Jet Foods closing in Carol Stream after less than a year in business
Six months after opening in Carol Stream, Jet Foods has run out of fuel.
The supermarket is shutting its doors, continuing a string of grocery store closures in the anchor space at a shopping center near Army Trail and County Farm roads.
John Everest Thomas, CEO of Chicago-based parent company Freedom Development Group, launched Jet Foods with Nat Caputo, who previously operated the now defunct Joe Caputo & Sons franchise.
But the independent grocer struggled to take off in a hypercompetitive industry after opening in March.
"It was not very often that you saw many cars in the parking lot," said Don Bastian, the village's community development director.
The nearest competitor is Jewel, just across the street. More recently, Woodman's opened to much fanfare next to Bloomingdale's Stratford Square Mall less than 3 miles away from Jet Foods.
Thomas -- Jet stands for his initials -- could not be reached for comment.
The closure is another blow to County Farm Plaza, a shopping center that's seen an exodus of grocery store tenants in recent years. Family Foods, Piggly Wiggly and Butera have all closed in the same anchor slot.
Village officials have reached out to Jet corporate representatives to talk about the status of their lease and have not yet been able to make contact with anyone, Bastian said Monday.
"Our emails, they were returned as 'undeliverable,'" Bastian said.
A video screen on the exterior of the building has advertised "50% off" purchases. A cashier also told the village's community development department that product was not being restocked, Bastian wrote in an email to plan commissioners on Labor Day weekend.
Jet Foods' lease runs through 2024, Bastian said in the email.
Village planners last week participated in a conference call with the broker team marketing County Farm Plaza to discuss possible uses for the 40,000-square-foot space.
"We had a good conversation with them," Bastian said.
In that conversation, the possibility of another grocer taking that space was not ruled out, Bastian said, but village officials also said they were open to different kinds of uses.
Over the years, some residents have lobbied for a Trader Joe's to move there.
"We still think it's a good location with a lot of traffic," Bastian said.
Thomas and Caputo had plans to open more stores in Rockford, Park Forest and elsewhere, employing a strategy of snapping up available commercial space rather than building stores from the ground up. In Park Forest, Freedom Development Group purchased a shopping center that is set to be anchored by the new grocery store.
Park Forest officials said that, to their knowledge, the company intends to proceed with the project.
"I could buy basically lesser-value shopping centers, put our supermarket in, and then start to lease the rest of the shopping center, which is exactly what's happening," Thomas said in January.
Thomas wore a wire for federal authorities in the corruption case of Antoin "Tony" Rezko, a former adviser and fundraiser for former Gov. Rod Blagojevich; Rezko was convicted in 2008.
Thomas himself was convicted in 2015 of stealing $370,000 in tax-increment financing money -- property tax money diverted from local governments to redevelopment -- from the village of Riverdale in the South suburbs. He was released from prison in 2017.
Two years later, Thomas said he was tired of his past being rehashed and that he had built his "company from zero from walking out of prison."