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Dominick’s DiMatteo Family Closes Last Link To Chain

Jim Prevor’s Perishable Pundit, September 11, 2007

We received notice that the DiMatteo family, the founders of Chicago’s Dominick’s chain, had sold the real estate they had kept when the chain was sold:

The founding family of Dominick’s Finer Foods, the DiMatteos, sold seven Chicago-area retail properties for about $75 million to investment advisory firm RREEF Real Estate.

The portfolio totals almost 425,000 square feet and includes Dominick’s stores in Evanston, Northfield and River Forest as well as two shopping centers anchored by Dominick’s stores: Town Square in Schaumburg and Gateway Centre in Chicago’s Rogers Park neighborhood.

The other two sites are a small building leased to LaSalle Bank next to the 186,334-square-foot Gateway Centre, where other tenants include Foot Locker, Ashley Stewart and Hollywood Video, and a Walgreens-anchored strip center in Edgewater at Broadway Street and Glenlake Avenue.

The DiMatteo family held on to the seven properties when it sold Dominick’s to Ron Burkle’s Los Angeles-based investment firm Yucaipa Cos. in 1995, according to CB Richard Ellis Inc. marketing materials.

“All of the properties occupy prime, in-fill sites in high density city neighborhoods or close-in, affluent suburbs,” according to the sales brochure distributed to potential buyers.

The piece immediately brought Bob DiPiazza to mind. Bob is now back in hometown Chicago trying to fend off old friends who are always appearing on his doorstep pleading with him to take on consulting contracts.

Bob, however, has had a career filled with experience as broad as a retailer could hope for. After running first produce, and then perishables, at Dominick’s, he traversed the same route at Wal-Mart’s Sam’s Club division, from which he retired not long ago.

Upon his retirement, his friend and contemporary on the boards of both the Produce Marketing Association and the Produce for Better Health Foundation and at the pinnacle of regional retailing, Dick Spezzano, pointed out that:

Bob DiPiazza will be missed at Sam’s Club as he took them to new heights in their perishable buying, merchandising, and store equipment, that even Mr. Sam wouldn’t have dreamed of.

He worked for the biggest retailer in the world, was chairman of PMA and, as those who know him will testify, never lost track of his roots. So when we received word that the DiMatteo family was selling the last of the real estate it kept when it sold the chain to Yucaipa — ultimately to be resold to Safeway — we asked Bob, who knew the family well, what thoughts it engendered.

Here is what he wrote:

The sale of the real estate can be construed as the final chapter in the family’s involvement in the Chicago area chain, Dominick’s Stores. The DiMatteo family built this highly respected chain from a single store to over 130 stores with a dominant position in the market place. For those of us who were a part of this incredible journey, the “family” involvement will never be over.

Dominick Di Matteo Jr., or Mr.”D” as we called him, was one of the most passionate, charismatic and innovative leaders I have ever known. He inspired and motivated us to accomplish more than we thought possible… and he did it without lavish salaries, stock option awards and golden parachutes… he did it by example.

We worked side by side with Mr.”D“. We worked as a family. The DiMatteo family tradition inculcated values in each of us that had the privilege to play a role in building Dominick’s. Those values will continue on with all of us that were a part of this wonderful success story.

Ever wonder what the people who work for you will have to say about you? Many thanks to Bob for sharing his thoughts on the end of an era.

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