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A man carries grocery bags

A person carrying grocery bags walks outside Dom’s Kitchen & Market in Lincoln Park. Shoppers were greeted with a sign that said the grocer would be closing for good.

Pat Nabong

Dom's Kitchen and Foxtrot abruptly shutter stores, months after specialty grocers merged

Storefront signs taped against the windows of Dom’s Kitchen & Market and Foxtrot on Tuesday saying “goodbye” and “we are closed” were met with a mix of shock and sadness by customers.

The specialty grocers had suddenly announced the immediate closure of all their stores in Chicago and beyond, less than six months after the two Chicago-based companies shared plans to merge.

Dom’s Kitchen posted on its website that it was a “difficult decision” and comes after the firms explored multiple avenues to keep the businesses open. Ultimately, they couldn’t find a viable option. It said two Dom’s Kitchen sites and 33 Foxtrot locations across Dallas and Austin, Texas, as well as Washington, D.C., “will be closing their doors starting on April 23, 2024.”

“We would like to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of you for your loyalty and trust in Dom’s and Foxtrot,” the statement said. “It has been an honor to serve you, and we will cherish the memories we have created together.”

A sign outside Dom’s Kitchen & Market in Lincoln Park

A sign outside Dom’s Kitchen & Market in Lincoln Park reads: “Hey neighbors, Dom’s is saying goodbye & we’re shutting our stores and app down. Thanks for eating & enjoying with us.”

Pat Nabong

Foxtrot posted a similar statement on its website.

Crystal Jones, who works at Wrigley Field, said she walks by the Foxtrot location nearby, at 3649 N. Clark St., every day. She was surprised and disappointed to learn it had closed when she saw the sign posted in the window.

The sign said: “To our Wrigley regulars: We are closed for good. We loved serving you coffee everyday.”

“They made good food and everything so I don’t understand why they’re closing,” Jones said. “I’ve seen a lot of different things come and go so it’s nothing really new to see it go, but it’s sad.”

Stephanie Roatis, 26, lives down the street from Foxtrot’s Wrigley location. She was in work calls when she heard about the closure and stopped by as soon as she could to see it for herself.

“I’m pretty shocked,” Roatis said. “They just went through the merger, what, less than six months ago? I was assuming expansion, not randomly closing. And I also expected more of an explanation.”

She said her team at work visits Foxtrot once a week and she comes by regularly on her own to stock up on snacks.

Employees told the Sun-Times that they were told to dispose of the perishable items and leave everything else. But some employees arranged to have the food donated to nearby food banks.

Merging under Outfox Hospitality

In November 2023, Foxtrot and Dom’s Kitchen announced plans to merge under a new company called Outfox Hospitality. The deal was expected to close by the end of the year, though no financial terms were disclosed.

At the time, the stores said the merger would elevate the customer experience and boost the retail industry. The brands retained their names but planned for crossover services, like offering Foxtrot specialties in Dom’s stores.

Foxtrot CEO Liz Williams was expected to take the top operational role at Outfox, with Dom’s CEO Don Fitzgerald continuing through a transition period.

Both stores were known for having a smaller footprint compared to mass-market grocers. They were often located in upscale neighborhoods, carrying curated selections of food and spirits as well as offering online orders for pickup or delivery.

Foxtrot and Dom’s Kitchen, including its co-founder and co-Chairman Bob Mariano, did not immediately return requests for comment.

Both companies did not share specifics on what led to the closures in their statement, and it does not appear that they have filed for bankruptcy as of Tuesday.

Little warning for employees

Rebecca Haller, who worked at Foxtrot’s Wrigley Field location for a year and a half, said she had a feeling something was wrong Tuesday morning.

“We were told that supply chain would be an issue as of this weekend, which is strange, because the weekends are usually the busiest time,” Haller said. “That seemed kind of odd, and then this morning, our mobile app, people couldn’t order ahead. And that was the first tip off where I was like, ‘This is not good.’”

Haller was in the store when she received a company email about the closure, finding out she was off the grocer’s payroll as of noon. But she first heard the news from coworkers and said she has been too busy to read the entire email.

“I really loved working here. I like being next to Wrigley Field, and I loved the people I work with. So my only priority as of right now has been to just close the store and make it easy on my manager,” Haller said. “I do have a lot of respect for the neighborhood and the community. And the company, no, they don’t show the same regard.”

Foxtrot operated 15 locations in Chicago and 17 stores across Dallas and Austin, Texas, and Washington D.C. Dom’s Kitchen had two locations, 2730 N. Halsted St. and 1233 N. Wells St., and planned to open a third location at 30 W. Huron St. this summer.

In addition to Tuesday’s closure, the grocers said other services will end such as delivery services; account credit and member perk access; and other customer-facing services. The grocers’ mobile apps are also shutting down, according to Dom’s website.

A man carries a large appliance

A person carries an appliance out of Dom’s Kitchen & Market in Lincoln Park, 2730 N. Halsted, as shoppers learned the grocer is closing its locations.

Pat Nabong

Employees at a Foxtrot store in Washington D.C., were handing out free wine, according to the Washingtonian, which said general managers learned of the closings “on a call at 11 AM.”

It’s unclear how much advance notice Chicago staff were given. A search on the state’s Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity website showed the companies had not filed a WARN notice, often required by employers that plan to lay off workers.

Employees said human resources sent an email notifying staff of the closures at 11:38 a.m., a minute before customers received an email about the closings.

The email, viewed by the Sun-Times, said the “decision was not made lightly, and we understand the impact it will have on each and every one of you.”

“We understand that this news may come as a shock, and we want to assure you that we are committed to do our best to support you through this transition,” the email said.

It also offered access to a FAQs document for employees to find “necessary and accurate information” that would be updated “as more information becomes available.” The document explained that staff are no longer employed and should not report to their shifts “on or after Wednesday...unless specifically requested to do so,” with final checks sending out by Friday and health benefits ending April 30.

Locked doors

Trinh Vo, 20, who attends DePaul University, said she heard about the closure from a classmate, who worked at Dom’s Kitchen. She and a friend came by the Lincoln Park store, at 2730 N. Halsted St., Tuesday afternoon — hoping there might be discounted groceries — and were disappointed to find the doors locked.

“He was supposed to work later this afternoon, and then they’re just like, ‘Don’t come in today,’” Vo said. “I live right around here, and I know so many people that go here so I thought it was pretty popular. I’m kind of shocked.”

People stand outside a closed grocery store

People stand outside Dom’s Kitchen & Market in Lincoln Park as they read a sign that says the specialty grocery store is closing for good.

Pat Nabong

A Dom’s Kitchen employee at the Lincoln Park store, who preferred to remain anonymous, said he first heard about the closure on Monday through the rumor mill, but wasn’t notified by the company until Tuesday.

“Officially, I found out today,” he said. “I called my manager. He had a 10-minute meeting with the higher-ups, and they just did a Zoom meeting and said, ‘Yeah, we’re closing the store at 12. Make sure take the trash out; lock the doors.’ And that was the end of it. They’re asking questions, but they just ended the meeting and didn’t answer any questions.”

Jane Foster, 19, lives near Dom’s Kitchen and said the closure feels “surreal.”

“It’s frustrating to see people just being put out of work so abruptly,” Foster said. “This is people’s lives.”

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