Treasure Island closing leaves void for many

The Hyde Park location of Treasure Island Foods, 1526 E. 55th St., permanently closed on Monday, Oct. 8, four days short of its originally projected closing date of Oct. 12.

Treasure Island Foods, 1526 E. 55th St., on its last day of operation, Monday, Oct. 8. – Aaron Gettinger

Staff Writer

Hyde Park residents’ reactions to the impending closure of Treasure Island Foods, 1526 E. 56th St., run the gamut some saddened by the loss others with hope of their favorite grocer coming in to fill the space.

In the meantime, disgruntled vendors and employees who resorted to protesting on the city’s North Side Monday, want Treasure Island (TI) to pay their debts and offer proper severance and local groups that took advantage of its basement meeting space are searching for new places to gather.

On Sept. 29, TI announced that it was closing all of its stores citywide. Since Oct. 1,  the store has been filled with shoppers taking advantage of the store’s closeout discount prices.

“What a sad week it has been; learning the Treasure Island will be closing.  I recall when the Co-op closed years ago and the panic I felt then, rose again in my throat and my heart,” said Hyde Park resident Judith Stanton, who said she and her husband, who are seniors, will now have to shop at three or four places to replace Treasure Island. “Treasure Island has been our, one stop, food store where we did all our shopping. The staff were welcoming, gracious, courteous, and helpful always going out of their way to please and accommodate. They were like family to us.”

Hyde Park resident Elena Bashir said bringing Aldi to Hyde Park would add balance to the neighborhood’s grocery store options.

“When I came to Hyde Park there were two mid-scale grocery stores, the Hyde Park Co-op and Village Foods.  When the Co-op closed it was replaced by the upscale Treasure Island.  Then, when Village Foods closed the even pricier Whole Foods replaced it,” Bashir said. “Bringing a low-cost Aldi to Hyde Park would be good for many students, people who don’t want to pay top dollar for groceries and people without cars enabling them to access grocery stores in other parts of Chicago.”

An anonymous letter to the editor in last week’s Herald from a TI employee alleged financial mismanagement on the part of the owners of the supermarket chain, and reporting last week from other publications appears to confirm the allegations.

On Oct. 1, the Anthony Marano Company, a produce wholesaler, sued TI in federal court for $453,000 in unpaid bills. On Oct. 4, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union sued, alleging that TI violated federal law by laying workers off fewer than 60 days after they received written notice of the impending loss of their jobs.

The Chicago Police Department announced that the next two Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy (CAPS) meetings covering beats in Hyde Park, scheduled for Oct. 17, and Nov. 21, from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., will be held at the Second District station, 5101 S. Wentworth Ave.

“We understand this is not the ideal location and we will be discussing new locations at the upcoming meetings,” read the release from officers Colleen Carcione and Denise Gathings.

Hyde Park OWL, a group of women over the age of 40, hosted its Saturday Midterm Election Discussion featuring guest speaker Public Policy Professor Ray Lodato, which was origonally scheduled to take place in the TI community space, at the University of Chicago Community Programs Accelerator, 5225 S. Cottage Grove Ave., according to OWL member Kathy Huff.

The Hyde Park–Kenwood Community Conference Used Book Sale went on as planned last weekend in the Hyde Park Shopping Center courtyard. The group still had access to the supermarket’s basement, where the book donations were stored, despite Treasure Island’s shorter operating hours ahead of its closure.

Susan Alitto, board member and founding president of the senior advocacy group Chicago Hyde Park Village, said the group is looking for alternative, low-cost venues for its community interest-driven events generally tailored to the neighborhood’s older population. The group has co-hosted a few events in collaboration with OWL, the University of Chicago and other partners at TI.

The Lakeside Quilters Guild, whose group meets from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. every Tuesday at TI, had their Oct. 9 meeting at the Hyde Park Art Center, 5020 S. Cornell Ave. Their management team has met to discuss new locations for formal meetings and Sit-n-Sew Tuesdays.

“We are going to try several spots to decide what works for us and what doesn’t until we can find a permanent or semi-permanent location,” said a statement on the Guild’s website. “We are not sure when and if we will be able to use the TI location in the future. If the University decides to put a new grocer in, it will take six months to a year to open, and they may end up having plans for the lower level.”

A representative of the United Credit Union said last week that the bank intends to keep its Hyde Park branch, located inside of TI open even after the supermarket shuts down. The representative said customers would be notified through a letter should anything change.