The owners of Darien Food Market bought the business in June 2013 by investing family retirement funds.
Now, they worry that a competitor that hopes to move across the street will “bulldoze” them out of business, according to a letter the owners wrote to the Darien Plan Commission.
Casey’s General Store wants a conditional-use permit to build a 4,700-square-foot convenience store and gas station where Highway 14, Badger Parkway and Gerry Way intersect.
The plan commission Monday recommended granting Casey’s permit request. The village board could take action on it at its Oct. 16 meeting.
Darien Food Market owner Joe Bandra told the plan commission that he and co-owners Kim Kaur and Sam Bandra have a “pretty strong objection” to Casey’s opening across the street.
“A giant like Casey’s proposal to open a similar business across the street from us is a cause for great concern, as the launch of a chain store will not only rob the beautiful village community image that we all strive to protect and preserve but also impact on the livelihood of our family-owned business,” their letter reads.
Rozlynn Garcia, a store employee, told the commission that it would be a “hardship” for another gas station to open across from a family-run business that does a lot for the community.
The market, 500 N. Walworth St., recently raised funds for Hurricane Harvey relief and contributed money for a Darien resident’s medical costs, according to the letter.
The commission did not discuss the market or the letter. Rather, it focused on technical questions about traffic flow and potential congestion.
Lauren Downing, a representative from ARC Design Resources, said a traffic study showed no signs of major problems. She said her company would be open to discussing the concerns more in the future.
Downing also said Casey’s study of the area took into account existing businesses, and the company was not trying to run anyone out of town.
The land where Casey’s would locate is currently vacant. The whole parcel is 9.9 acres, but Casey’s would subdivide it to create a 3.15-acre parcel for the convenience store and gas station.
Casey’s wants to offer six standard gas pump islands and three diesel pump islands.
The convenience store would be open 24 hours a day and employ about 10 full-time and 10 part-time workers.
Casey’s also intends to apply for an alcohol license to sell beer, wine and liquor.
One speaker at Monday’s public hearing questioned whether Darien needed another gas station.
The letter from Darien Food Market’s owners said they understand the importance of competition in business. But they argued that pitting a small business against the much-larger Casey’s chain isn’t a fair fight because Casey’s can sustain financial losses longer than a local business, which doesn’t have the chain’s “deep pockets.”
“A vote to grant a permit to Casey’s is a vote against the dream of a small-business owner,” the letter reads.