The Jewel – Osco Store on South Milwaukee Avenue and village officials may be fighting an uphill battle to keep shoppers, and hence their tax base, in Libertyville after Mariano’s grocery store opens in late June.
Mariano’s, which is owned by Roundy’s, is in the Vernon Hills village limits and is expected to take a bite out of Libertyville’s tax base. But how big of a bite remains to be seen and village administrators don’t have exact numbers. They are also discussing solutions to keep their tax base at its current level even if sales at the Jewel-Osco are weakened.
The Jewel-Osco store is on a state list of the village’s top 20 tax-earning entities. When tax dollars are paid to the village, a lump sum arrives. Village administrators don’t know the position of the Jewel-Osco store on the list, or how much of their tax base can be credited to the store.
But the Economic Development Commission and village administrators plan a media blitz they hope will keep business steady at the Jewel-Osco. EDC members and village staff are working to find the best ways to educate people about the importance of keeping tax dollars in the village.
Boundaries between the villages of Libertyville and Vernon Hills are the biggest problem, say EDC members. Member Steve Martin said he has spoken to more than 20 people in the last month, asking them if they know the location of the southern boundaries of the village. “Many people think the train tracks are the boundary,” he said. “Not one of them knew the correct boundary.”
Residents may find a letter or a map in their next water bill. This information is expected to include an outline of Libertyville’s village limits. The village’s website will be updated with the information, also. The information was not put together in time for the village’s last quarterly newsletter, said Director of Community Development John Spoden, but anyone who receives the village’s email blast will get the information.
On the opening day of Mariano’s, Mayor Terry Weppler is expected to spend half of his day at Sunset Foods and at the Jewel-Osco, thanking customers for shopping at their local grocery store.
Heather Rowe, Economic Development Coordinator for the village suggested that Sunset Foods and the Jewel-Osco store reach out to the baseball teams and other groups they have supported in the past and ask for their continued support.
Media Blitz May Not Help
Jewel-Osco and Mariano’s are comparable shopping experiences. Both offer store brand items, some specialty items, and customer service.
Karen May, External Communications Manager for Jewel-Osco said that in addition to the traditional departments such as the Chef’s Kitchen deli, bake shop and pharmacy, the Libertyville Jewel-Osco offers their new nutrition iQ program and customers can ask at the service desk for a list of gluten-free products.
Mariano’s website touts a “shopping environment filled with amenities like an Italian coffee shop serving authentic gelato, a wood-fired pizza oven, and sit down sushi bar; not to mention a full-service pharmacy.”
Patch readers seem eager to try the new store, despite what it might do to the village of Libertyville’s tax base. Many are simply looking out for their own wallet. In response to the previous article on Patch about the opening of Mariano’s, reader Sgrjsg wrote, “Do you really think people care where the "boundaries" are?…Customers will always shop where they can get the best product, service and price offerings!”
Other readers responded with negative feelings about shopping at Jewel-Osco. Many questioned why they should shop at a store in Libertyville when they feel they can get better food at lower prices a few more yards down the road.
“I'm happy there will be an alternative to Jewel at the southern end of town. Jewel's produce and meat are below par,’ Elizabeth commented.
Another reader, Fred, said he welcomes another grocery store because we live in a free enterprise system. He believes Jewel’s prices would remain competitive.
Patch reader Sue said village residents should shop in their local store to keep tax dollars coming in to their home towns but wants help from village administrators. “If Libertyville loses tax revenue because people shop in Vernon Hills, then the residents of Libertyville can expect to see their quality of life deteriorate. I choose to shop in Libertyville every chance I get. That said, the mayor and trustees of Libertyville should be working harder to get us the stores we need to avoid having to travel elsewhere for our shopping needs,” she wrote.
EDC Searches for Other Sources
At the May 18 meeting, members of the EDC discussed other ways to save the village’s tax base instead of concentrating on the Jewel.
Before the meeting, EDC chairman John Cortesi said the village has received new tax dollars from the plaza near the intersection of Milwaukee Avenue and East Park Avenue. That plaza is home to a few restaurants, including Dunkin’ Donuts and Chipotle and a dry cleaners but still has some vacancies.
During the meeting, Cortesi questioned how much of the Jewel– Osco store’s business comes from Vernon Hills residents who won’t drive to Mariano’s. “There is a lot of density on the west side,” he said.
Jeff Lovinger, a representative from MainStreet Libertyville, a nonprofit group dedicated to developing the downtown area, attended the meeting. He said the Westfield mall is beginning to lose stores and has been losing foot traffic for many years. He cited Roland’s Jewelers as an example, saying it moved from its mall location to downtown Libertyville. He said EDC members should speak to owners of the smaller stores in the mall and offer Libertyville as a viable alternative.
EDC members also discussed putting in signs at the village’s borders to remind people where they are shopping. Currently, banners proclaiming, "Shop Libertyville" hang from streetlights in the village, and they mark the southern boundary of the village along Route 21: at the southern end of Red Top Plaza on the east side, and just north of Gregg's Parkway on the west side.
Cortesi said they would continue discussing the media blitz and their business retention program at their next meeting in June.
Correction: In a previous version, we stated that the village has not received tax revenue from the plaza near the intersection of Milwaukee Avenue and East Park Avenue. The article has been corrected to reflect that the village has already received tax revenue from the plaza.