By AARON GETTINGER
The Hyde Park Treasure Island Foods, 1526 E. 55th St., known for its basement community meeting room and 10 percent student discount, will close on Oct. 12 or when all products sell out. The store began liquidating its inventory on Monday, Oct. 1, with all items on sale.
The supermarket chain, which was established in 1963, is in the process of closing all its stores in the Chicago area.
While rumors abound as to what will replace Treasure Island at its Hyde Park Shopping Center location, the University of Chicago, which owns the property, said the selection process was wide open.
In a statement, the U. of C. said it “will work aggressively to identify a new tenant” after being notified of the impending closure on the evening of Sept. 28.
“We recognize the importance of this amenity to our community, and will work closely with the local community and elected officials to attract a business that will serve the community’s interests,” the statement said.
On Monday, shoppers took advantage of goods discounted 10 to 40 percent and picked shelves clean. The frenzied scene was reminiscent of that of a community about to suffer some great natural catastrophe. One woman said she waited an hour to check out.
Andrew Deng, a graduate student said he wasn’t sure what he would do now that his standard supermarket was going to close.
“It’s always been a limited grocery experience in Hyde Park, and if you’re closing the only midrange grocery store, it doesn’t leave a lot of options,” he said.
Store employees were told on Saturday that they would lose their jobs and that none of them would receive severance. A high-ranking employee conceded that the supermarket would not likely not make it until Oct. 12, leaving groups that use its basement for meetings in potential limbo.
The Hyde Park Treasure Island opened in 2008 after the closure of the Hyde Park Coop, which was established during the Great Depression by local community members including former University of Chicago professor and U.S. Senator Paul Douglas. The Coop folded after 75 years, due in part to a failed expansion onto 47th Street.
Treasure Island and the Coop have been the anchor tenants of the Hyde Park Shopping Center since it opened as part of urban renewal efforts in the 1960s.
Throughout the summer, customers made note of unstocked shelves at Treasure Island. Complaints crescendoed last week: management said the store was experiencing issues with vendors; a worker said new products were being supplied by the chain’s other locations and complained that management was not telling employees anything.
The produce section had been fully stocked over the last week, but many items in the dry goods, dairy and butcher sections have been out-of-stock. Several Hyde Parkers called the Herald asking about the store’s condition before the announcement of the chain’s folding.
Numerous attempts to contact the Treasure Island corporate office were unsuccessful.