CRYSTAL LAKE – Judi Spizzirri was perusing Facebook on Thursday afternoon when she saw that all groceries in Joseph’s Marketplace were 70 percent off.
Fifteen minutes later, she was combing the aisles for the best of what was left. The independent grocer will close Friday.
“I’m going to miss it,” Spizzirri said. “They had good prices, variety, ethnic foods, their lunch meat couldn’t be beat. I was always here for the produce, too.”
Customers and cashiers said the store would close Friday at the latest.
More than 95 percent of the retail space in the store was empty Thursday afternoon. The store had advertised steep discounts in recent days, and the stocking of shelves continued to dwindle in recent weeks.
As shoppers waited in line a couple of minutes before 4 p.m. Thursday, some of the lights were turned off. Customers stocked up on sports drinks, bread, tomato sauces and household items.
There was no meat on display in the store, unless it was in the deli or frozen section, as of Wednesday, when groceries were 50 percent off. Produce shelves were close to empty.
Donna Brennecke was introduced to Joseph’s Marketplace about 10 years ago through her job as a caregiver. She would shop at the store with her clients. On Thursday, she was using an outstanding gift certificate to take advantage of the deals.
“I’m sad to see it go,” Brennecke said Thursday, just minutes before the store closed at 4 p.m. “They had a lot of stuff I wouldn’t normally buy, but I was introduced to all of these ethnic foods they had because of my clients.”
Brennecke, an Algonquin resident, was examining an aisle of plasticware and napkins at 70 percent off when she said, “I already filled my car once and came back in to buy more stuff.”
Joseph’s survived the recession after it opened in 2005, filling the space left vacant by an Eagle Food Center Inc. store.
It also bounced back from a three-month closure in 2011 after a partial roof collapse caused by a powerful summer storm.
Many in Crystal Lake and on social media have speculated that the anticipated opening of Mariano’s this spring, across the street on Route 14, led to the decision to close.
Joseph’s Marketplace management declined to comment in January, aside from confirming the store would close soon, and declined again to provide more information Wednesday and Thursday.
Crystal Lake economic development manager Heather Maieritsch said the store’s investment group considered closing in fall 2015 when Fresh Thyme Farmers Market opened on Route 14. But it’s unclear what specifically pushed the investors to close the store.
Mayor Aaron Shepley dispelled the rumor that Mariano’s coming to town is the reason Joseph’s decided to close in comments he made Feb. 2 at the Crystal Lake Chamber of Commerce State of the Community Luncheon. He said that, based on information Joseph’s shared with the city, Mariano’s had nothing to do with it. He noted that Mariano’s hadn’t even opened yet.
Crystal Lake Chamber of Commerce President Mary Margaret Maule previously has said the closure is “really unfortunate” and lauded Joseph’s for always being active in the community, including its aid in food drives to benefit the Crystal Lake Food Pantry.
There’s no doubt grocery competition is fierce everywhere, especially on Route 14, with Jewel-Osco, Fresh Thyme, Fresh Market, Aldi, Target and Mariano’s, beginning in April, all selling groceries.
Joseph’s is similar to Mariano’s, Spizzirri said, but not as expensive. Describing herself as an avid shopper, the Cary resident said the Joseph’s ownership team also operates Eurofresh Market in Palatine, which is similar to Joseph’s. She said she wouldn’t drive that far, however.
She noted the high-end organic items are available at Fresh Market and Fresh Thyme, both on Route 14.
“I’m not sure we can support all these stores,” she said. “Obviously, we can’t.”
Maieritsch said the city already is in talks to find a replacement retailer for the Joseph’s space. Madison Corporate Group, which owns the shopping center, posted a sign along Route 14 in front of Joseph’s advertising that there is space for rent.