December 02, 2021
Local News

Tony's Fresh Market has high expectations for 2nd Joliet store

A second Tony's Fresh Market store in Joliet has the potential to do more business than the regional chain's first store on Route 59, a company executive said Tuesday.

Frank Ingraffia, vice president of corporate operations for Tony's, said the company expects to draw customers from a 10-mile radius to the grocery store it wants to open next year in the the old Kmart at Jefferson Street and Larkin Avenue.

Ingraffia told the Joliet City Council Economic Development Committee that Tony's stocks "hard-to-find items that people grew up on in other countries, other areas of the U.S."

"We think that having that offering is going to bring people from other communities that don't even shop in Joliet," Ingraffia said.

The committee voted 2-0 to recommend sales tax rebates worth $3.5 million to the full City Council for approval when it meets next week.

Tony's has been in Joliet since 2012 in a strip center at the corner of Route 59 and Caton Farm Road.

Ingraffia said the two stores are far enough away not to cannibalize business from each other.

"We definitely want to be here, and we're excited to expand our footprint in Joliet," he told the committee. "We actually feel this store is going to perform better than (Route) 59."

Tony's has set a tentative target for opening in June, although Ingraffia said after the meeting that the timetable may depend on progress made with another store the company is opening in Round Lake Beach.

The incentives are likely to get approval as the city looks to redevelop a 9.5-acre site that has become a rest area for truckers, vagrants and large numbers of birds that tend to populate the vast parking lot originally built for the 98th Kmart store that opened in 1965.

The Tony's plan replaces a previous proposal to convert most of the property into self-storage units, which was resisted by the city.

The 97,000-square-foot building has been unoccupied since Kmart closed in late 2016.

The site has become an "eyesore for the city," Councilman Terry Morris said.

Morris briefly questioned the city providing sales tax rebates for a supermarket that will compete with two Jewel Food Stores, one of which is on Jefferson and the other on Larkin.

Councilman Larry Hug noted that the Tony's project would be a "a more comprehensive development" beyond the new supermarket.

Tony's would occupy 70,000 square feet of the building and look for a tenant to fill the remaining space.

The plan also includes development of retail space along Larkin Avenue and an outlot along Jefferson Street.

Tony's has 16 stores in the Chicago area.

Bob Okon

Bob Okon

Bob Okon covers local government for The Herald-News