Pete’s Fresh Market could be in jeopardy of losing the $1.5 million economic incentive awarded by the village of Oak Park if it misses a Sept. 2 opening date.
Stephanie Dremonas, Pete’s executive officer, confirmed in a telephone interview that the company aims to open the grocery store at 259 Lake St. in early September. She also disclosed that the company, which operates 10 stores in the Chicago area and is opening three more – in Oak Park, Bridgeview and Willowbrook – is planning to hold a job fair to hire roughly 150 employees for the Oak Park location.
The time and location of the job fair has yet to be identified.
Opening in early September is a necessity for Pete’s, which has faced daily fines since the beginning of April for its failure to open.
In 2014, the village approved giving Pete’s an economic incentive of $1.5 million, partly to help expedite the opening of the store that was previously occupied by Dominick’s, which closed in December 2013.
The grocery store chain began receiving a $250-per-day fine on April 1. The fine jumps to $750 a day beginning in July, according to its contract with the village.
As of Wednesday, June 24, the store will have accrued $21,250, an amount that is subtracted from the $1.5 million. If the store opens by Sept. 1, the combined fine will total $69,250.
If the doors are not open by Sept. 2, the village has the right to terminate the entire agreement and the $1.5 million incentive for the grocery chain. The village initially anticipated that Pete’s would open by the end of 2014, but that date was later changed to March 2015.
Village President Anan Abu-Taleb said in a telephone interview that he has attended meetings with Pete’s executives and he and the village are “expecting them to open as we’ve agreed on in early September.”
“We’re going to hold them to that date,” Abu-Taleb said.
He urged residents who are eager for the store to open to try to be “understanding” if the final date shifts by a few weeks.
“I think the message we need to send to them is we are anxious and happy to have them in our community,” Abu-Taleb said, adding, “There are lots of variables that happen during the course of opening a business of that scale.”