Retailers

In Chicago, Dom's Kitchen and Market Gets Ready to Grow

Refuting another grocer's claims of a back-door real-estate deal, Dom's prepares to open its second Windy City location
Photograph courtesy of Dom's Kitchen and Market

When Don Fitzgerald was 16 years old, he got his first paycheck as a bagger working for Dominick’s—the Chicago area grocery store chain that closed its doors in 2013. Fast forward to 2022, and Fitzgerald, a former Mariano executive, is now co-CEO of Dom’s Kitchen & Marketwhich yes, is named after Dominick DiMatteo, founder of his first grocery employer.  

Dom’s Kitchen & Market, helmed by Mariano’s founder Bob Mariano as well as Fitzgerald and Jay Owen, great-grandson of Dominick’s founder Dominick DiMatteo, opened its first location at 2730 N. Halsted St. in Chicago in June 2021.  

The 17,800-square-foot Lincoln Park location is meant to be experiential with Instagram-friendly lighting to attract “laptoppers.We are not a grocery store with food; we’re this hybrid of a kitchen and a market,” Fitzgerald said when he recently spoke to WGB.  

Dom’s, which features a curated collection of products sourced locally and globally, is banking on the trend of experiential retail, with grocery stores aiming to offer a more-pleasant—even genuinely enjoyable—shopping experience. The company recently hired Alain Balandra Uy, a veteran hospitality leader and consultant in Chicago, to serve as Dom's director of hospitality. Uy’s addition to the team is something Fitzgerald sees as an opportunity to enhance both the in-store and online experience.

"We want that hospitality feeling coming through wherever, either [in] brick-and-mortar or on the delivery platforms, and I think Alain will help us take it to the next level," Fitzgerald said. 

Dom's Kitchen & Market came to fruition during a difficult time for the grocery industry, Fitzgerald said. "Thinking about this before the pandemic, doing it through the pandemic and being at this point where we have a second store is really just a credit to the team and what they have pulled off," Fitzgerald said. "This was an opportunity to work with Bob again, and it’s a lot of fun to be co-CEO with him."

Grocery stores continue to battle supply-chain issues, which Fitzgerald said Dom’s continues to face as well, especially before the opening of Dom’s Lincoln Park location.

"A month before we opened our Lincoln Park location, we found out that all the custom-made shelving for Dom’s wasn’t going to make it because of supply chain issues," he said. "So we scrambled looking here in the Midwest and found shelving."

Fortunately, the Lincoln Park location has met with early success, paving the way for future expansion, according to Fitzgerald. "We have a map of areas that we identified in Chicago," Fitzgerald said. "We want to continue to build in Chicago. We are also looking at suburban locations as well."

A second Dom's Kitchen & Market is set to open this fall at 1233 N. Wells St. in Chicago’s Old Town neighborhood. "It’s a great neighborhooda great market," Fitzgerald said. "We're excited about going into the Old Town neighborhood."

The expansion hasn't been without controversy, of late: Plum Market, a Michigan-based specialty grocer that operates its only Chicago store in the location Dom's is moving into in Old Town, alleges that a "quiet back-door agreement" is leading to its ouster, the Chicago Tribune reported Feb. 28. The newspaper reported that Plum CEO Matthew Jonna sent a letter to Plum’s customers stating that the store's lease was unexpectedly terminated and calling Dom's move into the space "unconscionable, dishonorable and disgusting." Plum Market has operated in the 1233 N. Wells St. space since 2013.

Leaders of Dom’s Kitchen & Market refuted Jonna’s claims regarding the Old Town storefront location said in a a statement that they were "surprised and disappointed to learn of this ill-founded interpretation of the move that we are making to the new Old Town location."

"As an independent grocer ourselves," they continued, "we know all too well the challenges of operating in this competitive environment. Our intentions have always been to grow into neighborhoods where we can continue to expand the rich and meaningful food experience we provide. We were approached about the availability of the Old Town location and reached an agreement with the landlord. It would not be appropriate for us to speculate or otherwise comment on the relationship between the landlord and the current tenant."

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