Treasure Island to open Wednesday

By Chris Ross

[img id=”80436″ align=”alignleft”] The Treasure Island supermarket at East 55th Street and South Lake Park Avenue is scheduled to open Wednesday, store representatives announced this week.

Maria Kamberos, executive vice president of Treasure Island, cited logistical concerns as the cause for the delay. Representatives had originally expressed intentions of opening the store by mid-February. The postponement has left the Hyde Park area bereft of its single major grocer since the Hyde Park Co-op supermarket closed its doors in January.

“There was a lot of clean-up to do, and we had to get our licenses. If we could have opened the next day, we would have. We’re working to open as quickly as we can,” Kamberos said.

Structural renovations, which representatives estimate could cost around $5 million, will begin in the produce section and continue throughout each of the departments.

“Everything will be very state-of-the-art,” Kamberos said. She added that the renovations must be approved by the city of Chicago before they can begin.

One of Treasure Island’s major renovations will include installing glass panes across the entire storefront, creating “a nice visual of the inside,” Kamberos said.

On Saturday afternoon, construction was still underway at the store location as employees stocked shelves across a floor littered with tools and pallets of supplies.

“It’s a big difference from last Monday,” said Mark Ferguson, a deli worker.

“We’ll be here as long as it takes to open by Wednesday,” said Kathy Doyle, a deli manager. Doyle said her initial impression of the new supermarket was that the different departments worked well together, creating an atmosphere of teamwork.

The supermarket also released data to the MAROON on Saturday concerning the number of former Co-op employees that the new grocer has hired. Since the store’s closure, a group of laid-off workers have organized in response to what many thought was Treasure Island’s lack of sincerity in its efforts to rehire many of the employees.

After Treasure Island invited all Co-op employees to reapply, 85 to 90 interviews were conducted over the course of two weeks.

When the grocer opens tomorrow, 56 former Co-op employees will be on the payroll, according to Kamberos, with an additional 40 members hired largely from around the Hyde Park area, including 12 students from surrounding-area schools such as Kenwood Academy.

One of the employees on the floor Saturday, Maurice Caffey, was a former Co-op employee, rehired by Treasure Island.

“I’m just glad to have a job. It’s survival,” Caffey said, adding that he felt the interview process had gone well. “The thing is, the Co-op was one big happy family. Everyone had each other’s back, especially if they was going through something.”

The University’s announcement last year that Treasure Island, a specialty grocer with six other locations throughout Chicago, would inhabit the space formerly occupied by the Co-op was also met with some fear that the new grocer would sell items at significantly higher prices, a fear which Kamberos sought to downplay.

“I believe it will actually be cheaper than the Co-op,” Kamberos said, attributing Treasure Island’s competitive prices to the supermarket’s buying power and ability to buy directly from vendors and pass on the savings to customers.

“But there’s so much to choose from, you may end up buying more and spending more,” she said. “We have a lot of items different from what staple grocery stores will carry.”

Treasure Island will continue to supply items from local food venues such as Cedars.

Treasure Island hopes in part to cater to Hyde Park’s student population, providing a selection of prepared foods which will lend themselves well to a “grab-and-go” diet.

“We want to make it convenient,” Kamberos said.