Customers are finding it very hard to say goodbye to the workers at Dominick's.
At a Friday afternoon community event to thank the workers, one woman arrived at the Evanston store with a box of cookies in hand, saying "I want to cry. I had breast cancer in 2006 and they were so kind to me."
She's not alone. Loyal customers have set up an appreciation table, complete with a band of local residents, to offer some holiday cheer to the workers as so many face an uncertain future.
For them a trip to the grocery store has been a weekly and even daily ritual. They consider everyone -- the gal behind the deli counter, the bagger, the clerk and the young man who stocks the shelves -- family.
It's estimated more than 6,000 will be out of work when the 72 stores close their doors next Saturday.
Eric Bailey, spokesman for the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, is especially frustrated with the response from the parent company, Safeway. Bailey blames "their corporate greed" and says there has been little help from Safeway in terms of job outreach for the workers.
Mariano's has committed to buying 11 of the stores, and now Centralia Foods is interested in 10. Jewel says it only wants four, and Whole Foods may snatch a few.
That leaves more than 40 stores in the city and suburbs with no future for now. Mayor Rahm Emanuel has set up a task force to market the stores in the city but calls and emails to the mayor's office on Friday about how that task force is going have gone unanswered.
Bailey said there is reason for Dominick's workers to worry, noting that Mariano's has so far offered "not one job" to an existing Dominick's worker.
The customer thank-you event in Evanston was spread by Facebook and email with dozens of folks arriving with plates of cookies and tears in their eyes.
"We really owe the workers," said neighbor Pat Maunsell who wants to make sure those working the day and evening shift realize they will be missed.
"The employees here are part of our daily lives," Evanston Alderman Jane Grove said. "How often are you here? How often am I here? My family calls it the cupboard."