A woman we know, now 90, has been shopping at the Dominick's store in Mount Prospect for decades. The butcher knows the kind of chops she likes. The pharmacists know her medical profile, and when her scripts are about to run out, they help her get them refilled. When her son died a few years ago, cashiers saw the obituary in the paper and gathered around to hug and cry with her when she came in after the funeral.
Such highly personalized experiences may not be commonplace in the price-driven grocery business these days, maybe not even at that store, but when parent Safeway closes the Mount Prospect Dominick's and 71 others in early 2014, it will signal more than just the loss of an option for food shopping.
Some Dominick's will be sold to other grocers, but no one thinks each store will find a buyer. The loss of 72 Dominick's stores is a calamity for the suburbs, with ripple effects that run far and wide.
There's the mad scramble as communities try to lure new grocers or other big box retailers, sometimes undercutting one another to land a deal. Buffalo Grove and Naperville have three Dominick's apiece; which ones get preference?
There's the loss of sales taxes -- Mundelein estimates the village earns $250,000 a year from the Dominick's at Route 176 and Midlothian Road. There's the worry of the small shop owners who rely on a draw like Dominick's to bring people into their strip centers -- and whose landlords rely on the income from Dominick's to keep up appearances, and help pay for improvements to the parking lot, etc. There are the employees -- our neighbors and friends -- who have decent-paying jobs and benefits. Many will join millions of Americans reshaping their economic lives to make ends meet.
There's the ripple effect this will have on Dominick's suppliers, local companies that make products exclusively for the Dominick's chain.
For some communities, Dominick's is the only grocery store in town -- and now residents will have to leave town to buy food. Maybe the bus goes there, maybe it doesn't.
Some believe Dominick's closing could mean better things. "Let them put in a Mariano's," said Lester Starr, hopefully. A jeweler, his business faces the Dominick's in Schaumburg's Town Square.
But Rolling Meadows knows what a pickle it is to fill a spot like that. The city has been trying for nearly 10 years to find a business for the former Dominick's on Kirchoff Road. Other towns may be more fortunate. Leasing expert Dan Stratis says there is reason to hope that where Dominick's are in good locations (i.e. high traffic areas) the stores "will be gobbled up by other grocery stores."
Business doesn't like a vacuum -- out of the ashes of Dominick's will rise other businesses, some more innovative, some giving rise to the next success story. But still, the passing of such a familiar icon should not go unmentioned. When the Dominick's stores close, communities will lose a tax paying corporate citizen, businesses will lose a valuable partner and grocery customers also will lose much -- including, sometimes, a reassuring personal atmosphere where they could mark a lifetime of meaningful moments.