(Photography by Vito Palmisano)
For nearly a decade now, the Chicago-area grocery market has been undergoing a dramatic transformation, driven primarily by two factors: the arrival of Mariano’s (owned by Roundy’s, now a part of The Kroger Co.), and the closing of longtime mainstay Dominick’s Finer Foods by parent company Safeway.
The Mariano’s concept, built on an overall fresh experience and enhanced prepared foods, compelled other players to up their game, and the locations vacated by Dominick’s provided an opportunity for other operators — chains and independents alike — to broaden their footprints in the Chicago metro area.
Both of these moves are part of the growth strategy of Jewel-Osco, which has been remodeling existing stores and opening new ones as it strives to fortify its position as the Chicago market leader and, since Dominick’s departure, the area’s one true hometown grocery chain.
Among the latest projects toward that goal is a new, two-level urban-format supermarket in the Gold Coast neighborhood on Chicago’s North Side. Replacing a 29,000-square-foot store razed in 2015 after operating on the site for decades, the 56,000-square-foot market, opened in summer 2017, occupies two floors at the base of a new 35-story, 390-unit luxury apartment tower called The Sinclair.
“The flagship store at Clark and Division was an opportunity to rebuild a smaller Jewel-Osco into a unique grocery store that caters to the residents in that neighborhood,” says Anthony Suggs, VP of marketing and merchandising. “The store is the second location for Jewel-Osco that houses a full-service bar, named Division on the Rocks, along with fresh food offerings. This strategy falls in line with the company’s decision to better serve our customers by offering fresh and organic items that are already prepared, or easy to prepare, at competitive prices.”
Fresh, Fast, Frequent
Stepping off the elevator from the elegant Sinclair residences or the parking garage, visitors entering the store here (there’s also a street-side entrance) first encounter the deli, where they find a grab-and-go case stocked with sandwiches, salads and quick meal items. “We get an extensive lunch crowd here,” notes Sheila Whitiker, store director.
Division on the Rocks “has allowed us to host events with live cooking demos and prestigious chefs while sharing wine- or beer-pairing ideas,” notes Tina Browen, director of marketing. “It is really fun watching our customers take part in these events.”
Anything Customers Want
Back downstairs, the deli offers packages of pre-sliced meats and cheeses for faster service, along with signature items like in-house roasted turkey breast. The cheese counter features more than 400 specialty varieties from home and abroad. “We create party trays, anything customers want,” Whitiker says. “It’s a growing category.”
Jewel-Osco was founded in 1899 by Frank Ross and his brother in-law Frank Skiff, who were selling tea and coffee from a horse-drawn wagon. Today, Jewel-Osco has 187 locations, most in the greater Chicago area, with four in northwest Indiana and one in Clinton, Iowa. One of 19 grocery banners owned by Boise, Idaho-based Albertsons Cos., Jewel-Osco maintains its headquarters in Itasca, Ill., a northwestern suburb of Chicago.