CHICAGO (STMW) — Jewel-Osco is closing a grocery store at 6057 S. Western Ave. on Feb. 24 because of lagging business, a company spokeswoman said Tuesday.

The store has served Chicago Lawn and surrounding neighborhoods for 25 years, and its 130 employees will be offered jobs at other Jewel-Osco stores, said spokeswoman Karen May.

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The closest Jewel-Osco stores, at 5320 S. Pulaski and 3644 S. Archer, are each three miles away from the store that is closing.

Residents will soon have a smaller, lower-cost and limited-assortment grocery alternative when Save-A-Lot opens five stores Feb. 24 on Chicago’s South Side, including one at 6701 S. Western Ave., a company spokeswomen said.

The other Save-A-Lot stores will open at 148 W. 79th St., 344 E. 63rd St., 6858 S. Aberdeen and 8240 S. Stony Island.

The Save-A-Lot stores, a wholly owned subsidiary of Supervalu, which owns Jewel-Osco stores, measure 15,000 square feet, on average, compared with a Jewel-Osco store averaging 45,000 to 55,000 square feet. Save-A-Lot currently operates eight stores in Chicago.

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Mari Gallagher, a Chicago research and marketing consultant who popularized the term “food desert” four years ago, said the Jewel-Osco that is closing served as a fortress on the edge of one of the city’s areas under-served by grocers. The new Save-A-Lots are located either inside a food desert or on a border of one.

The changes reflect an increasingly segmented grocery market.

“Today, many other types of stores – dollar stores, mass-retailers and niches of grocery stores, are taking the consumer’s food dollar,” Gallagher said.

Gallagher’s latest findings released to the Sun-Times show that the number of Chicagoans who live in a food desert totals 550,382, down by 8 percent from 2008. No specific geographic radius exists for a food desert. It can be a sliver of land or extend for several blocks. The designation relies primarily on the difficulty in obtaining access to fresh produce and other healthy foods by a concentrated mass of people, primarily due to the length of time and difficulty in obtaining transportation to a full-service supermarket.

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