Foxtrot, Dom’s Kitchen & Market Closing All Locations

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Five months after Foxtrot and Dom’s Kitchen & Market merged, the new company appears headed to bankruptcy and all its stores in Illinois, Texas, and the D.C. area are closing on Tuesday, April 23.

Corporate workers were informed Tuesday morning via a conference call with management that the stores would be closing by noon. Store workers were left in the dark and instructed not to talk to customers about the matter. Their emotions ranged from frustration to fear about losing their jobs. Dom’s locations in Lincoln Park and Old Town closed Tuesday morning, with one account claiming staff had to kick out Lincoln Park shoppers to close the store.

Outfox Hospitality — the combined venture of the two Chicago-based entities — is filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, according to Substack newsletter Snaxshot. A meeting was called for Tuesday evening, as confirmed by Eater, to discuss the company’s future with workers. Outfox has yet to return an official request for comment, though employees are scrambling after Snaxshot’s Monday afternoon scoop. No filings have shown up in court records, as of Tuesday morning. About 1,000 staffers work at Outfox across several states, with about 100 full-time workers in Chicago. No notices were made on Illinois’ or Texas’ WARN report pages, which track notices of mass firings. In Illinois, that covers companies with 75 full-time workers; they’re legally mandated to submit layoff notices with a 60-day warning. WARN still applies if a company files for bankruptcy.

The company posted an announcement around 11:30 a.m. Central Time. Here’s a portion of the statement. There was no mention of bankruptcy:

This decision has not been made lightly, and we understand the impact it will have on you, our loyal customers, as well as our dedicated team members. We want to express our sincerest gratitude for your support and patronage throughout the years. It has been our highest honor to elevate the everyday and create a remarkable shopping experience for people who love food as much as we do. It has been a privilege serving you and being a part of your everyday lives.

Snaxshot reports that last week Dom’s didn’t make its routine purchase orders; the grocer has two Chicago-area locations in Lincoln Park (near the border of Lakeview) and Old Town. On a Monday visit to the Old Town location, the produce section was picked over, with several staples missing. Some items, like cucumbers, were already rotting. Several key members of Outfox C-Suite began jumping ship last week, Snaxshot reports.

The facade of a grocery store with the name in large letters above several large windows.
Dom’s Kitchen & Market opened its first of two stores in 2021 in Lincoln Park.
Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

In February, the company hired a new CEO, Rob Twyman, a 27-year vet of Whole Foods. Foxtrot debuted in 2016 in Chicago as a delivery-only app, capitalizing on liquor delivery. Sales boomed during the pandemic, with bars closed due to COVID precautions. But as the company matured, it grew into a modern alternative to corner stores, partnering with esteemed restaurant brands like Pretty Cool Ice Cream and pasta restaurant Tortello. It provided another place for restaurant owners to sell their goods and build their brand while giving Foxtrot an edge over traditional corner stores.

While growing its footprint, it began raising millions. In 2023 alone, the company raised $18.6 million in debt financing while expanding to 33 locations primarily in four markets: Chicago, Austin, Texas, Dallas, and the Washington, D.C. area. The company invested in stores in prime locations including Fulton Market and Wicker Park’s Four Corners and tapped Karen Herold — a restaurant designer who’s worked on trendy venues like GT Fish & Oyster, Maple & Ash, and the Guinness Open Gate Brewery — to create Foxtrots. There are 15 Foxtrots in Chicago in locations including Wilis Tower and the former Tribune Tower. Aside from the Willis, all are on the North Side. In January 2023, they brought in Chicago Bulls star Zach LaVine to hype up a candy collaboration. Foxtrot reps visited Chicago earlier this year and said the brand was interested in New York expansion.

Dom’s has historic Chicago grocery store connections. Bob Mariano was the chain’s co-founder and co-chair. Mariano was a friend of Dominick DiMatteo, of Dominick’s Finer Food fame. He worked through the ranks and eventually became CEO, but left after Safeway bought the chain. He would start a new brand, Mariano’s, which debuted in 2010 (pending federal approval, Mariano’s is set to combine with Chicago’s iconic Jewel-Osco).

After Kroger took over Mariano’s, Bob Mariano left the company in 2016 and would eventually co-found Dom’s. Dom’s was supposed to open a location in summer in River North, plus a location in Fulton Market. Another location was headed to suburban Vernon Hills.

Dom’s, a store that toed between a basic grocery and a gourmet vendor, debuted in 2021 at the southwest corner of Diversey and Halsted in Lincoln Park. A second location opened in November 2022 in Old Town, and a ribbon cutting was attended by former Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who listened as the company talked about expanding throughout Chicago; Dom’s goal was to open 15 stores in Chicago by 2025.

Lightfoot lauded Dom’s food court, which had an agreement with Bonci pizza, a famous Italian pizzeria endorsed by Anthony Bourdain, to sell pies. In Lightfoot’s eyes, stores like Dom’s were key to providing affordable prepared food options as inflation made restaurants costly for many people.

The Old Town location was controversial. Dom’s arrival pushed out Plum Market, a Michigan-based retailer that had found a comfortable home along Wells Street for nine years. Plum’s ownership was angry about the deal, saying it was done in secret, and didn’t allow them to negotiate. Apparently, according to Snaxshot, the Lincoln Park location was making money while Old Town struggled. Neither Bonci nor Pretty Cool Ice Cream’s owners knew about the shutdown when reached by phone on Tuesday morning.

In the last two weeks, workers were worried about the future of Outfox, which was a stark contrast to the image that ownership wanted to project. The company had shown ambition early in the year when it switched coffee roasters, bringing in La Colombe — Foxtrot’s coffee bar was considered competition with neighborhood coffee shops. They planned a pop-up dinner to drum up interest for a new snack. They saw potential in their private label chips and other snacks, including its Chicago-Style Hot Dog Chips. But in the last two weeks, workers sensed trouble for the once-promising company.

The story is developing and will be updated if more information becomes available.

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