 people, and we are going to have one per 5,100 people shortly. I fear a bubble, but newer stores appear to be expanding their offerings with coffee drive-throughs, salad bars, fresh sushi counters, and better booze. The newer stores are better tailored towards either discounters or upper-middle class aspirants. Unfortunately, I think Schnucks and Hy-Vee hit enough of the high end of the market, that we will never have a Trader Joes or Whole Foods.

TimH December 4, 2013 at 10:10 am

When I first moved to my old neighborhood, a Dominicks a block away was the primary source for my food. I increasingly became disappointed by the price, quality and even selection (at times, they lacked quasi-staples like avocados when they were in abundance at other chains).

Since then, I’ve spread out my shopping, partly due to necessity and partly for money. Stanleys at North and Elston has the best produce deals I’ve found anywhere, and Cermak Produce has a lot of “new staples” for us. Living in a neighborhood with a significant Hispanic (Mexican and Puerto Rican) neighborhood, the highest quality ingredients for price are often in super markets catering for that group. Adjusting cooking to what’s available is a good idea for a city of neighborhoods.

I am genuinely impressed with Mariano’s, though. Their prices, quality and selection were great, and their staff seemed genuinely happy to be working there. It isn’t Wegman’s (from upstate NY, IMO the best chain store in the country), but it’s at least in the same league.

... December 4, 2013 at 12:12 pm

The newer stores are better tailored towards either discounters or upper-middle class aspirants.

So, just like everything else in America….

PD Shaw December 4, 2013 at 1:34 pm

Elipses, exactly. I’m somewhat reluctant to describe a grocery store’s particular branding since it touches on the uncomfortable topic of class.

Red Barchetta December 4, 2013 at 2:48 pm

We moved this summer from far west Naperville, served by a Dominick’s and Jewel, to downtown Naperville, and go to a family owned place called Casey’s. Only location as far as I know.

In point of fact its more expensive, but we enjoy the service levels and quality of products carried. For exotica there is a Whole Foods just 15 minutes away.

I never had an issue with Dominick’s, but it will be interesting to see (and its one of the stores to be run by Marianos) how that works out.

... December 4, 2013 at 2:52 pm

PD, I understand what you mean.

Personally, we go well out of our way to shop at a Publix (big chain here in Florida, and I believe it has branched out all over the South in the last 10 to 15 years) instead of at some of the closer stores. The extra prices and inconvenience are worth it for a more pleasant, and frankly safer, shopping environment.

Red Barchetta December 4, 2013 at 3:03 pm

I think, ice, Publix OWNS Florida.

PD Shaw December 4, 2013 at 3:53 pm

Ice: A couple of local examples, I was thinking of:

County Market, closest grocery to my home, has some what of a “country” theme going, but mainly its a place for soccer moms. Produce good, as long as in season. Very middle.

County Market, close to the hospitals, on the other hand, is a little smaller, and a lot hipper. It has more food bars for carry-out, better booze, and higher end items.

Schnucks, near old money, has a sushi bar, cooking demonstration centers, and nice wooden floors under a large wine selection. I wonder if the sushi is a loss leader.

Schnucks is building a new store in the poorest part of town. I’ve heard it said (by me) that they can’t afford Schnucks over there. But I’ve begun to think the store isn’t supposed to service the community in which it sits, but the community is supposed to supply the workers and the customers are coming in from the suburbs. I cannot wait to see what it looks like on the inside.

... December 4, 2013 at 5:42 pm

Red, the Mormons own Florida and rent out various parts to Disney, the US military, NASA and the state government.

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