Far North Side’s food drought coming to an end

Written By By SUE ONTIVEROS Posted: 04/17/2014, 12:19am

Hey, I was wrong, and I couldn’t be happier about it.

Last fall, after it was announced that Safeway would close all of its Dominick’s stores, I wrote a column expressing concern that the Far North Side lakefront area — where I live — would become a food desert.

Well, Chicago’s Grocery Task Force just announced that the last of the former Dominick’s stores in my area has been sold. In fact, all of the old Dominick’s stores in the city except one — on 71st Street in South Shore — have been purchased and are in the process of being retrofitted or totally remodeled. It looks like the Mariano’s that took over Dominick’s at Foster and Sheridan will be the first to open, in April.

So, while North Siders who have former Dominick’s nearby eventually will have new supermarkets where the old ones were, there will be a bit of period of time when we’ll have to make do. Ald. Joe Moore (49th), who’s on the task force, knows this has been tough on his constituents and others in the area.

“A lot of Rogers Park residents don’t own a car,” he told me last week. For many, “this has been an inconvenience and even a hardship,” especially given the harsh winter.

Here’s the good and bad I’ve learned about living without a major supermarket close by. Planning is vital; I religiously update the grocery list on my phone because I never know when I’ll happen upon a supermarket during my daily travels.

I gave up pretty quickly going to nearby Jewel stores, especially on weekends, because they were packed and — hard as they tried — often couldn’t keep stocked on some items. Finding parking in the lot at the Berwyn and Broadway location was like being at Woodfield during the Christmas season.

I wonder if that helped Jewel realize what a vibrant shopping community exists in this part of the city. Maybe it played a role in the chain’s decision to return to Rogers Park, this time at Clark and Howard.

Some mornings I’d leave home super-early so I could stop before work at the Jewel west of the Sun-Times. On one below-freezing day, my salad greens had ice on them by the time I got back in my car at the end of the day.

But the closing of my local grocery store, at least temporarily, hasn’t been all bad. It has forced me to stop being so narrow-minded and venture into smaller grocers nearby. And what I’ve found has been great. I’ve discovered friendly staffs and really fresh produce (often at reasonable prices), albeit in smaller quarters. It’s amazing how cleverly these grocers make the most of space. I can get just about everything, just not always in larger quantities.

Moore said I’m not the only Rogers Park resident who’s mentioned the positive reaction to our area’s smaller options. “That’s been the upside that a lot of us have been experiencing,” he said.

Still, I’ll be glad when I can hop off the L, walk or bike to a supermarket again. And I hope that shoppers in South Shore have that option again soon, too. Just like us up north, those South Siders need their supermarket, too.

Email: sontiveros@suntimes.com

Twitter: @SueOntiveros

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