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Oswego Man Launches Jewel Boycott Over Vacant Dominick’s Stores

Dec 21, 2016 11:22PM ● Published by Shannon Antinori

Larry Martinez hasn’t set foot in his usual grocery store in three weeks, and has no plans to go back, he said.

The Oswego resident is boycotting Jewel-Osco over the lock its parent company, Albertsons, has on the leases of numerous vacant former Dominick’s stores. The stores, which closed in 2013, were acquired by Albertsons when it merged with Safeway  -- the parent company of Dominick's -- in January 2015.

Martinez – and several local officials – believe the stores are intentionally being kept vacant.

“Publicly, Albertsons, through Jewel-Osco has expressed their desire to lease the vacant stores,” Martinez said in a petition he launched last week. “In truth, they desire only to leave vacant storefronts that will not compete with their Jewel-Osco stores in these towns.”

Christine Wilcox, vice president of communications and public affairs for Albertsons, denied that claim, saying the company has actively sought to sell or lease the locations.

“Over 80 percent have been re-tenanted or returned to the landlord,” said Wilcox. She said 43 of the 76 locations are now operating as grocery stores, including 11 that are now Jewel-Osco locations.

Fifteen properties have yet to be sold or leased, according to Wilcox.

Martinez believes the stores are being purposely kept vacant, to the detriment of communities.

“As I started to read more and more about exactly what’s going on, I kept reading about the terms of the leases they had,” said Martinez, who works in real estate.

“Under the terms of the leases, Albertsons has the option to renew the leases for five year periods, potentially extending their hold on those properties until 2035,” Martinez said.

The lease on the former Dominick’s in Oswego expires in 2021. Martinez said it makes him angry every time he drives past the shuttered store.

Last week, he decided to launch the petition to boycott Jewel-Osco stores until the company begins working with communities to bring tenants to the vacant storefronts.

Martinez – who emailed his petition to Jewel-Osco East Division President Mike Withers and Jewel Communications Manager Mary Frances Trucco -- said he’s not naïve enough to believe his boycott will financially affect the supermarket’s parent company.

“I’m not deluding myself that enough people will not shop at Jewel-Osco to make an impact,” he said. But he hopes the campaign will prompt others to put pressure on Albertsons to take action.

“Maybe that will get some fires going,” he said.

Wilcox said Albertsons began scheduling meetings with elected officials more than a year ago to discuss the issue of the closed stores.

“Plainly put, if we felt that they were viable locations for profitable grocery stores, we would have opened stores there,” Wilcox said. “The assertion that we are keeping these locations from being leased or sold is simply untrue.”

Martinez said the closed stores are not only limiting shopping choices, but also hurting smaller businesses that are anchored by the larger stores.

“They rely on the foot traffic that a larger grocery store brings,” he said. “Not to mention the tax base and the jobs.”

For now, Martinez said he’s doing his shopping elsewhere.

“I don’t miss it,” he said of Jewel.


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