There are news stories that people should care about, and there are news stories people DO care about because even though they don’t impact their lives in a significant way, they impact them in a NOTICEABLE way.
This is why people can be vaguely aware WWIII is looming over Syria, but acutely aware that road construction is taking place on Lemont Road/Main Street between Valley View and 63rd Street.
One thing that ripples through our neighborhood like a ribbon of fudge through vanilla ice cream — grocery store news. A frequent topic of conversation was “what will go in” when The Dominick’s went out next to Walgreens at the corner of Lemont Road and Old Main. Sure, one of those Halloween store things went in but we all knew it was temporary. Then Michael’s Fresh Market went in, and disappeared under a cloud of mystery. It sat empty, prompting endless speculation, followed by what seemed to be an eternity of “Coming Soon: Shop and Save” plastered on the window. Eventually, Shop and Save opened and we finally have a place to buy gelatinous mutant coconut and sauerkraut out of a barrel and smell smelly fish.
We have many other grocery store options at Our End of Town. We have an Aldi and an Ultra for bargain groceries. We have Brookhaven, Westbrook Market and Amicis in addition to Shop and Save for independently-owned ethnic flair. But the one stalwart of not only our neighborhood but all of Chicagoland is The Jewel.
I have been angry at Jewel since a bunch of upstart outsiders staged a hostile takeover of our locally-owned stores in 1984 and turned them into Not What I Grew Up With. I remember hearing a story on the radio about how one of the first things they did was take away an incentive contest for fast, accurate cashiers which earned the fastest, most precise person for the week a cake from the bakery. I guess that cut too deeply into their profit margins. Jerks.
Other owners have come and gone. And I have sullenly regarded Jewel as occupied by foreign interlopers who just don’t understand the Chicago market market. And when I read about the newest owners, I was just as unimpressed, if not more so. New York investment firm. Doesn’t even know grocery stores. Great.
They improved things. They took away the reward card, which I always (correctly) viewed as something that helped them a lot more than it helped us. They give us 10 percent off our bill on Bears game day if we wear a jersey (sorry, Cheeseheads. Not for you). And now, they’re taking away that symbol of corporate oppression, the self-checkout lane. More service! More jobs! For HUMANS!
Maybe they’ll even let cashiers compete for a weekly cake again! I never thought I’d say this, but a group of anonymous New York investors actually improved something. Probably because they listened to people who actually shop at their stores, but I don’t know for sure.
I have been back. Their produce prices are still a little rape-y, for the precut stuff at least, but they’re getting better. Go, pinstriped corporate goons, go!
UPDATE: I should mention that a new grocery store has opened in the former Westbrook Market space at 63rd and Woodward called Familia Fresh Market. Also, a Mariano’s is in the works for Westmont, but that’s not happening any time soon, I think.