When news hit on Thursday last week that Dominick’s parent company Safeway had announced its intention to exit the Chicago market in early 2014, my phone went crazy. Everyone was eager to share the news with me.
In one sense, I was stunned. Not because it finally happened, but just because I had expected something like this to happen for so long that once it finally did, you can’t help feel a wave of emotions.
I worked at the Frankfort Dominick’s (Safeway Store 1154) from Sept. 2001 to April 2007. I was the lowest on the totem poll, as a menial parking lot cart pusher, bagger and occasional stocker. It was my high school and college job. At that stage in life, five and a half years at one place feels like an eternity.
What’s hard for me to grasp is that it’s already been six years since I left. Time really does move faster as you grow older.
The job itself was less than spectacular. The nature of retail and the mundane duties inside a grocery store isn’t much to write home about. Moral was often low, with everyone often feeling under appreciated by both local store management and corporate. While Dominick’s was then the number two grocery store chain in the Chicago area behind Jewel, the margin between the two stores was gigantic. Following the three years without a contract between corporate and the union (mid 2000s), the worst kept secret was that Safeway wanted nothing more to do with the Dominick’s chain.
I worked there knowing (or hoping) that I would move onto bigger and better things after finishing college. I had no reason to take much of the corporate blunders at that company personally. And yet, having been there as long as I had, having gotten to know a wonderful group of people, I was fully vested. I wanted Dominick’s to succeed. I wanted the company to find a way to survive and thrive — not for the sake of corporate, but for the many wonderful people who have made a career there.
Not long after Safeway purchased the Dominick’s chain in 1998, the company quickly muddied up the shopping experience by removing popular items (many of which were unique to Dominick’s) in exchange for generic Safeway branded items. Between the unpopular changes made by Safeway, the rise of Super Walmart, Super Target and specialty stores like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, Dominick’s became stagnant. Their higher prices didn’t help.
For as unpleasant as the job at Dominick’s was, I don’t regret having stayed for so long. Many of the people there became a second family. I left there with so many fond memories.
Four of the 78 Dominick’s stores have already been sold and will soon become Jewel stores. The fate of the remaining 68 stores is up in the air. Many of them will close.
The Frankfort Dominick’s may very well be one of them. There is no shortage of grocery store options in the Frankfort/Mokena area — Jewel, Walt’s, Berkot’s, Brookhaven Marketplace, Mariano’s and soon Meijer.
Even if the Frankfort Dominick’s is sold to another company and the employees’ jobs are spared, it still won’t be the same place. Once it becomes a Shop N Save, an Ultra Foods or some other nameless entity, the charm will be gone.
Even though I haven’t been a regular shopper at that store, it was nice to know that it was there. Whenever I would occasionally visit, I’d walk through the revolving doors with the feeling of having gone back in time.
In the series finale of “The Office,” the Andy Bernard character played by Ed Helms recites a specific line that is so very true… “I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve actually left them.”
While working there, I couldn’t wait until the day I could finally leave. I had my eyes set on completing college, doing something more aligned with my career aspirations, making more money, and marrying Meagan. Now, six and a half years later, I’m very thankful to have done all of that. And while I couldn’t wait to get out of that store, there is no denying that my time spent at the Frankfort Dominick’s were indeed some pretty good old days.
Thank you and goodbye.