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When Dominick’s leaves Chicago’s Far North Side, will a food desert replace it?

Updated: November 14, 2013 6:34AM

Here’s my biggest concern after hearing Dominick’s is pulling out of Chicagoland: We’ll be adding one humongous food desert on the Far North Side.

And I’ll be living in it. Me, a food editor, will be without her regular grocer, and I have major doubts anyone will step in to fill those supermarket shoes. Wow.

Rogers Park and the northeastern portion of Edgewater is Dominick’s country. The Safeway chain has stores at Clark and Howard, Damen Avenue, Broadway and Elmdale, Foster and Sheridan. Right west of us in Lincolnwood is another at Pratt and McCormick. I make the rounds between all of them.

There are smaller markets, but none with the breadth of Dominick’s offerings. What are the residents in this densely populated section of the city going to do?

Since the news broke, I’ve read stories describing Dominick’s stores as worn out. Maybe that’s true in certain suburbs, other parts of the city, but not here. The totally rebuilt Foster store is barely three years old. Broadway underwent an extensive update recently, and the resurrected Damen location is fairly new. Clark and Howard could be spruced up.

These stores have Starbucks, olive bars, expanded cheese sections. People praise Dominick’s selection of beer and wine. I like their produce. And their staff; some have waited on me for 25-plus years. What’s going to happen to them?

Because I follow a specific eating plan, I make about 90 percent of my meals from scratch. Others don’t eat that way, and Dominick’s prepared carry-out food selection needed an update. Mariano’s has ’em beat there.

These closures also have an impact on commercial strips. Broadway has a rebuilt Walgreen’s and public library that opened this summer. An older building has been gutted and is being rehabbed, but amid all that progress will be a gaping hole where Dominick’s was.

These are stores that aldermen fought to have in their communities. When Damen originally closed, aldermen pressured Dominick’s to return. The store at Clark and Howard anchors a shopping mall Ald. Joe Moore worked hard to bring to his 49th Ward.

I could head to Evanston, to Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s. Mariano’s will be opening in Skokie. But that takes my shopping dollars out of the city. I don’t like that and neither should Mayor Emanuel. And if you have no car, what then?

Supermarket analysts are saying a lot of the Dominick’s stores will be snatched up. That’ll be true of many in the suburbs and the wealthier parts of Chicago. But that same diversity — racial and economic — that those of us who live here seek hasn’t proven to be a draw for retailers.

Jewel was in Rogers Park and left. Trader Joe’s was wooed to set up shop on Broadway, said no thanks and gave the strip to an Aldi with more limited selections instead.

I’ll probably end up shopping somewhere along my commute, but I can’t help but worry about what this means for my neighbors.


Twitter: @SueOntiveros

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