Eleven soon-to-be shuttered Dominick's grocery stores in the Chicago area -- including ones in Gurnee, Buffalo Grove, Aurora and Park Ridge -- will become Mariano's stores next year, officials announced Monday.
Milwaukee-based Roundy's Supermarkets Inc., the owner of Mariano's, signed a $36 million deal with Dominick's owner Safeway Inc. to acquire the stores and convert them under the Mariano's banner.
The transaction is expected to close later this month, and the former Dominick's stores are expected to become Mariano's over the course of a few months.
The move comes as Safeway prepares to close all its remaining Dominick's stores by Dec. 28, if individual stores haven't been sold by then. The company announced Oct. 10 that it was leaving the Chicago area after years of battling unsuccessfully in the competitive Chicago grocery market.
At the time, Safeway officials announced their first sale of four stores to the parent company of Jewel. With Monday's announcement that 11 more stores would be sold, that leaves the fate of 57 additional Dominick's stores in limbo.
"This acquisition is transformational in terms of Mariano's expansion plans in the Chicago metropolitan area, allowing us to open 11 additional stores in 2014 in prime locations with great market demographics," Bob Mariano, chairman, president and CEO of Roundy's, said in a news release. "These key locations will seamlessly integrate into and complement our existing base of 13 Mariano's locations as well as our five additional 2014 Mariano's locations now under construction." The 11 stores are:
-- Buffalo Grove: 450 Half Day Road
-- Gurnee: 6655 Grand Ave.
-- Aurora: 3025 E. New York St.
-- Park Ridge: 1900 S. Cumberland Ave.
-- Western Springs: No. 14 Garden Market St.
-- Shorewood: 950 Brook Forest Ave.
-- Northfield: 1822 Willow Road
-- Westchester: 3020 S. Wolf Road
-- Chicago: 3145 S. Ashland Ave.; 2021 W. Chicago Ave.; 5201 N. Sheridan Road.
On a conference call Monday, Mariano said Roundy's plans to take possession of five of those stores in late January, then will close them for 30 to 45 days to clean and upgrade them, before officially reopening as Mariano's stores.
The company will take over the other six stores in early March -- five of which will be renovated and then reopened. The sixth store, in Westchester, will remain closed for a longer period of time for more extensive renovations.
All 11 stores are expected to undergo major remodeling over the next two to three years, Mariano said.
Safeway will remain the landlord at three of the locations, though Roundy's has signed long-term leases for all of them, Mariano said.
Mariano also said current Dominick's employees are welcome to apply for jobs at Mariano's on the store's website, and the company plans to host job fairs. Dominick's employs some 5,600 people throughout the region.
Crain's Chicago Business reported Monday that Whole Foods Market was pursuing the purchase of seven Dominick's stores, including locations at 215 S. Route 83 in Elmhurst, 6300 S. Robert Kingery Hwy. in Willowbrook, 2748 Green Bay Road in Evanston, and four locations in Chicago.
Whole Foods Market spokeswoman Allison Phelps would neither confirm nor deny the report.
"While we're always on the lookout for great locations where we think we can be of a service to the surrounding community, we don't have any information to share about additional locations in Chicago at this time," Phelps said in an email.
Monday's announcement of the purchase of 11 Dominick's stores by Roundy's serves as a bit of irony for Mariano, who was president and CEO of Dominick's for three years until the chain was sold to Safeway in 1998. Mariano, a Chicago native, worked his way up at Dominick's after starting as a deli clerk in the late 1960s.
Since 2002, he has been at the helm of Roundy's, and in 2010, he brought the first Mariano's store to Arlington Heights.
Paul Weitzel, managing partner of Willard Bishop Consulting, a Barrington-based supermarket consulting firm, said Roundy's purchase of the Dominick's stores wasn't the first time Mariano looked at buying some of the former stores he ran.
"Over the years there's been rumors (that he) kind of looked at Dominick's a few times, but with the cost structure in place, it just wasn't there," said Weitzel, whose firm has done consulting work for Roundy's. "When (the Safeway announcement) came up, he obviously had interest."
"They're nice, up-to-date, modern stores that would be easy for Mariano's to fit in," Weitzel said.
Mariano said by next year there will be a total of 19 suburban Mariano's locations and 10 Chicago locations.
He believes the Chicago market can accommodate as many as 50 Mariano's stores.
"We believe we are securing great locations to continue the growth of the Mariano's banner," Mariano said.