WESTMONT – For almost 10 years, Joe Kumkoski has owned and operated Westbrook Market.
The grocery store, 10 W. 63rd St., specializes in ethnic foods, fresh produce and meat, catering to what the owner says is a large and diverse clientele.
“I’d say we have a competitive edge over other grocery stores in that we have a niche [with ethnic foods],” Kumkoski said.
But the grocer’s steady clientele may soon be threatened.
Mariano’s, a high-end grocery chain that’s been expanding in the Chicago area, will come before the Westmont Planing and Zoning Commission Wednesday night to propose a new, 71,000-square-foot store just two blocks west of Westbrook Market’s 63,000-square-foot building in the Westmont Shopping Center.
The problem for Kumkoski is, he said, not that his store and its 60-plus employees will have a competitor, it’s that his store will have a competitor just two blocks away.
“I don’t know if I see a scenario of me being here with Mariano’s next to me,” he said.
“It doesn’t make sense. There probably is a place for Mariano’s here in Westmont, but I’m just not quite sure why they’d want to put a competitor directly next me.”
According to Westmont Community Development Director Shannon Malik, the location is the only one that could support and suit the needs of a Mariano’s.
“We’ve seen grocery stores continue to operate in close proximity,” Malik said. “And it’s our hope that both businesses could survive.”
Attempts to reach Mariano’s on Tuesday were unsuccessful.
Malik added that Westmont is currently home to about 15 neighborhood or specialty grocery stores, including Jewel, Standard Market and Aldi.
Kumkoski says his store has operated on a profit margin the last 10 years that is “smaller than a big chain can achieve.”
“I can’t get into a price war,” he said. “I think the village knows that, yet they are giving the competitor the financial advantage. I wish I understood why.”
Kumkoski also says the village is prepared to offer Mariano’s an “incentive-laden” deal to open up in the village. The property is within the South Westmont Business TIF District.
Malik said she couldn’t comment on any incentives that may be offered to Mariano’s.
Malik said Mariano’s would be a catalyst for economic development in the area.
“Mariano’s is an experienced grocery store,” she said. “The parent company is Roundy’s and the owner was formerly with Dominick’s. They have the experience that goes along with it and there will be new jobs added to the community as well.”
A public hearing was scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday at Westmont Village Hall, 31 W. Quincy St., during the Planning and Zoning Commission meeting.
Malik said after the public hearing, the proposal would go to the Westmont Village Board for a final vote, possibly in October.
Kumkoski planned to attend the meeting and has been encouraging his customers and employees to speak up at the meeting.
“Adding a Mariano’s to our community is not a problem – there may be some upside to that to attract more shoppers in from surrounding communities. But putting it right next to an existing store that already contributes sizable tax revenue and employs more than 60 people? That’s not very good commercial planning,” he said.
Editor's Note: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that there were no existing grocery stores within one mile of Westbrook Market.