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Dominick’s Closes Its Doors to Customers in Chicago

By: Katelyn Six, Section Editor for Block Beat (six1@uic.edu)

After years of fierce competition, it seems the long-standing rivalry is finally over between Chicago’s two leading grocers, Jewel and Dominick’s.  By December 28, 2014, all Dominick’s grocery stores that have not been acquired by other grocery chains like Jewel and Mariano’s will be closed for good.

According to WGN-TV, “Four of the 72 Dominick’s stores have been sold to Jewel-Osco owner New Albertsons Inc., with a number of other stores being considered by competing groceries.”

The Dominick’s tradition that many Chicagoans fondly remember started in 1925 when Dominick DiMatteo moved to America from his home country of Sicily and opened up small old-world Italian grocery store. By 1950, DiMatteo had opened a second store as well as the first supermarket to showcase the orange and green sign with the Dominick’s name.  Taking advantage of the one-stop-shopping experience desired by customers, Dominick’s and Jewel began putting Mom and Pop stores out of business, along with bakeries, produce markets and butcher shops, which had previously been the grocery buyer’s staple shops.

After years of big-name groceries dominating, it seems the downfall of Dominick’s can, in part, be attributed to a shift from mass-market retail to specialized shopping centers.  Stores that concentrate on fresh produce or organic fare are becoming increasingly popular.  This comes to no surprise to people who have switched loyalty from Dominick’s to fresh-focused grocers like Whole Foods, Mariano’s and Pete’s.

While a select few of traditional Chicago shoppers who remember the rich values and freshness Dominick’s was once famous for are distraught by the news of mass closings, many customers are happy to see Dominick’s kicked to the curb.  One critic is Peter V. Bella, a freelance photojournalist and writer for ChicagoNow.  He argues that Dominick’s changed its fare far too frequently, which only made consumers crave a simpler shopping experience.  “As to sympathy for Dominick’s as an institution, there should be none,” Bella says, “They forgot ‘Give the lady what she wants’ was and is the Chicago retailers’ mantra. People want choices, quality, price, and service. They want consistency, certainty, and comfort. The more complex our lives get the more we seek simplicity and certainty.”

One Dominick’s employee is particularly worried about her co-workers who work at the supermarket for the benefits and health insurance.  “Many of them have been working there for 20, 30 years,” she says, “and now it’s like they have to start all over again.”

She confesses that while no one predicted a mass shutdown of all Dominick’s stores, it comes as no surprise to the grocery store’s employees.  “We weren’t making enough money and we didn’t have as many customers compared to other grocery stores, especially since Mariano’s opened,” she explains.  “Also, they kept raising our prices on a lot of our popular items, thinking they would make a profit.  Didn’t exactly work that way.”

Of course, everyone has his or her own opinion to explain the Dominick’s closings.  The same Dominick’s employee divulges the variety of reasons customers give for the shutdowns.  “Every now and then we have a customer or two who will say ‘No wonder you guys are closing down, you don’t do things they way I want you to,’” she says, “One customer said our store was closing cause we don’t cut her lunch meat the right way, another one said it’s because we had so many teenagers.”

Stores whose emphasis is on convenience have been starting to take center stage as CVS and Walgreens gain popularity.  These stores now sell milk and eggs along with everything from makeup to aspirin, making these quick, convenient alternatives to mass-market grocery shopping.

The reality of Dominick’s’ defeat has brought to a close the long-standing rivalry with Jewel.  Loyal Dominick’s lovers still have until the end of December to shop at their favorite store.  For many others, the demise of Dominick’s is nothing to shed a tear over.  Whether you like it or not, consumers across Chicago will have to find new places get their grub.

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