New Mariano’s to be bigger than two nearby groceries – together

NORTHBROOK — Northbrook’s Skokie Boulevard is about to become one of the most grocery-store-rich streets in Chicago suburbia.

Northbrook village trustees Jan. 14 officially approved a 71,000 square-foot Mariano’s Fresh Market as part of the NorthShore 770 project on the northwest corner of Skokie and Dundee Road. That’s almost within sight of the Village Square of Northbrook, a half-mile to the north, where there are not one, but two, existing grocery stores: Garden Fresh Market and Trader Joe’s.

It’s a bad move, east Northbrook activist Susan Nelson told trustees before the unanimous positive vote. She had opposed both the cancelled Walmart proposal for 1000 Skokie Boulevard as well as Northshore 770, with its 347 apartments, Mariano’s and four smaller stores.

Last month, she brought about 300 anti-Northshore petitions to the meeting where trustees tentatively approved the NorthShore project. She brought them back Jan. 14, and said she was now concerned about the future of existing groceries, including Sunset Foods, about 4 miles away.

“The groceries most likely to be negatively impacted are Trader Joe’s and Garden Fresh, which employ 366 people who would lose their jobs if they were not able to compete against two new Mariano’s in town,” she told trustees.

The second Mariano’s she referred to is the one that’s to rise on the old Culligan property, at Sanders and Willow roads in what is now Glenview.

After the meeting, Northbrook Trustee Michael Scolaro told her that his panel couldn’t legislate against competition.

Friday, Garden Fresh manager Avi Mor said, “I think competition is something good.”

But he added that, just like “You can’t put 100 restaurants all on one street – how many grocery stores can you have on the same street?

“I think the village made a mistake.

“It’s two blocks away.”

Garden Fresh opened 10 years ago, and immediately staked out a territory that no other Northbrook grocery had. It opened a kosher deli, and a kosher section covering a significant segment of its 37,000 square feet. The store also stocks an unusual amount of ethnic offerings, and has a large produce section, where hard-to-find items such as yam-like malanga coco and dandelion greens were available Friday.

“We go to market seven days a week,” Mor said.

Trader Joe’s, which moved to 127 Skokie Boulevard about six years ago from the Brookside Shopping Center, north of town, in unincorporated Cook County, is smaller than Garden Fresh, but the chain’s stores are typically more compact and often compete with larger stores close by.

One of the ways they compete is with more organic offerings than typical grocery stores, sold more inexpensively than organic specialist Whole Foods.

Mariano’s, like the existing stores on Skokie Boulevard, carries a variety of food types.

“They do have some natural and organic foods,” Sara Stoffer, one of Northbrook Trader Joe’s managers, said Saturday. She said she hadn’t been aware that a new store was planned for the street.

She said that one of the keys to Trader Joe’s is a store where people know how to find what they want in a store with a manageable size. “They come in and come out,” she said.

“We do have a very loyal following,” she grinned. “They come here for the adventure that is Trader Joe’s.”

The NorthShore 770 developers have asked for $4.9 million in incremental tax proceeds from the project. A Joint Review Board of affected tax bodies will reconvene to decide whether they get it at 7:30 a.m. Jan. 30, at Village Hall, 1225 Cedar Lane. Scolaro chairs the group.

Nelson said that the tax money should be withheld, both because she thinks Mariano’s parent Roundy’s carries too much debt, and because the project itself threatens existing businesses.

“It should be interesting,” Scolaro said.

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