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Lake County leaders react to Dominick's closing

Gurnee Mayor Kristina Kovarik said she was not surprised to hear that Dominick's was leaving the Chicago market. "We'd been waiting a while for that to happen. It was a ghost town at the one in Gurnee," she said Monday.

Mundelein Mayor Steve Lentz and Fox Lake mayor Donny Schmit, said they had no forewarning from Safeway, Inc. that it would be closing and attempting to sell Dominick's in both towns.

Safeway Inc. intends to exit the Chicago market, where it operates 72 Dominick's stores, by early 2014.

In Lake County, Dominick's stores are located at 6655 Grand Ave. in Gurnee, Route 176 and Milodthian Road in Mundelein and 1258 S. Route 12 in Fox Lake.

Safeway also owns two stories in Buffalo Grove and one each in Lake Zurich and Lake Bluff.

Kovarik said although she doesn't know if its replacement will be another grocery store, the spot won't be vacant for long. "It's a highly visible, high traffic spot there on Grand Avenue," she said. "It's tough for grocery stores to survive because the market is so dilluted, with places like Target and Walmart selling groceries."

In regards to sales tax from Dominick's, it's difficult to obtain an exact figure due to the way the state reports tax revenues, said Erik Jensen, public information officer.

In calendar year 2012, the Village received $640,712 in sales tax from the sale of food, which is almost 4 percent of the total sales tax revenue, he said. "As many grocery items are untaxed, the grocery retail market is typically a small portion of most municipal sales tax revenue streams," he said.

Gurnee residents are already musing about what could replace the Dominick's, a Mariano's or Trader Joe's, perhaps, said two of Gurnee Suburban Life's Facebook readers.

Evette Ashley recently was loading groceries into her car in Gurnee Dominick's parking lot. The Lake Villa resident said she travels to the Gurnee store, which opened in 1997, because she's seen the same people working in the store for many years and knows them well.

"The impact on employees' jobs is a concern," Ashley said. "Some people have been working for Dominick's for 25 years."

Eric Nelson, Gurnee resident, said with kids at home, he has to shop for groceries three times a week. It's conveniently close to his home, he said. "I do comparative shopping with Dominick's and Jewel-Osco."

Schmitt said the the Fox Lake store "is not a big producer" of sales tax in the town. The village of Mundelein earns $250,000 annually in sales tax from Dominick's, said Lentz.

"The [Dominick's] we have in Mundelein is in a real good location," said Lentz, adding the store was doing well. "So we assume they'll find a buyer."

He expects if that store closes without a buyer, the sales tax will be made up from other grocery stores in the village. But, "we're very optimistic," that someone will buy the store. Lentz said his staff has left phone messages with Safeway to learn more about the decision to close the 72 stores.

He said if they don't find a buyer, a big void would be left in the shopping plaza, where Dominick's is now the anchor store.

Brian Dowling, public affairs manager for Safeway, Inc. said Safeway does not have closing dates for stores.

"This is the beginning of a process. We're looking to identify buyers [at the Chicago area markets]," Dowling said. He could not comment on if buyers are interested in Lake County locations.

"We're anticipating on having plans in place for the locations by early 2014," Dowling said. "We certainly hope [Lake County locations] will not lose jobs. We're asking prospective purchasers to consider our people for employment."

Four of the 72 stores have been sold and will be converted to Jewel-Osco. These are located in Chicago, Homer Glen and Glenview, according to Safeway.

The decision to exit the Chicago market "is consistent with Safeway's priority of maximizing shareholder value," said Robert Edwards, Safeway president and CEO, in a press release.

"These actions will allow us to focus on improving and strengthening our core grocery business."

- Sheryl DeVore and Yadira Sanchez Olson contributed.

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