Posts tagged with "The Chicago Tribune"

The morning after: Biden captures slim lead—but races too close to call

November 5, 2020

With the presidential election too close to call—and not all mail-in ballots yet counted nationwide—all eyes were focused on Wednesday morning, November 4, on Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, the three northern industrial states that likely will prove crucial in determining who wins the White House, The Chicago Tribune reported.

Indeed, by early Wednesday, neither candidate had the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win the Oval Office. And as votes continued to trickle in, it’s possible the American people could be hours or even days away from knowing who will lead their nation.

Michigan and Wisconsin turned the lightest shade of blue on results maps later Wednesday morning, with outstanding vote still to count in those states. The same is true of Nevada. Georgia and North Carolina—states in which Trump is narrowly leading, which also have outstanding votes.

It could be several days before Pennsylvania, where Trump currently leads, finishes counting mail ballots—which are thought to significantly favor Biden.

The Biden campaign is signaling confidence that they will meet the 270 mark in the coming days, but there is simply too much uncertainty at the moment to clearly predict a winner, and the cloud of litigation hangs over the entire proceeding.

Four years after Trump became the first Republican in a generation to capture that trio of “Rust Belt” states, they again are positioned to make or break a presidential election. Trump kept several states he won in 2016 that had seemed wobbly in the final days of the campaign—including Texas, Iowa and Ohio—where the Biden camp made a play.

Trump cried foul over the election results, falsely calling the process “a major fraud on our nation.” But, the Tribune notes, there’s no evidence of foul play in the cliffhanger.

The president had vowed to take the election to the Supreme Court, and received criticism from conservative pundits after making his comments. The Biden campaign said it would fight any such efforts to stop the counting of votes.

Research contact: @chicagotribune

Trump’s Goodyear boycott shows how political and social tensions can flare over workplace attire

August 21, 2020

On August 19, President Donald Trump urged Americans nationwide to boycott Akron, Ohio-based Goodyeartweeting, “Don’t buy GOODYEAR TIRES – They announced a BAN ON MAGA HATS.”

The tire company said there was no specific ban, but it had asked employees to refrain from some workplaces expressions that might inflame political and social discourse at work.  

And Goodyear is not the only American business that is trying to stop divisive debates in the workplace. Even as companies declare support for the Black Lives Matter movement, some are not allowing employees to wear masks or other attire that expresses solidarity with the cause, The Chicago Tribune reports.

Employees have pushed back against what they say is an attempt to silence them—staging protests at Whole Foods, denouncing Trader Joe’s on Twitter, calling for boycotts of Taco Bell and Starbucks—while their employers defend the restrictions as a matter of dress code.

Alrady, there have been attire-related incidents: On Long Island, New York, a Target customer was asked to leave after confronting an employee wearing a Black Lives Matter mask and asking if she didn’t think all lives matter, according to news reports describing the June 25 incident.

Employers, reluctant to alienate customers or employees, may hope banning personal statements across the board will keep conflict at bay. But they must consider the legal ramifications of restricting certain forms of expression, and the cost of bad publicity and poor employee morale, the Tribune notes.

“This is definitely a challenge employers are going to face, if not now it is likely they will face it in future,”  Lauren Novak, an attorney with Schiff Hardin in Chicago who represents employers in labor and employment cases, told the news outlet.

.In the Chicago suburbs, a Costco employee told the Tribune that she wore a Black Lives Matter mask to work after hearing about managers making racially insensitive comments to other employees at the warehouse. After working two shifts with the mask, the employee was called into a manager’s office in late June and told to stop wearing it because it was “political,” “controversial” and “disruptive,” the employee told the Tribune.

In a silent protest in the days that followed, the employee, who is Black, said she arrived at work wearing the mask, made sure people were watching, and flipped it inside out upon clocking in.

“For so long we have been taught that we cannot speak out against an unjust system that affects every aspect of our life,” said the employee, who has worked at Costco for more than a decade and asked not to be identified for fear of retribution. “We are supposed to shut up and take it.”

Cellphone photos of Costco’s employee handbook that the employee provided to the Tribune show its dress code says only that employees must be “neat, clean and professional.” People identifying themselves as Costco employees have posted pictures of themselves on Facebook wearing attire at work that celebrates LGBTQ pride.

Costco declined a request from The Chicago Tribune to comment or answer a list of written questions.

Last week, the Chicago-area employee said she was given permission to wear a mask depicting a raised fist as long as it doesn’t include words. The employee plans to make more such masks to distribute to co-workers who want them.

Private employers have the right to regulate what employees wear to work. But restricting some forms of expression could risk violating labor or employment law.

Employers should consider whether employees are wearing Black Lives Matter masks to protest racially discriminatory working conditions, which could be considered protected, concerted activity under the National Labor Relations Act, Novak said.

Employers also could face allegations of discrimination or creating a hostile work environment if the dress code policy isn’t consistently enforced and disadvantages people based on race or another protected class, said Fern Trevino, an employment lawyer in Chicago who represents workers.

They could run into issues if attire celebrating LGBTQ pride is permitted but Black Lives Matter is not.

“Employers should inform employees of the dress code policy in writing and should assure the policy is consistently and equitably enforced,” Trevino said.

Some companies have responded to public pressure—and some have not.

Taco Bell apologized after an Ohio employee who declined to remove his Black Lives Matter mask was fired from a franchised restaurant, saying “we believe the Black Lives Matter movement is a human rights issue and not a political one.” The fast-food chain told USA Today that it doesn’t prohibit the wearing of such masks and is working to clarify its policies.

However, Whole Foods says that “in order to operate in a customer-focused environment,” employees must comply with its long-standing dress code prohibiting clothing with visible slogans, messages, logos or advertising that are not company-related. It provides face masks to employees if theirs don’t comply.

Whole Foods, which sent home two New Hampshire employees for wearing Black Lives Matter and “I Can’t Breathe” masks, has seen protests in Massachusetts, Philadelphia and Seattle over the issue.

A central concern for employers is that allowing employees to wear Black Lives Matter apparel will provoke other employees to don All Lives Matter, Blue Lives Matter—or other potentially divisive slogans, Novak said.

It’s a “woke” world we’re living in now: Employers will have to decide whether they will take a stance against those viewpoints, she said.

Research contact: @chicagotribune

Trump Administration plots crackdown by Feds in Democrat-managed cities nationwide

July 22, 2020

The crackdown by federal law enforcement in some American cities is about to ramp up and go national, according to interviews by The Daily Beast with “knowledgeable Trump Administration sources.”

The move is President Donald Trump’s latest effort to use Customs and Border Protection officials, as well as the Department of Homeland Security—an agency created after 9/11 to protect the country from terrorism—to intimidate and remove protesters, without the approval of local or state authorities.

What’s more, both The Daily Beast and Fox News noted, Portland and Kansas City were just the beginning.

Among the list of cities— “all run by liberal Democrats”—in which the president said on July 20 he intends to “quell protests” are New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Oakland, and Detroit.

As previewed by White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows over the weekend and President Donald Trump on July 20, the Administration intends to send federal law enforcement into Democrat-run cities—whether those cities want federal police help or not. Multiple sources expected Chicago, a flashpoint of white anxiety, to be a focus, as the Chicago Tribune first reported.

Indeed, it is rumored a force of 150 DHS agents will be deployed to Chicago this coming weekend.

In Portland, Customs and Border Protection agents, kitted out in military-style camouflage uniforms and obscured insignia, detained unarmed and largely peaceful protesters in unmarked vans and used pepper spray, tear gas, and batons against them. Oregon’s governor, both of its U.S. senators, and Portland’s mayor have denounced the federal deployment as an unwanted escalation. Its attorney general has sued DHS and the U.S. Marshals Service.

“What is happening in Portland—armed occupation by federal agents—is totally unacceptable,” Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) told The Daily Beast. “Donald Trump’s unconstitutional test run in Portland cannot be the precursor to a nationwide invasion of cities across the country. Republicans and officials at DOJ and DHS need to think long and hard about whether they want to be party to this gross abuse of power.”

Wyden and his fellow Oregonian in the Senate, Democrat Jeff Merkley, on Monday introduced an amendment to the annual defense authorization to disallow the federal law-enforcement deployment. Their amendment, supported by Oregon Representatives Earl Blumenauer and Suzanne Bonamici, restricts federal efforts at crowd control to the “immediate vicinity” of federal property unless requested by local authorities and bans the use of unmarked vehicles or obscured insignia.

According to The Daily Beast, “Trump’s full-on embrace of this type of election-year posturing came after a brief period earlier this summer when the president flirted with emphasizing supposed police reform and related criminal-justice matters, in his increasingly uphill fight against presumptive 2020 Democratic nominee Joe Biden. Naturally, Trump quickly grew bored with playing the role of reformer.”

These days, his campaign is sounding a different tune. “Many presidents have used the military to stop riots, so this is nothing new and in accordance with the law,” said longtime New Hampshire State Representative Al Baldasaro, the New Hampshire co-chair of Trump 2020. “Our police have taken a beating, and they don’t deserve this. I fully support what President Trump is doing,” he continued, adding that Trump should quickly send “federal help” to other cities such as “Chicago [and] Detroit.”

In Chicago, where police reactions to Black Lives Matter protests have been violent, a Fraternal Order of Police president requested Trump’s assistance. That move drew strong rebuke from local elected officials. Mayor Lori Lightfoot, often the subject of ire from the protesters, has said she doesn’t want outside federal law enforcement assistance.

“We don’t need federal agents without any insignia taking people off the streets and holding them, I think, unlawfully. That’s not what we need,” Lightfoot said Monday. 

Research contact: @thedailybeast

Keeping a cool head: Some companies are making safe summer face masks without a ‘sweat factor’

July 7, 2020

As a pastry chef who spends her workdays in a surgical-style mask next to hot ovens, Leigh Omilinsky is no stranger to the face mask “sweat factor”—and she has little patience for those griping about the sticky irritation of covering up during a steamy Chicago summer.

 “This has to be more comfortable than a ventilator,” Omilinsky, 35, of Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood, recently told The Chicago Tribune.

When health officials began recommending that people wear masks in public places to slow the spread of COVID-19, they turned to whatever was available, be it a hand-sewn fabric mask, cut up T-shirt, or winter balaclava. Now they’re often required, in places where social distancing is a challenge. As Illinoisans cautiously return to more activities put on hold during the pandemic, some are looking for masks that are tolerable for more than a quick grocery run.

Big brands like Under Armour, New Balance, and Uniqlo have announced designs using breathable fabrics, and Chicago mask-makers are experimenting with new styles as well.

There’s no magic bullet, the Tribune points out: Things that make a mask effective at containing droplets that can spread the virus causing COVID-19, like multiple layers of tightly woven fabrics, also tend to make them steamy on hot, humid days. Still, a mask that’s comfortable enough to keep on your face is more effective than one that spends most of its time dangling under your chin, experts said.

“That’s the Catch-22,” said Alan Spaeth, co-founder of Chicago-based PrideMasks. “You make it lighter and more breathable, and it’s not doing its job, which is keeping your particulates close to your face.”

While the Illinois Department of Public Health advises using a cloth face covering, the agency does not specify the type of material. It recommends that the mask be breathable while covering the wearer’s nose and mouth; fit snugly and comfortably against the side of the wearer’s face; and have multiple layers of fabric.

PrideMasks opted for a two-layer design with an inner layer of cotton and an outer layer of athletic microfiber fabric to help control moisture, Spaeth said. PrideMasks also started selling neck gaiters, and both styles offer sun protection.

Mr. Pink’s—a mask-making offshoot of Chicago-based Bangtel, which rents properties in Chicago and New York for vacations and bachelorette parties—originally designed a mask with three layers of fabric and a pocket for a filter. It’s still the most popular, but Mr. Pink’s is constantly experimenting, said owner and founder Liz Klafeta.

There’s also a two-layer option for people worried about overheating. Another has a stiff outer layer that stands away from the wearer’s face, keeping fabric off their mouth. Customers can choose between masks that loop around their ears or tie behind the head. Some styles also offer a choice between an all-cotton mask or one with an inner flannel layer that’s softer against the skin.

Soon Mr. Pink’s will carry a see-through mask with a clear vinyl window along with a line of bachelorette and wedding-themed masks.

“We’ll do it for as long as people need it or are requesting them,” Klafeta told the Tribune. “It feels good to be doing something a little different that can bring a smile to people’s faces.”

Companies also are adding sizes. Chicago-based menswear maker The Tie Bar, which makes a two-layer, all-cotton mask with room for a filter, added kids’ sizes and an extra-large size after hearing from men who grew “big COVID beards,” said CEO Allyson Lewis.

That said, finding masks breathable enough to wear while working out can be more of a challenge. Chicago requires people wear masks while exercising at indoor gyms. Even for those running outdoors, keeping faces covered on sidewalks and trails where people could encounter others is smart as a safety measure and show of respect, said Chicago Area Runners Association Executive Director Greg Hipp.

Many runners use neck gaiters that can be worn around the neck for easier breathing when a runner is alone, or pulled up over the mouth and nose when others are near, Hipp said.

Under Armour said its “Sportsmask,” designed for athletes, sold out within an hour when it was introduced in June. The mask has structured fabric designed to sit off the wearer’s mouth and nose for better airflow. There are three layers; the one that sits closest to the skin has an anti-microbial treatment and is designed to feel cool.

The company worked with health experts when designing a mask for workers in hospitals near its Maryland headquarters, and used what it learned to make the Sportsmask, according to Kyle Blakely, Under Armour’s vice president of Materials Innovation.

Another athletic brand, New Balance, has said it plans to sell an “athletics-ready face mask” in the coming weeks.

But you pay for what you get: Higher-tech masks can come with a higher price tag. Under Armour’s Sportsmask is $30 — the same price The Tie Bar charges for a pack of five. Masks from Zensah and PrideMasks cost $18 and $15, respectively. Gap sells three-packs for $15.

Research contact: @chicagotribune

European Just Eat Takeaway to buy Chicago-based Grubhub in $7.3 billion deal

June 12, 2020

Grubhub has agreed to be acquired by Just Eat Takeaway.com, an Amsterdam-based food delivery company, in a $7.3 billion deal that will make the combined company the largest online food delivery platform outside China, The Chicago Tribune reports.

Under terms of the all-stock transaction announced on Wednesday, June 10, Just Eat Takeaway.com is valuing each share of Chicago-based Grubhub—which went public in 2014— at $75.15.

The combined firm will be headquartered in Amsterdam, with a North American headquarters in Chicago. Grubhub CEO and founder Matt Maloney will join Just Eat Takeaway.com’s board and lead the North American office.

Shareholders of each company need to approve the transaction. The deal is expected to close in the first quarter of 2021, The Tribune says.

In 2019, Grubhub had 23 million customers, 180 million orders and revenues of $1.3 billion. Just Eat and Takeaway.com had a combined 48 million customers, 413 million orders and revenues of $1.7 billion. The U.K.’s Just Eat and the Dutch online food ordering Takeaway.com merged in a $7.6 billion deal in April.

As of December 31, Grubhub employed about 2,700 people, including 1,200 in Chicago.

Last month, Grubhub was reportedly in merger talks with Uber, a deal that would have brought together two of the top three food delivery platforms in the U.S., but it raised antitrust concerns.

Grubhub offers services in more than 4,000 cities in the United States.

Just Eat Takeaway.com operates in Europe, Canada, Mexico, Australia, Brazil, New Zealand and Israel. The company doesn’t have a presence in the United States.

Research contact: @chicagotribune

Pie in the sky: During pandemic, Home Run Inn churns out 80,000 frozen pizzas a day

June 8, 2020

In early March, Home Run Inn—the official pizza of the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field— began building up its inventory of frozen pizza at its southwest suburban Chicago plant, as the COVID-19 pandemic began to hit home.

The family owned company was nonetheless unprepared for the surge in demand, as worried consumers loaded up on the stay-at-home staple before hunkering down for the foreseeable future, The Chicago Tribune reports.

“It was absolutely crazy,” said Nick Perrino, 33, who heads up the frozen pizza division for Home Run Inn. “The pandemic had people stocking up on frozen pizza, making sure they had product.”

-year-old pizza empire that grew from a single Chicago tavern, Home Run Inn operates nine restaurants in the city and suburbs, and a 60,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Woodridge, Illinois. Frozen pizza generates about 75% of the company’s revenue, but with its restaurants limited to pickup and delivery since March, the balance has shifted even more dramatically.

Home Run Inn sells frozen pizza in more than 40 states and is the No. 12 brand in sales nationally, according to IRi, a Chicago-based market research firm. It is the number-one -selling frozen pizza in the Chicago area.

“If we could make double, we’d be able to sell double,” said Perrino, whose grandfather began serving pizza at the family’s Little Village tavern in 1947.

Home Run Inn went all in on frozen pizza March 16, shifting to a seven-day production schedule for its 130 line workers. The plant has been churning out about 78,000 frozen pizzas a day, up about a third from the pre-pandemic operation, the Tribune reports.

The company closed the plant for a day on April 6 after two employees tested positive for COVID-19. When it reopened, new protections were implemented including mandatory masks, increased cleaning schedules, and social distancing in the break rooms. Plant workers received a $2 an hour pay boost and an increase in the number of sick days.

In some cases, line workers are closer than 6 feet, but the protective measures generally have been successful, with seven cases of COVID-19 across the company and none since late April, Perrino said.

Manufacturing was backed down to a six-day-a-week schedule in April, when it became clear the new normal in the pizza business may last for a while and the grueling schedule was unsustainable, Perrino said. Demand has flattened in recent weeks, enabling Home Run Inn to resume production on some of its specialty pizzas, such as its classic sausage margherita.

While Illinois and other states are beginning to reopen for business, Perrino said the shift to frozen pizza may endure for some time, as consumers remain wary of venturing beyond their freezer for a sausage and pepperoni pie.

“Habits have changed, ” Perrino said. “Times are uncertain, the economy is uncertain. But one thing we do know is that people always need to eat.”

Research contact: @chicagotribune

Branded masks turn coronavirus protection into ad space: ‘It’s a face billboard.’

May 4, 2020

Starting May 1, face masks will be de rigueur in public places in Illinois for all residents over the age of two. But while cat and dog faces have been trending in other cities as the masks of choice, different cover-ups already are appearing on Chicago streets.

Many companies are beginning to take advantage of that vacant space that suddenly has appeared between our noses and chins. They are creating new advertising vehicles— branded face masks promoting everything from fast food restaurants to sports teams, The Chicago Tribune reports.

All major sports leagues have begun producing officially licensed team logo masks. Universal Music Group is making masks featuring artists from Willie Nelson to Justin Bieber. Warners Bros. has licensed a mask with the cast from the 1990s TV show, “Beverly Hills, 90210.”

At least initially, the proceeds of branded mask sales are helping to fund COVID-19 relief efforts, the Tribune notes. But turning personal protective equipment into an ad for a real estate agent may raise eyebrows, even in the new normal of a worldwide health crisis.

New York-based branding strategist Peter Shankman told the news outlet that branded face masks, if “done the right way,” will generally be perceived in a positive light.

 “Wearable brands have become a part of our culture,” Shankman said.

Fanatics, which operates an officially licensed e-commerce merchandise business for major sports leagues, sells team masks for the NFL, NBA, NHL, MLS, and WNBA, at prices ranging from $15 to $25 each.

In Chicago, Mayor Lori Lightfoot may be the top salesperson for branded masks after donning one featuring the city logo and her COVID-19 prevention mantra, #StayHome.

The mask was made by PrideMasks, which converted its small Chicago factory from a marching band uniform supplier and flag-maker to a branded face mask company last month.

“Once the mayor started wearing the mask, it’s blown up,” said Alan Spaeth, co-founder of the company formerly known as R&S Marching Arts.

The company told the Tribune that it has been inundated with commercial orders, employing a staff of about 18 in split shifts to produce about 700 to 800 masks per day. The masks sell for $15 each, in lots generally ranging from 20 to 500 masks per design. Clients include a Dow Chemical plant in Midland, Michigan, local Sonic restaurants and flight crews from Southwest Airlines.

Spaeth turned down an order for a half million face masks from a pharmaceutical company because it would have overwhelmed production and squeezed out smaller business customers. .

Companies are buying the branded masks to meet state health requirements and provide “corporate wear,” Spaeth said.

One client in particular said it was concerned about potentially inappropriate personal messaging on masks worn by employees. “It’s a way to keep everything uniform, and if you’re representing a company, keep it on message,” Spaeth said. “It’s a face billboard.”

Research contact: @chicagotribune

Kohl’s will carry Lands’ End apparel online and in 150 stores this fall

March 19, 2020

Lands’ End is trading its partnership with Sears for one with another department store: Kohl’s.  The Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin-based department store chain will carry Lands’ End apparel and home merchandise online and in 150 of its more than 1,100 locations this fall, the retailers announced on March 16, according to a report by The Chicago Tribune.

“The addition of Lands’ End, a market leader in the classic, casual lifestyle, into Kohl’s brand portfolio further strengthens our product leadership and our ability to deliver unmatched national brands to Kohl’s customers,” Kohl’s CEO Michelle Gass said in a news release. “Lands’ End brings its strong brand recognition, leadership in casual style and fit authority, and gives new and existing customers something to discover at Kohl’s.”

Kohl’s didn’t say which stores would carry the Lands’ End products.

Lands’ End was founded in Chicago in 1963, and initially sold yachting gear by catalog. Another Chicago-area retailer, Sears, bought Lands’ End in 2002.

The partnership with Sears gave Lands’ End, which had relied primarily on catalog and online sales, a presence in hundreds of Sears stores. Lands’ End continued to have shops in Sears stores after a spinoff separated the companies in 2014, the Tribune said.

But there was little overlap between the two retailers’ customers, Lands’ End CEO Jerome Griffith told the Tribune last year, when the company opened a store at Oakbrook Center mall, a premier shopping destination in Chicago’s western suburbs. The last of Lands’ End’s shops in Sears closed earlier this year.

Lands’ End has 26 stand-alone stores today, although all are closed through March 29 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Research contact: @chicagotribune

Ground controls: United Airlines is first major airline to cut U.S. domestic flights during coronavirus scare

March 6, 2020

As a growing number of U.S. businesses, schools, and event sponsors scale back , cancel, or pull back on participation in large-scale assemblages with a wary eye on the coronavirus outbreak, United Airlines has become the first major U.S. air carrier to make broad cuts to both domestic and international flights, The Chicago Tribune reports.

Several airlines already had canceled flights to China, where COVID-19 first emerged; as well as to a handful of other destinations affected by the outbreak.

But the virus, which has killed about a dozen people in the United States to date, with numbers rising daily (and about 3,200 globally) now is  a pandemic— with cases in 76 countries. As a result, more companies are restricting travel and pulling out of conferences to protect employees; and airlines are waiving flight change fees to encourage customers to book despite uncertainty about how far the outbreak will spread.

United is the major first U.S. carrier to announce broad cuts to its operations, but it’s unlikely to be the last, as the virus has “gutted” demand for air travel, Henry Harteveldt, travel industry analyst and president of Atmosphere Research Group, told The Chicago Tribune.

In April, United plans to slash its international schedule by 20% and its domestic schedule by 10%. Similar reductions are expected in May, airline executives said in a letter to employees Wednesday. The airline is asking employees to volunteer for unpaid leaves of absence, and is postponing some salary increases and hiring

.Scaling back its schedule now will make it easier for United to return to normal operations, spokesperson Charles Hobart told the news outlet. “We expect the recovery to be smoother than had we taken a more wait-and-see approach and lost the ability to control our own actions,” he said.

The airline declined to say how much demand for flights was down, but in a regulatory filing last month, United reported a 75% drop in demand for its Asian routes outside of China.

Its pared-back schedule is not expected to cut off service to any U.S. city it currently serves. In some cases, the airline is reducing the frequency of flights on a particular route, delaying the start of seasonal service, or halting routes if travelers can connect through another United hub. Seasonal flights between Chicago and Zurich that usually start in April will be pushed back, for instance, and United is suspending flights between Chicago and Eugene, Oregon, Hobart said.

United will contact affected customers who have already booked flights to offer alternatives, Hobart said.

Research contact: @united

Peapod to shut down grocery delivery in the Midwest and cut 500 jobs

February 13, 2020

Peapod, the grocery delivery pioneer developed by Stop & Shop in 1989, has announced plans to cease operations in the Midwest—a move that will mean the loss of 500 jobs, according to a report by The Chicago Tribune.

Customers of the online grocer who live in Illinois, Wisconsin, and Indiana won’t be able to place delivery orders through the Peapod website starting as soon as February 18, the parent company of both the online grocer and its bricks-and-mortar originator, Netherlands-based Ahold Delhaize, announced Tuesday.

About 50,000 people in the Midwest currently use Peapod, placing 10,500 orders weekly.

Chicago-based Peapod will close a distribution center and food preparation facility in Lake Zurich, a pick-up point in Palatine; and distribution facilities in Chicago, Milwaukee and Indianapolis — affecting 400 employees. Another 30 employees will be cut at corporate headquarters in the West Loop, and about 100 drivers will lose their jobs.

Chicago will remain the headquarters for Peapod Digital Labs, which runs the e-commerce technology for Ahold Delhaize’s U.S. grocery brands. Peapod Digital Labs employs about 450 people, half of them in Chicago, and plans to hire 100 more people this year.

Peapod is exiting the Midwest as grocery delivery heats up, the Tribune says. The value of the online grocery market more than doubled from $12 billion in 2016 to $26 billion in 2018, and some projections have it reaching $100 billion by 2025.

Peapod will continue to serve customers on the East Coast, where Ahold Delhaize—the Dutch parent of Food Lion, Stop and Shop, and Giant—is the region’s largest grocery retailer. The decision to cut service in the Midwest will allow the company to focus on a strategy that offers in-store, delivery, and pick-up options.

“Customers really want groceries to be available for them whichever way they choose to shop,” JJ Fleeman, Chief ECommerce Officer and president of Peapod Digital Labs, explained to the news outlet.

Peapod’s Midwest operation posed challenges because it was online only, so it didn’t have a network of stores to connect to the supply chain and it was more difficult to gain new customers who want to know the grocery brand where their fresh food is coming from, said Selma Postma, president of Peapod.

“This was a very difficult decision given our rich history in Chicago,” Postma told the Tribune. “We have a lot of loyal customers, we have a lot of loyal employees.”

Peapod’s Midwest operations accounted for about $97 million of Ahold Delhaize’s $1.1 billion in online revenue in the United States.

 Research contact: @chicagotribune