GURNEE – It was 5:30 a.m. Tuesday, and two women stood outside the old Dominick’s store on Grand Avenue in Gurnee.
Purple lights blinked on the front of the building. A dozen flags flew on light poles.
People in white shirts and ties walked into the building, ready for work.
One of the women, Linda Santiago, 50, of Waukegan, figured there would have been a crowd already.
After all, a Mariano’s grocery store was set to open at 6 a.m.
Teresa Johnson, 62, of Gurnee, said she liked to get up early and go shopping. Both women had gone to the Mariano’s in Libertyville and liked the store.
“There’s excellent produce. It’s a really nice store,” Santiago said.
A third woman walked up – Vilma Gebeck, 57, of Lake Villa, who owns a Great Clips franchise a few doors down from Mariano’s. She wanted to check out her new neighbors.
“We thought this would be vacant for a long time,” she said.
It was empty for only a few months. Mariano’s has opened in a number of old Dominick’s stores in the Chicago area.
When the Gurnee store was vacant it hurt Great Clips Gebeck said. She’s glad to see it occupied again.
A few more customers joined the women at the entrance. An employee asks a manager where she should park. He pointed to the end of the parking lot.
At 5:46 a.m. – 14 minutes before the planned opening – a manager opened the doors. Nine customers streamed in. An employee passed out store directories containing a map of all of the departments. Others served samples.
By 6 a.m., many more customers had entered.
As Gebeck walked around the store, she noted the layout was similar to Dominick’s. Mariano’s has a salad bar, though, while Dominick’s did not.
Gebeck wanted to see the fish department, which had a bigger selection than many stores. She checked out other departments, too, including liquor.
“I don’t drink,” Gebeck said. “But my customers will ask about this.”
At 6 a.m., there were dozens of employees – and corporate officials – on the sales floor.
“Let us know if you need any help,” one employee told Gebeck.
Another made a similar offer later.
“The prices aren’t bad,” Gebeck said.