Joe Caputo & Sons closing Elk Grove store Sunday
Less than three months after opening, Joe Caputo & Sons grocery store in Elk Grove Village will close its doors Sunday in the wake of a federal lawsuit accusing the family-owned independent grocery chain of failing to pay for $3.6 million in produce.
Anthony Marano Co., a Chicago-based produce wholesaler, is suing the grocer for not paying for produce purchased for six grocery stores between June 5, 2015, and Feb. 8, 2016. Two of those stores, in Arlington Heights and Northbrook, have since closed.
Elk Grove Village Mayor Craig Johnson said Thursday the 80,000-square-foot store at 980 Elk Grove Town Center, which opened last November, will close at the end of the day Sunday.
A temporary restraining order granted Thursday morning by U.S. District Judge Samuel Der-Yeghiayan gives Marano's attorney the authority to close the Elk Grove store and liquidate its assets, in whole or in part. The attorney could also transfer assets to any other store.
"My hope is that Caputo's would be able to reopen, but I would not put a lot of faith in that," Johnson said. "No one expected something like this so quickly. It's unfortunate, but it doesn't mean we won't stop working. Our hope is to find another tenant."
The judge's order gives the grocer seven business days to pay Marano and allows Marano attorney Robert Marcus to delegate day-to-day operations of all stores "until payment in full is received, a sale of a particular store occurs, or a complete liquidation of all the stores' assets occurs."
The store owners haven't disputed their debts to Marano but say they've been unable to pay because of cash flow problems, the federal suit states.
Store owner Nat Caputo didn't immediately respond to requests for comment. A manager at the Elk Grove store declined to comment.
Joe Caputo & Sons is separate from Angelo Caputo's Fresh Markets, which operates stores in Addison, Bloomingdale, Carol Stream, Downers Grove, Elmwood Park, Hanover Park, Naperville and South Elgin. Both companies' owners are from the same extended family.
The Elk Grove store, one of four former Dominick's locations taken over by Caputo, opened Nov. 20. Its opening was delayed at least a year because of ongoing renovation work, including replacement of the old Dominick's refrigeration system, Nat Caputo previously told the Daily Herald.
The company employs 145 full- and part-time workers in Elk Grove.
The store's opening came two weeks after Caputo closed its stores in Arlington Heights and Northbrook -- also former Dominick's locations -- as a result of declining business. The Northbrook store opened in May 2014 and Arlington Heights in June 2014.
"We jumped the gun on the other two. We were big enough to say it's not working," Caputo said last November.
Caputo subleased its Elk Grove and Arlington Heights locations from Safeway, the former Dominick's owner. There's three years left on Safeway's current lease at the Elk Grove Town Center, with options for multiple five-year extensions. And Safeway agreed to a five-year extension last year for the Arlington Heights store, village officials said.
Nat Caputo said in November that long-term plans to relocate his original 10,000-square-foot Des Plaines store from 959 E. Oakton St. down the block to a larger 60,000-square-foot location at 1555 Lee St. would happen after the Elk Grove store got up and running. Caputo owns The Oaks Shopping Center at Oakton and Lee, where the larger store was proposed to fill an old Dominick's spot.
But it now appears more unlikely that will occur, as the shopping center is being marketed for lease by commercial real estate firm CBRE.
Caputo applied for city permits during the summer of 2014 for an interior build-out, including new sprinklers, shelving units and freezers, but no work has been done inside the store since, according to George Sakas, Des Plaines' director of community and economic development.
"We've come full circle," Sakas said. "We were upset about having an empty Dominick's. Then happy to have Caputo (moving there). Then bewildered by them not moving. Then disappointed the other Caputo is closing. Now happy (The Oaks location) didn't open as a Caputo."
Joe Caputo & Sons also operates locations in Palatine and Algonquin.