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posted: 3/5/2012 6:25 PM

Dominick's to close in Vernon Hills after 33 years

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After a long run, a familiar name in the grocery business is closing shop in Vernon Hills.

Dominick's at 290 Hawthorn Village Commons will close April 3, a spokeswoman confirmed Monday.

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"The store wasn't performing as expected," said Lauri Sanders, director of public affairs. She declined to discuss specifics.

Opened in April 1979, the store is regarded as possibly the first large scale grocery in town.

Village officials had no hard data, but anecdotal evidence of declining traffic and a lack of interest in upgrading the existing store or moving elsewhere, led them to believe the closing may be inevitable.

Another factor may have been the arrival last June of Mariano's Fresh Market, a successful newcomer from Wisconsin that has been expanding in the Chicago area.

"I think we acknowledged that when Mariano's opened, there would be an impact on Dominick's," said John Kalmar, assistant village manager.

"It's unfortunate they're leaving the community because of that long-term relationship. We did try to work with them to find a location to remain in the village," he said.

Ironically, one of the spots had been on Milwaukee Avenue where Mariano's is now. But the company didn't respond to the village and didn't invest in the store.

"The handwriting was on the wall for us here because throughout the Chicago area, they were going through store remodelings," Kalmar said.

At 45,000 square feet, the Vernon Hills store is small by modern standards. For comparison, Mariano's is about 71,000 square feet.

Sanders said the size had nothing to do with the grocer deciding to close in Vernon Hills.

"We're constantly looking at our stores and assessing their performance," she said.

Mariano's is named for Bob Mariano, the CEO of parent company Roundy's Supermarkets Inc. He also is the former chief executive of Dominick's.

Dominick's was acquired in 1998 by Safeway Inc., which operates nearly 1,700 stores nationally. With 74 stores, Dominick's is second behind Jewel in northern Illinois. The Dominick's at Barrington and Golf roads in Hoffman Estates closed in January.

Sanders said the Vernon Hills decision was not part of a widespread action.

"To my knowledge, this is it," she said.

Between 50 and 60 people are employed in Vernon Hills and have been notified. Employees can relocate to other stores, said one longtime employee, who did not want to be named.

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