FOX RIVER GROVE – Inside of the new 55,553-square-foot Jewel-Osco, workers spent the days leading up to the opening on Wednesday stocking the produce area with watermelons and other fruits and vegetables.
On Monday, employees made sure items were priced correctly on the stocked shelves. Workers, some wearing tool belts and knee pads, put their final touches on the former Dominick’s that underwent a $650,000 renovation, according to Fox River Grove officials.
Displayed on the wall above the fruits and vegetables was a sign that said “Fox River Grove’s Freshest Produce Market.” A “fresh meat” sign was above the meat and seafood department.
The Fox River Grove Jewel-Osco at 800 Route 14 is one of the company’s five new grocery stores opening in former Dominick’s locations in the Chicago area on Wednesday.
Along with the Fox River Grove store, Jewel in March bought four other Dominick’s properties, including two locations in Chicago and one location in Merionette Park and in Lake Zurich. Dominick’s parent company Safeway left the Chicago area market last year.
The opening of the new grocery stores coincides with renovations at 14 other Jewel-Osco locations in the Chicago region (none are in McHenry County). The grocery chain invested $100 million in the upgrades as part of a new format of fresher and higher quality products.
Store updates include self-service salad bars, juice bars, bakeries offering freshly baked breads, muffins and bagels, and a meat and seafood department that can season and steam fish for customers, among other improvements.
“Our business has picked up momentum over the last several months, and we have no intention of slowing down,” Jewel-Osco President Shane Sampson said in a news release. “We’re getting back to doing what’s right for our customers, our team and the community. Our mission is to support the neighborhoods that we serve by giving them the prices they deserve, the goods and services they want, and the highest standard of service.”
The Fox River Grove location includes sushi, chunk fruit, hot pizza, soup and a salad bar, which will be prepared on location, said Allison Sperling, Jewel-Osco spokeswoman.
“Jewel-Osco is now offering a wider variety of fresh items made in-store every day and revamping all of our fresh shops,” Sperling said. “Our goal is to cater to the community and the needs of our guests, and there is a heightened demand for fresh offerings.”
Jewel-Osco is pushing this approach as grocery chains such as Fresh Market and Mariano’s move into the Chicago area.
On the walls of its newest McHenry County Jewel location are pictures from around the area including a picture of the train bridge over the Fox River.
Above the pharmacy there is a sign that says “Fox River Grove Pharmacy” to reinforce the idea the store is the neighborhood’s market.
“It’s giving it the home-feel touch,” Store Director George Gaura said.
For those who need coffee while they grocery shop, a Starbucks inside of the grocery store, which was there when Dominick’s was open, is back in operation.
Jewel hired about 300 full- and part-time employees for its Fox River Grove store to work as cashiers, managers, and deli and bakery employees, among other jobs. About 20 of the employees worked for Dominick’s before it closed.
Carrie McWilliams of Crystal Lake is the pharmacy manager at Jewel, a role she had with Dominick’s before it closed.
Although she was heartbroken when Dominick’s decided to leave the Chicago area, she was happy the Fox River Grove store was opening back up as a Jewel-Osco.
“I see a lot of changes in Jewel-Osco, which are great for the future,” McWilliams said. “They’re putting more into the store, [and] more into the customer service.”
Village still owes Dominick’s money
Fox River Grove is still paying out an incentive to Dominick’s for building its former location close to the intersection of Route 22 and Route 14.
In 1999, the village agreed to pay Dominick’s $1.6 million in property tax and sales tax incentives to bring the chain into the Stonehill Shopping Center.
The location is part of one of the village’s TIF districts.
The village is in the process of paying Dominick’s $186,000 this fiscal year, after which about $31,000 will still be owed.
“Dominick’s was there and producing the tax revenue,” said Village Administrator Derek Soderholm.