Four locations are set to open Thursday. The location used to serve as the flagship Dominick's store in Chicago. And while some longtime employees still find it hard to imagine the store will be a Jewel, they're the lucky ones because they still have jobs.
Construction crews and contractors jostled with merchandisers to get the South Loop store ready for show time. From stacking shelves at age 16 to leading the transition, Michael Chimera said he is grateful to Jewel for saving his store.
Jewel is spending nearly $4 million to convert the four Dominick's stores it bought last fall when the 90-year-old Chicago grocer decided to leave this market; 450 of 6,000 employees got to keep their jobs and many are determined to make the switch positive for customers.
Jewel is keeping some Dominick's touches in place -- the Starbucks and Chase bank outlets for instance -- but focusing on customer wants, which Jewel says is the value that has helped them outlast their rival.
The converted stores are located at 1340 South Canal and 2550 North Clybourn in Chicago, 1340 Patriot Blvd. in Glenview and 14200 South Bell Road in Home Glen.
"The customers at Dominick's have been telling us for a long time that they would like a brighter store. Jewel has brighter stores, Jewel came in here re-lit the entire store and made it brighter, made it clean, fresh," said Chimera. "This store was the flagship store of Dominick's, and I am hoping to make it the flagship store of Jewel."
But for other longtime employees there's something bittersweet about two big competitors becoming one.
"After all the years of being with Dominick's, I never thought this would happen. I feel very fortunate to be picked up, and I am looking forward to this next part of my career," said Maria Edwards, 32-year customer service agent.
"I don't have any pressure," said Tiffany Jordan, scanning supervisor. "I'm confident... that everything is going to fall right into place like it always does."