WESTMONT – Representatives from high-end grocer Mariano's got the green light Wednesday night to bring their proposal to build a 71,000-square-foot store along 63rd Street to the Westmont Village Board.
During its meeting, the Westmont Planning and Zoning Committee recommended the proposal for village board approval, but not before a debate regarding the proposed store's proximity to Westbrook Market, another grocery store just two blocks from the proposed Mariano's.
Joe Kumkoski, owner of Westbrook Market, was the first to speak out during a public hearing on the proposal.
"You can imagine our concern with bringing a grocery store directly next to our's," Kumkoski said during the meeting. "Why are we looking for a grocery store at this site?... It's not ethically right."
Ed Richard, chair of the Westmont committee, asked Mariano's representatives how they would compete with the neighboring Westbrook Market.
"We have a different concept than they have," said Max Dickman, a real estate development manager with Mariano's parent company Roundy's. "Hopefully [Westbrook Market] can maintain their shopping base. Our success does not depend on their failure."
Dickman said other Mariano's locations are in close proximity to competitors.
"It certainly can be difficult," Dickman said. "But sometimes by having more customers and competition, they have the ability to sharpen their offerings and do something to attract those customers."
He said from his research, Westbrook Market's offering of ethnic foods will have an edge over Mariano's.
"If their niche is serving ethnic customers and they can do it better than we can then they're still going to maintain an edge in that department," he said.
"We're going to bring additional customers that could shop at their store."
Earlier this week, Kumkoski expressed doubt in his store's ability to compete with a chain store. He said his store and its roughly 60 employees have operated on a profit margin 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.
“I don’t know if I see a scenario of me being here with Mariano’s next to me."
Westbrook Market is located at 10 W. 63rd St. in the Westmont Village Shopping Center. The proposed Mariano's site is at 150 W. 63rd St.
The proposal is now expected to go to the Westmont Village Board for a final vote, possibly in October, according to Westmont Community Development Director Shannon Malik.