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Co-ops look to fill in the Dominick’s gap

Jocelyn Gerard Rogers Park Food co-op talks with Matt Ryan Talking Farm Skokie during an open community meeting plans for

Jocelyn Gerard of the Rogers Park Food co-op talks with Matt Ryan of the Talking Farm in Skokie during an open community meeting on the plans for the co-op Wednesday evening in Rogers Park. | Michael R. Schmidt-For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 9, 2014 6:25AM

Jocelyn Gerard is keenly aware of the impact of losing a neighborhood Dominick’s.

And not just because the Rogers Park resident is active in hyper-local social media.

“Anytime anyone brings up the issue of Dominick’s closing, there’s a huge volume of commentary, and people are passionate,” she says. “The only other topic that elicits more comments is Chicago pizza. Where we get our food is like an incredibly personal thing.”

A food co-op she and other residents began pushing for a year ago has taken on even greater urgency.

Rogers Park is among the most ethnically diverse areas of the city, and home to a smattering of ethnic and smaller grocers. Gerard and others behind the Rogers Park Food Co-op say residents themselves can add a larger-scale grocery to the mix.

Modeled after Logan Square’s successful Dill Pickle Food Co-op, the Rogers Park Food Co-op would be operated by community residents who become owner-members. Planning began a year ago.

“The plan is to incorporate by January and start our membership campaign,” she says.

Promoting principles of self-help and sustainability, co-ops are funded by members who pay $200-$300 for a share of the business, reaping benefits once it’s up and running.

“For me, the big locomotive is that it’s going to grow the local farm economy and feed into food security issues,” says Gerard.

Still, it isn’t expected to open before 2017.

“It’s too far away to fill the immediate void left by the loss of Dominick’s on Howard Street. But we won’t have to find ourselves in this situation after that,” Gerard says.

On the North Side, where Dominick’s was the dominant grocer, impact from the grocer’s exodus in the Rogers Park and adjacent West Rogers Park communities will be significant.

Closing the 70,000-square-foot mega-Dominick’s at 1763 W. Howard could destabilize the 49th ward’s Gateway Centre shopping plaza, which had jump-started rejuvenation of an area long mired in gangs and drugs; while the shuttering of the Dominick’s at 6623 N. Damen leaves the 50th Ward a food desert.

“It’s very important we get another grocery store at the Damen location, because it’s the only grocery store in the 50th ward,” says Ald. Debra Silverstein (50th).

In 2007, the West Rogers Park store was among 14 underperforming outlets closed by Dominick’s. The store was reopened, but not until two years later.

“It’s very tough not to have a grocery store in your neighborhood. I’ve been working really hard with the city to try and ensure that doesn’t happen again,” Silverstein says. “We border several suburbs — Lincolnwood, Skokie, Evanston.

“Why would I want people to go outside the city to get their groceries?”


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