Dom’s Kitchen & Market looks to Vernon Hills as first suburban location

A familiar name in the grocery business and in Vernon Hills wants to return with a new style and offerings tailored to a much different time and consumer habits.

The concept for Dom’s Kitchen & Market recently got an enthusiastic thumbs up from the village board and will proceed to a detailed staff review ahead of a public hearing and an eventual official vote.

Rendering of the interior atrium of a Dom's Kitchen & Market proposed in Vernon Hills along Route 60 as part of the transformative Hawthorn mall redevelopment. Courtesy of Vernon Hills

Proposed on an outlot to be created at 600 Townline Road (Route 60) as part of the extensive Hawthorn mall redevelopment, the 24,400-square-foot store would have a significantly smaller footprint and style than a typical grocery store.

The boutique-style operation is envisioned as a hybrid grocery store and restaurant, a new concept built upon “a grocery legacy and neighborhood service with a focus on the experiental love food,” according to an overview of the idea.

“There used to be something here in Chicago that was called customer loyalty. Those days are long, long gone. People shop around,” Mike Mallon, consultant and broker for Dom’s told village officials during a recent presentation.

Dom’s was launched in 2021 by Mariano’s founder Bob Mariano and former Dominick’s executives. There are stores in the Lincoln Park and Old Town neighborhoods in Chicago with a third coming next summer to River North. Vernon Hills would be the first suburban location.

Mallon said he’s been working with Hawthorn owner Centennial Real Estate for six months on what he described as a “very unique and exciting” concept. Hawthorn is in the midst of Hawthorn 2.0, a transformative redevelopment of the 50-year old shopping center and surrounding property to include hundreds of luxury apartments and an array of new shops and other amenities outside the mall proper.

“We believe Dom’s will bring something special to the market,” Mallon said.

“Retail has changed so much over the last 10 years and particularly in the grocery store industry,” he added. “It’s all about the experience now.”

Dom’s is creating smaller stores to serve as “places and discovery and inspiration around what people eat,” architect Peter Theodore wrote in a narrative of the project.

From breakfast sandwiches at the Brew all-day cafe to wine or craft beer at night, locally sourced and specialty products, tailored offerings, hand-crafted meals and more, the idea is to create a unique destination for up to 20,000 customers a week, Theodore told village officials.

“It’s a combination grocery and restaurant. That’s really what it is,” Mallon said.

Besides income and other demographics, Mallon said Vernon Hills was “by far the strongest suburban market we got requests from.”

“We’re not about to invest $19 million in a project if we don’t think it’s going to work,” he said.

The ring mall road would have to be relocated to create a lot for Dom’s west of the Sleep Number store. Pending approvals, an opening is planned for late 2025 or early 2026.

Mariano is the former chief executive of Dominick’s, which operated a grocery store in Vernon Hills just west of the proposed Dom’s location for 33 years before closing in 2012.

The then-new Mariano’s opened in 2011 in Vernon Hills, the second location for the chain and remains part of a diverse mix of grocery store offerings in town. Mariano at the time was CEO of parent company Roundy’s Supermarkets Inc.

Marianos now operates under the Kroger umbrella.

A merger between Dom’s and Foxtrot Market, both headquartered in Chicago, was announced in late Novermber. The Chiacago-based companies have a shared vision to redefine food shopping and dining experiences in the communities they serve, according to a news release.

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