Monday, December 9, 2013

Dominick’s task force put in public eye

I don’t envy the people who will be serving on a newly-created city government task force that will draw the public’s scrutiny – even though the issue it is dealing with is far from the most significant problem confronting Chicago these days.

Will Dominick's stores soon have no parked cars nearby?
That problem being, of course, Dominick’s.

AS IN THE chain of supermarkets that are about to cease to exist in Chicago and surrounding suburbs. Jewel early on said it would purchase a few of the Dominick’s locations and convert them to their brand.

While the new Mariano’s chain of supermarkets came in last week and said it would purchase a few more Dominick’s stores, while also building some new sites for their brand of upscale markets.

But those two deals account for about 15 supermarkets out of the 72 facilities that were part of the Dominick’s chain.

Come the end of 2013 (Dec. 28, to be exact), there are likely to be a whole lot of Dominick’s stores that suddenly become vacant storefronts – even if companies such as Whole Foods or Pete’s Fresh Market come in and buy out a few more Dominick’s locations.

IT’S ALSO NOT the same as if a little neighborhood market were to close its doors. We’re talking about the large stores that, with their parking lots, can easily take up an entire block.

Those are going to be gaping holes in the appearance of Chicago and the suburban communities. Just envision the kid whose teeth are falling out, giving him a smile with gaps.
Only in Chicago’s case, there’s no equivalent of the tooth fairy coming along to leave money to help us cope with the loss.

How many will live on like this former Dominick's store?
Instead, Mayor Rahm Emanuel created a task force to be chaired by Deputy Mayor Steve Koch whose purpose will be to figure out what to do with all those “gaps” – as in the stores that no other supermarket chain has interest in obtaining.

WHAT OTHER KINDS of businesses might be capable of using the structures for their purpose? Or, might be capable of coming in and using the land upon which those former Dominick’s stores are built?

The one thing that ought to be apparent is that we can’t just do nothing about the situation.

These kinds of gaps in a community can become a blot that spreads to a major hole going far beyond the lack of a supermarket nearby.

It’s also important because, while this task force is only concerned with the soon-to-be abandoned Dominick’s locations in Chicago, the way the city handles this issue will also impact the way surrounding suburbs will cope with their loss of a Dominick’s supermarket.

YOU’RE GOING TO have the public watching to see what becomes of their former Dominick’s, and you’re going to have suburban municipal officials taking their lead from this task force.

Which means this task force is going to face pressure. If it manages to screw things up, it is going to get ridicule on a level far above its mere dollar figures.

Because Dominick’s was a part of the Chicago character – one of the chains that for many decades dominated where we got our food from. What could be more important to some people than that?

There may be deals that would have a larger economic impact on Chicago than the replacement of supermarkets. But this is one of those deals that people will place undue attention to.
Will a vacant Dominick's be uglier than '13 baseball?

SO FOR THOSE city, organized labor and industry officials who will devote their coming weeks to figuring out how to replace the Dominick’s stores, they had better realize we, the public, will magnify the significance of their every screw up.

So they better not make any, or else they’ll become even more detested among Chicagoans than either the White Sox or Cubs are these days after the god-awful seasons they produced in ’13.


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