Municipal officials and neighboring businesses from Mundelein to Naperville Friday were still digesting the impact of their Dominick's food stores potentially closing as parent company Safeway Inc. leaves the region early next year.
While concerned, most were cautiously optimistic that a grocery store industry already in transition would find a way to fill the void.
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One of Schaumburg's two Dominick's stores has been an anchor of the Town Square redevelopment at the southwest corner of Schaumburg and Roselle roads since the early 1990s.
While an important part of that retail center, slow traffic at the Dominick's in recent years has left neighboring tenants and village officials open to the possibility of improvement.
"Let them put in a Mariano's," said Lester Starr, owner of Lester Starr Jewelers, which faces Dominick's across Town Square's parking lot.
Starr feels Dominick's has been mismanaged and losing customers for many years. He believes his own customers come more from word-of-mouth among employees and patrons of Town Square's other major anchor -- the Schaumburg Township District Library.
But Starr admitted he's unsure about the impact on his business if it faced a completely empty building.
Angela Rose and Nanette Sykes, managers of the Cup & Vine Coffee House which opened a month ago, believe more of their customers come from the neighboring library, but felt a "hometown grocery store" was an integral part of Town Square.
Some towns have seen shopping centers anchored by grocery stores turn into virtual ghost towns if a new tenant can't be found. Rolling Meadows, for example, has been trying for more than nine years to replace a Dominick's that closed at the Meadows Marketplace strip center.
Schaumburg Community Development Director Julie Fitzgerald said nearby residential development at Pleasant Square may help other grocery chains recognize a market at Town Square. And she believes the center has enough other amenities, including restaurants and a farmers market, to sustain temporary loss of a grocery store.
"You're always going to have change in your community," Fitzgerald said. "Some of it will be positive and some of it will be a setback."
A leasing expert predicted some sites will not stay vacant for long.
"The Dominick's (stores) in good locations will be gobbled up by other grocery stores," said Dan Stratis, commercial division vice president for Chicago-based At Properties. "In fact, any owner that didn't see this coming probably wasn't doing a good job of managing their property. Many property owners have probably already started lining up new tenants."
Stratis couldn't say what percentage of the stores are in desirable locations. "If the store is in an area that doesn't have the demographics, those are the ones that are going to be left vacant."
He said location plays a bigger part than the condition of the building.
"All the bones can be fixed," he said, "even if they have to tear them down."
Buffalo Grove officials, meanwhile, are assessing the impact of the potential loss of three Dominick's stores, Deputy Village Manager Jennifer Maltas said. A lack of places to grocery shop won't be one of them. "We actually have a lot of grocery stores in Buffalo Grove," she said.
Nevertheless, officials don't wish to see three such large buildings remaining vacant long.
"Our preference is that it's a sales tax producer," Maltas said. "Whether that's another grocery store or something that would produce the same amount of sales tax is all the same to us."
The Mundelein Dominick's is in a high-traffic spot on the northwest corner of Route 176 and Midlothian Road in the Long Meadow Commons shopping center.
"It's a great location," said Mayor Steve Lentz, who lives about a block away and who expects another chain to snatch up the building.
The store provides about $250,000 in sales-tax revenue to the village annually, Lentz said.
Megan Horvath, a stylist at the Great Clips salon next door to the Dominick's, fears her business will suffer if the store closes. "A lot of our foot traffic comes from Dominick's," she said.
In Lake in the Hills, the Dominick's store on the northeast corner of Randall and Algonquin roads built in the mid-'90s has been underperforming for years, said Dan Olson, the village's community development director. He said the village already was working with the real estate broker for the property owner to line up potential tenants, with other grocers, clothing apparel, and furniture retailers showing interest.
"I think it would be good to have a different user there that can be a higher producer in terms of sales taxes to revive that area," he said. "That's a high quality intersection ... one of the busiest in the county."
In Naperville, where three Dominick's stores are located, city officials say they expect the grocery chain's competitors to be interested in the buildings.
"We think given our population size and just how vibrant our community is economically as well, we don't think it'll be a problem to get other grocers to fill those spots," city spokeswoman Linda LaCloche said.
Nevertheless, businesses near the Dominick's on Naper Boulevard at 75th Street say they'll miss the grocery store that serves as their lunch spot and landmark.
"We use it as a locator," said Elle Tarrant, a stylist at Frank Gironda Salon & Nail Spa. "That's how we tell people to find us."
Tarrant said the grocery also is a major customer draw, helping the center compete with another strip mall across Naper Boulevard anchored by a Jewel.
"I hope someone else comes along that can bring something to our area," Tarrant said. "We all kind of rely on the big grocery store to bring traffic here."
Daily Herald staff writers Madhu Krishnamurthy, Russell Lissau and Marie Wilson contributed to this report.