Old Town grocer Plum Market alleges it is being pushed out in a 'quiet, back-door agreement' to make way for new Dom's Kitchen and Market – Chicago Tribune

Specialty grocer Plum Market is alleging a “quiet back-door agreement” is leading to its ouster to make way for new grocery store Dom’s Kitchen and Market.
Dom’s, a downsized grocery store launched last year by grocery executive Bob Mariano and partners affiliated with the former Dominick’s grocery chain, plans to open its second location this fall. Plum Market said the move is forcing its Old Town store — the only Chicago location of the Michigan-based company — to close.
In a letter to customers, Plum CEO Matthew Jonna said the company had not planned to close the Chicago store, but a deal between the property manager and Dom’s led to the termination of the store’s lease. He described the move as a “low blow” by Mariano.
“It is true that landlords and leases come and go, but independent grocers usually pride themselves on operating with integrity and supporting local vendors and artisans,” he said. “Plum Market certainly walks that walk, as does most of its competition, but Dom’s actions certainly cast a dark shadow on independent grocers.”
Plum Market is scheduled to close June 26, and will scale back offerings and hours in the coming weeks, Jonna said in the letter. The Chicago store employed more than 120 people, some of whom have been transferred to stores out of state, he said.
Plum Market invested millions into the location, he said. After those improvements and other expenses, the landlord’s decision to terminate the lease “without even having the decency to reach out to us,” and Dom’s decision to pursue the space, are “unconscionable, dishonorable and disgusting,” Jonna said.
Dom’s Kitchen and Market executives said in a statement they were approached about the Old Town location, and said it would not be appropriate “to speculate or otherwise comment on the relationship between the landlord and the current tenant.”
“We are surprised and disappointed to learn of this ill-founded interpretation of the move that we are making to the new Old Town location,” they said. “As an independent grocer ourselves, we know all too well the challenges of operating in this competitive environment.”
Property manager Heitman LLC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Old Town location is set to become Dom’s second, after it opened a store in a converted Halsted Street strip mall in Lincoln Park in June. The company hopes to open 15 Chicago-area markets by 2025, including locations in the city and suburbs.
Dom’s signed a 15-year lease on the 27,000-square-foot Old Town space at 1233 N. Wells St., which will include fresh produce, meats, a bakery and other food items along with in-store dining.
Plum Market opened its Chicago location in 2013. It focuses on organic, specialty and local items.
sfreishtat@chicagotribune.com
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