Dominick's Ukranian Village Photo

Barren shelves at the Dominick's in the Ukranian Village. (Photo/Emily Brosious)

Dominick's Turns Out the Lights on Chicago Locations

By Emily Brosious

PostedSunday, Dec. 29, 2013

City residents will not be getting their last-minute New Year's Eve party supplies at Dominick’s stores this year.

On Saturday, the longtime local grocery chain closed all but one of its Chicagoland stores for good. Dominick’s in north suburban Bannockburn will remain open one more month.

The Dominick’s name is a familiar one to most Chicagoans, many of whom grew up with trips to the grocery store. Safeway bought the grocery chain in the late 1990’s but Dominick’s Chicago roots stem all the way back to the 1920’s.

Earlier this month, Dominick’s slashed prices on most store items in preparation for Friday’s closure. Customers seized on the savings and by the grocer’s final days, shelves were largely empty at most locations.

“There were crazy rushes to get in,” former Dominick’s employee Luis Galvan, said in an interview at the Dominick’s in Ukrainian Village. “Shelves emptied quickly.”

Allison Sardler, a customer perusing the last remaining clearance racks at Dominick’s in Old Town days before closure, said: “It’s eerie being here. It’s totally empty.”

Sardler, a longtime Dominick’s customer, said the closing felt sudden to her.

“I’ve been shopping at Dominick’s since I was a kid. I’m not sure where I’m going to go now,” she said. “Sometimes I like shopping at Whole Foods, so I’ll probably end up going there more.”

It turns out Sardler isn’t the only Chicagoan who likes shopping at Whole Foods. According to Safeway President and CEO Robert Edwards, the success of specialty grocers likes Whole Foods was a major reason Dominick’s failed in the Chicago market.

Edwards told Wall Street analysts that Dominick’s supermarkets had struggled to maintain customers in recent years as the Chicago market became “fragmented” with specialized grocery stores.

Dominick's Closing Photo

Signs of the times: Closing prices at the Dominick's in Ukranian Village. (Photo/Emily Brosious)

Dominick’s couldn’t match the discount grocery prices of chains like Wal-Mart and Aldi or the gourmet offerings of Whole Foods and Mariano’s.

And Dominick’s 72 area stores could not compete with the convenience of longtime rival Jewel, which has 178 Illinois locations.

Catherine Oliver, another customer looking through final clearance items at Dominick’s in Old Town, said she actually wasn’t too upset over the store closings.

“I’ve always preferred Jewel over Dominick’s because I think they have better prices,” she said. “I’m just here today looking for good deals.”

Luis Galvan, a former employee at Dominick’s on Madison Avenue and Halsted Street, said work had been very tense for him following the notice of closure.

“I had only been working with the company for three years and I wasn’t eligible for severance,” Galvan said. “So I just decided to quit.”

As Chicago area Dominick’s stores closed their doors for the last time this past Saturday, some 6,000 employees also found themselves out of jobs. Only those employees working with the company for seven years or more qualify to receive severance packages.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel recently created a Grocery Store Task Force to help workers impacted by the store closings and to find buyers for unsold Dominick’s locations.

Roundy’s Inc. has purchased 11 Dominick’s locations and will convert them into Mariano’s stores. Four locations will become Jewel stores. The future for nearly 60 unsold Dominick’s sites is still unknown.

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