Wheeling would like to see a new grocery store in the site of the Garden Fresh store, which is closing March 25 and moving to a larger site in Buffalo Grove.
But one potential roadblock is that the owner of Garden Fresh also owns the shopping center at 1786 Hintz Road and might not want a competitor for the new store at 770 S. Buffalo Grove Road, said John Melaniphy, Wheeling's director of economic development.
"A grocery store would be my first choice," Melaniphy said Monday. "We would like one that generates a similar level of sales."
The Garden Fresh is moving from a 20,000 square-foot store to a former Dominick's with 70,000 square feet.
The Wheeling store opened in 1993, according to the company's website, which stresses its location "in the middle of a residential area between Buffalo Grove and Wheeling."
Still, new grocery companies are coming into the Chicago area, and the size of the Hintz Road store would suit many of them, Melaniphy said.
Melaniphy said he has had preliminary discussions with Adi Mor, the owner of Garden Fresh, who said he is evaluating whether to consider another grocer as a tenant
Mor could not be reached Monday evening.
"If it were me, I would think that I would be maybe adverse to renting to a competitor," admitted Melaniphy.
Some prospective tenants might want the landlord to participate in redevelopment of the site, said Melaniphy.
Current tenants of the shopping center include a restaurant, dry cleaners and laundromat. There are some vacant storefronts.
The economic development staff has mentioned the site to the owners of a health clinic and a beauty salon, both of which are interested in a Wheeling site.
"The shopping center needs an anchor," Melaniphy agreed.
Other options could be a hardware store, specialty furniture store or automotive shop, he said. These could require cutting the space into smaller pieces, he said.
Fresh Farms, an expanded grocery store at Dundee Road and Milwaukee Avenue, is about two miles from of the Garden Fresh Hintz Road site.
Two miles is generally considered a customer service area for a single grocery store, he said.
Wheeling had $58 million worth of grocery sales in 2012 and that increased to $61 million in 2013. Overall retail in the village rose from $503 million to $558 million, he said.
"Our sales are growing," said Melaniphy. "We don't like to export our sales to a surrounding community."
Restaurants generated almost $6 million more in 2013 than the year before, he said, adding apparel is one category where sales are light in the village.