When shopper Giovanna Giancola saw two remaining four-packs of her favorite Goose Island beer sitting in the otherwise-empty cooler at the Arlington Heights Dominick's, she quietly said "Yes!" and grabbed them off the shelf.
She was among the bargain hunters shopping at suburban Dominick's stores Monday, taking advantage of the soon-to-close chain's 50-percent-off sale and, as of Monday, 30-percent-off alcohol sale.
"I figured this was the time to stock up," said Arlington Heights shopper Amy Belmonte, whose cart brimmed with everything from wine to cat food. "But, you know, this makes me sad. This is my local grocery store, and I've been coming here since my kids were born ... so this is bittersweet."
Dominick's parent company, Safeway, will close all of its stores here by Dec. 28 and exit the Chicago market. Many suburban Dominick's stores have been sold to their competitor, Roundy's, and will be transformed into new Mariano's grocery stores.
Safeway officials could not be reached to discuss the sale Monday.
Despite Monday's snowy weather, the parking lot of the Arlington Heights Dominick's was as crowded as it might be on the day before Thanksgiving. Inside, the shelves were largely empty or heavily picked through, with 50 percent off signs printed on plain, white copy paper hanging every few feet.
An employee had to block off the cereal aisle to stop people from taking items while she restocked the remaining inventory.
While shoppers were excited to snatch up good deals, most also expressed sadness at seeing a longtime business close, and for its employees to lose their jobs and health insurance.
"It's been depressing," said Janet Burrows, 61, of Palatine, who has worked part-time in the Dominick's deli for the past 28 years. She plans to retire early rather than look for a new job.
Burrows said she learned from news reports that her store was closing.
"The customers have been coming up to us and saying, 'We're so sorry. We're sad to see the store close.' And (I) think, 'This isn't happening. This is a nightmare.'"
Deli employee Margaret Harczos, of Lake Zurich, purposely walked up and down the aisles before the store opened Monday, glancing over the mostly empty shelves and reflecting on her 10 years working there part-time.
"I've cried along with the customers," she said. "We know the customers by name. This is a very family-oriented store. So it's been emotional."
Harczos doesn't have another job lined up yet, despite four interviews with Mariano's. She's reluctantly started shopping for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act.
Dominick's employees acknowledge that business has steadily declined over the years, so the going-out-of-business sale is more sad than surprising.
"You knew it was gonna happen," Harczos said, "but then you see it and realize, 'It's really happening.' It's hard to see the store looking like this."