After six years of waiting, Shop and Save’s Local Market opens with big crowds and long lines
By Erick Johnson
Outside, the line stretched around the corner in 19-degree weather. Inside, the shelves were fully stocked and the cashiers were waiting to ring up some orders.
At exactly 10:55 on Wednesday, December 11, Local Market, Shop and Save’s high-quality, full-service supermarket finally opened for business to a throng of customers. After six years of waiting and lots of hype, the 64,000-square foot Local Market began its first day as a much-needed anchor in the beleaguered Jeffrey Plaza in South Shore.
Traffic was backed up and the parking lot packed with cars as the line grew longer by the minute. Olaf, the animated character from Disney’s “Frozen” was among several figures who took pictures with would-be shoppers as they waited in cold temperatures for the store to open.
Located in the vacant Dominick’s space, Local Market looks similar to a Mariano’s or Whole Foods with a full- service bakery, hot foods service counter and extensive delicatessen. There is also a bar and special dining section where shoppers can eat in-store. The store will also have a Fine Wine & Cold Brews section, which was not open on opening day.
Many of the aisles were wide and held an impressive array of products. Some products available at Local Market are not found at other stores in the neighborhood. The store even has real two-foot Fraser Fir Christmas trees for sale.
As a DJ played Donnie Hathaway’s “This Christmas,” customers young and old grabbed shopping carts and plucked fresh fruit and vegetables from a jaw-dropping produce section offering a wide variety of organic products.
Yards away was another section that presented a big buffet of hot foods, including grilled chicken, collard greens, macaroni and cheese and shrimp. Shoppers were everywhere and so were sales discounts.
It was a long overdue grand opening that made the wait worth it for many shoppers, many of whom never shopped at a Local Market before Wednesday. Hundreds walked away with green tote bags of free groceries. The bags were given to the first 500 shoppers at the supermarket.
That giveaway offer led many shoppers to get up early and stake out a spot outside Local Market. By the time the store opened, the line stretched all the way to the H&R Block on the other side of the strip mall shopping center.
Kenneth Smith, 68 was the first one in line. He arrived at the store at 7 a.m. and waited nearly four hours before the store opened. During the ribbon cutting ceremony Smith was given $100 in addition to a free bag of groceries.
“I heard about it [opening] yesterday. Since I was so close I just hopped on the bus and came down,” said Smith, who lives in South Shore. “Finally, they put something over here. It’s been too long.”
Near the end of the line was Roy Dyson, 65, who said he arrived about 9:45 a.m.
“No pain no gain. Anything for free you got to wait in line, right?” said Dyson, who lives six blocks away and takes a bus to shop at Trader Joe’s in downtown Chicago. Dyson said he learned about the opening from a sign he saw a day before. “It just so happened that I was going grocery shopping today. I’m very excited about the quality of this type of store being here.”
The store opened one day before Sharon Baxter’s 59th birthday. She waited in line with two of her friends. They received a special invitation to a reception the day before.
“I can’t wait,” Baxter said. “I’ve seen things that I haven’t seen in stores around here.”
The opening ends a long six-year battle to replace the vacant Dominick’s supermarket after parent Safeway closed all of its 15 Dominick’s stores in the Chicago area in 2013. Most of the stores have since been replaced by Mariano’s and Whole Foods.
The vacant Dominick’s space in Jeffrey Plaza was the last store to be taken over. Without a main anchor to attract shoppers, the plaza suffered over the years as other businesses struggled. Residents in the neighborhood shopped at the nearby overcrowded Jewel and Save A Lot supermarkets.
In 2017, Shop and Save owners Eva and Cezary Jakubowski signed a lease before they decided to purchase the entire Jeffrey Plaza shopping center for $25 million. In return they received $10 million in TIF funds.
Eva Jakubowski said Local Market has about 80 employees, many of whom live in predominately Black South Shore. The store held several job fairs in South Shore to attract locals from the neighborhoods.
“We saw the community as an innovator and a partner in our store design,” Eva said. “It’s growing and diverse, and very different from other locations. This inspired us to design a store to meet the community’s current and evolving needs. We’ll try new things, keeping strategies that work and learning when they won’t.”
Alderman Leslie Hairston (5th Ward) fought to help the couple open the supermarket in the plaza. She joined the owners during a brief ribbon cutting ceremony.
“It’s wonderful,” Hairston said. “The people are able to shop in their neighborhood. We left no stone unturned in terms of giving amenities to the community.”