Lake Forest supermarket closes becaus...

Lake Forest supermarket closes because of bank loan problem

There are 109 comments on the Chicago Tribune story from Feb 26, 2008, titled Lake Forest supermarket closes because of bank loan problem. In it, Chicago Tribune reports that:

A popular upscale supermarket in Lake Forest closed unexpectedly Tuesday morning after its owner fell behind on a bank loan and could no longer pay employees, the owner said.

Join the discussion below, or Read more at Chicago Tribune.

mr cool

Arlington Heights, IL

#23 Feb 27, 2008
Bill wrote:
So the customers should bail out John Ruffolo for mismanaging the store his father worked so hard to build? Perhaps if he didn't overpay himself, his brother, his cousin, his sister etc. he wouldn't be in this mess. Perhaps if he didn't take yearly "wine tasting" vacations to California each year on the stores dime, while the bank has been telling him for years to fix this problem, this wouldn't have happened. John treated the store as his personal piggybank. His fathers love for his son blinded Don to what his sons were doing to the dream he had worked so hard to build.
It is not the communities job to bail them out. I
Bill get your facts corect before you shoot your mouth off
Tracy HP

United States

#24 Feb 27, 2008
Bill wrote:
So the customers should bail out John Ruffolo for mismanaging the store his father worked so hard to build? Perhaps if he didn't overpay himself, his brother, his cousin, his sister etc. he wouldn't be in this mess. Perhaps if he didn't take yearly "wine tasting" vacations to California each year on the stores dime, while the bank has been telling him for years to fix this problem, this wouldn't have happened. John treated the store as his personal piggybank. His fathers love for his son blinded Don to what his sons were doing to the dream he had worked so hard to build.
It is not the communities job to bail them out. It would be nice if someone else would take it over and run it like a business.
How do you know so much about their their personal business? I think you better get your information straight.
A Loyal Customer

Washington, DC

#28 Feb 27, 2008
You know--reading all of the replies makes me realize why corporate conglomerates take over small businesses. There are a very small percentage of you that encourage future stability in this store. Maybe small businesses will never survive because of your attitudes and big-time bank business. Small town gossip may hurt the feelings of the family of Don's Finest Foods, but what are we really talking about here? This is a store that has been in business over 39 years! I don't care who the manager is. I loved the salad bar--NO STORE holds a candle to it--nor the wonderful croutons! Who LIKES to grocery shop? No one likes to go to the grocery store but going to Don's made my life easier. I knew I would get quality fresh food, great deli items, produce items not available in other stores and I liked talking to all the employees. Managing a small business is no easy task--especially for the second generation. No one is perfect. John Ruffolo worked very hard within the community. Concert on the Green, Shakespeare on the Green, Rotary functions, Chamber of Commerce Functions--even functions for Northern Trust Bank! How about Don's donations to Lake Forest Hospital--Gorton Center? Has anyone considered the fact that Don was President of the Chamber of Commerce during a difficult time in his life? How does that compare with the Clinton's and their personal problems???? Do we even discuss the time in George Bush’s life before he was “born again?” The problem today is we are accustomed to corporate environments taking over small businesses, thus inviting a hands off approach to business. Maybe that's what some of you prefer--then go to Costco and Sam's--go to Jewel and Sunset--but none of them will offer what Don's Finest Foods has offered the Lake Forest Community and beyond for many years.
Sad ex-customer

Warsaw, IN

#29 Feb 28, 2008
I loved what Don's was about. A family owned store that you actually knew the workers when you walked in. Les, Creed, Cookie, Manny etc. they all made you feel like you were actually important to them. The girls at checkout Pam, Margie, and Amy were THE BEST.

Unfortunately there is a lot of truth to the negative comments posted here as well. John would be nice one day and the next make you feel like he could care less about you. Ron never should have worked near the customers. Don, I know you love your kids but wasn't there a back of the house job for Ron. A lot of customers were uneasy having a convicted murderer dealing with them. He was rude, always hitting on the women etc.. I'm sure the 20 years he did in prison didn't polish his social skills.

I refused to go back there after watching John having a tantrum with one of his employees (one of his really good employees). I will not put money in the pocket of someone who treats his workers in such a way.

The hiring of relatives, while understandable, was a mistake as the relatives apparently had no rules to work under. They would come late, leave early and generally treat customers with disdain, unless they were the $$$$ people. Then they kissed their hind ends.

It's sad that the fantastic workers are going to be out of work. What is to become of Les, Creed, Leroy, John etc. They are not young and I'm certain will have to take a major pay cut if they can find any work at all.

I wish that John had put the store first. Owning a business is not easy and requires sacrifice. John never appeared to want to make the sacrifices that are necessary. If your company is in trouble you don't take trips, buy new cars etc. You tighten your belt until it hurts and you work your tail off.

Even though I already had stopped shopping at Don's I really am sad to see the store go. I see a fathers dream gone.
I am with Sad EX

Waukegan, IL

#30 Feb 28, 2008
Sad ex-customer wrote:
I loved what Don's was about. A family owned store that you actually knew the workers when you walked in. Les, Creed, Cookie, Manny etc. they all made you feel like you were actually important to them. The girls at checkout Pam, Margie, and Amy were THE BEST.
Unfortunately there is a lot of truth to the negative comments posted here as well. John would be nice one day and the next make you feel like he could care less about you. Ron never should have worked near the customers. Don, I know you love your kids but wasn't there a back of the house job for Ron. A lot of customers were uneasy having a convicted murderer dealing with them. He was rude, always hitting on the women etc.. I'm sure the 20 years he did in prison didn't polish his social skills.
I refused to go back there after watching John having a tantrum with one of his employees (one of his really good employees). I will not put money in the pocket of someone who treats his workers in such a way.
The hiring of relatives, while understandable, was a mistake as the relatives apparently had no rules to work under. They would come late, leave early and generally treat customers with disdain, unless they were the $$$$ people. Then they kissed their hind ends.
It's sad that the fantastic workers are going to be out of work. What is to become of Les, Creed, Leroy, John etc. They are not young and I'm certain will have to take a major pay cut if they can find any work at all.
I wish that John had put the store first. Owning a business is not easy and requires sacrifice. John never appeared to want to make the sacrifices that are necessary. If your company is in trouble you don't take trips, buy new cars etc. You tighten your belt until it hurts and you work your tail off.
Even though I already had stopped shopping at Don's I really am sad to see the store go. I see a fathers dream gone.
Sad Ex-I too am a ex Don's Shoppers for the same exact reasons that you are. Creed, John L., Ron E. Jana, Rocky, Manny and Marcella good luck to all of you, don't look back and don't BLAME YOURSELVES !!!
mommy

San Jose, CA

#31 Feb 28, 2008
This is such a shame
PT Middlefork Mamma

Chicago, IL

#32 Feb 29, 2008
While out of town on business this week I received a phone call with this breaking news.
I can not believe that I am the only one who is confused here.
Citizens held a meeting to support the Ruffolo family / business but what did it accomplish? From what I can gather in speaking with a few locals this AM over coffee nothing was planned? Who took accountability? Was meeting basically theraputic for John Ruffolo? It was mentioned that he may need professional help due to his inability to understand and be responsible and accept his involvement. John was talking about rebuilding like the business had a fire or something rather than accepting it as a mismanagement? Where can I get facts?
Does anybody have factual details of what happened and why or how or what support is needed?
Financially this is a mess and until that is ironed out nothing can be decided.
I don't know about the Ruffolo personal family doings or how Ron's past effected this so why is that being mentioned?
Dons Shopper

United States

#33 Feb 29, 2008
Bill and other seem more intent on making personal attacks on John than on focusing on the real issue that yet another local business is going away.
John is not solely to blame. However, he should shoulder the blame for not developing a viable business model. He cannot and should not try to compete with chain stores on the sale of staples. He cannot expect customers to pay higher prices for flour, rice, paper towels, etc. when the exact same items can be purchased a few steps away. This is not sustainable.
Northern Trust should bear part of the blame for lending money into a business model that just doesn't add up.
The community also must bear part of the blame. If you don't shop locally, you cannot expect local bussineses to survive in the long term.
The solution seems obvious. Salvage th parts of the business that make sense and ditch the ones that don't. Don's should downsize into a seller of fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, deli and wine. Let Jewel sell dish soap and toilet paper. The community should commit to shop at a local market that sells better products at a slightly higher price. Northern Trust should restructure the note and take the loss that they deserve to take. And, everyone should learn a valuable lesson.
Much of the blame lies with
Joe

Libertyville, IL

#34 Feb 29, 2008
The Last two have hit it on the Head. On Tue my wife came home crying and asked if we could do somthing, Well just a little looking around and talking with Northern it became very clear that John had little to no business know how. I buy small businesses for a living and this one is just to deep in dept, I thik John needs to file chapter 13 asap and then he might be worth talking to. as to Northern Trust restructure it just might be to late, also there are a lot of unsecured creditors out there that will put them in court by next week. God bless you Don you are a good man and I feel sick for you.
PT Middlefork Mamma

Chicago, IL

#35 Feb 29, 2008
Joe - So this can't be 'fixed' in your opinion? You mention creditiors, this is the first I have thought about that aspect - wouldn't they have had to be pretty current with them to insure continued deliveries? Re:John's 'little-to-no business know how', I guess last evening he stated that he went to the school of 'hard knocks'....surely I would have thought (since I KNOW that Don's has sent employees to school in the past) that John himself had knowledge of business practices from somewhere....no? Somebody said he never graduated the 8th grade? Lots of community interest in continuing the higher quality goods - maybe this is what can be boughten in to, I don't know....Could John manage that?...he always seemed very up-to-date in regards to anything I asked him regarding the 'goods'. Yes, Don is a very good man who deserves some peace after all he has done...they are all in our prayers as we sit awaiting if there is any word on what we can do for the family to support for all they have done.
Joe

Libertyville, IL

#36 Feb 29, 2008
John Would be perfect to be a front man But you need very tight control. This is a great chance for a new begining. Let Northern take there loss buy the assets for 25 on the dollar as a hole lot. You could pick up a nice little market for PENNYS. This is curently a union shop make it non union and you cut payroll by 20% and you could still pay better wages. So look at the good side this could be a great local market again and could make a nice profit. But John would have to be at the front door greating everyone with a big smile. Buy the way I respect The school of'hard knocks'....But that will not cut it anymore.
Dons Shopper

United States

#41 Feb 29, 2008
I have no idea of the amount owed to Northern Trust. However, I would expect that they are going to get well less than 25 cents on the dollar. If they get ten cents on the dollar they should take it and run.

I stick to my earlier comments. In its current form, Dons is not viable. If by some miracle this store re-opens, they motto should be "If you can buy it at Jewel or Target, you won't find it here".
JP Waukegan

Waukegan, IL

#47 Mar 1, 2008
Bill wrote:
So the customers should bail out John Ruffolo for mismanaging the store his father worked so hard to build? Perhaps if he didn't overpay himself, his brother, his cousin, his sister etc. he wouldn't be in this mess. Perhaps if he didn't take yearly "wine tasting" vacations to California each year on the stores dime, while the bank has been telling him for years to fix this problem, this wouldn't have happened. John treated the store as his personal piggybank. His fathers love for his son blinded Don to what his sons were doing to the dream he had worked so hard to build.
It is not the communities job to bail them out. It would be nice if someone else would take it over and run it like a business.
It is very possible that the wine tasting and other events he went to are part of his industry and if he sold alcohol he may havefelt he had an obligation to sttend
as far as paying remember the STATE dicated a new minimum wage for hourly enplyess in Illinois it may simply have been more the his store could afford to pay
Look at Wickes Furntiure, they closed alot of stores and companie are merging or going out of Business do to the current Economic Eviorment there may be others reason for John to have closedbeyond what was amde public, and granite it was a small privately owebd store but there could very well have eben other reasons, Bank Loans rigiht now are almost impossible to get get do to the SubPrime Crisis
I never worked for John but met him on an number of occasions at his store yearsago, and I has to believe there is more to this whole issue then the pulbic knows about
john boy

United States

#49 Mar 1, 2008
Phoebe McMillan wrote:
Dear Brian,
My message is not all about "crap" in Lake Forest. As a cook and caterer I sometimes look for high quality produce, something that you apparently can't understand. You should limit your criticism to McDonalds where you belong. Or maybe the garbage dump is a better place for you.
It's just business. You can't expect the community to bail out a private business.
mary

United States

#50 Mar 1, 2008
Casey wrote:
This seems to be a common fate for family owned businesses. The second generation often just can't pull it off.
And I don't think it's for lack of trying. I think it has something to do with living a dream that is really your parents' dream and not your own.
It's more like the kids spending money the parents made.
Dons Shopper

Lake Forest, IL

#51 Mar 1, 2008
So when did a discussion about a business turn into a debate on crime and punishment? If Mary wants to puke, she is free to do so. If Just Me and John Boy wish to debate the merits of capital punishment, they should have the good judgement to pick a more appropriate forum.

Don and the community should not be punished for the crimes and poor business sense of Don's son. This debate is over how to revive an important business. Please keep this in mind when posting comments.
Wire Hair Fox Terrier

United States

#52 Mar 1, 2008
WhenI was 8 years old, I used to save my allowence and stop at Janowitz, a small butcher's shop near the Deerpath Inn, where Francessca's stands today. It had 3 isles, and wonderful men as butchers. When I grew up & married, Janowitz moved to their present location. When my children were born we made elaborate photos of them for our Christmas cards and Lester of Janowitz always chose from the final cut. Joe the butcher had a sister that died with her husband so Joe and his wife adopted all their children (I beleive it was 6). Bobby the cashier came to work because she loved her customers despite her Lupis. They watched my children grow up & handed them spoons to eat their frozen yogurt. When I was divorced, they were kind and always concerned. Livingston worried about me, Jana, Leroy, Les, Deborah, Ron always had a hug for me. This store is not just about groceries, money, or people's pasts. It is about a community that few people even know ever existed. It contained families who worked very hard to take care of one another. My grandfather filled folks furnaces with oil, O'Neils Hardware, Jensen's Shoe Store, Garnett's, Robertson's, Little Red hen, Swarthout's, Village Paint, Coutillerie De Geneve, Scottie's, Mitchell's, Mr. Emma's Movie Theater, Martin's, Krafft's, Hansen's, Stan Bonk's, Helander's, Mr. Pasquesi's, Mr. Kopen's, The Outdoorsman and so many others made Lake Forest special. Somewhere along the road, it was forgotten how much that mattered. Somewhere along the road, folks stopped waving pedestrians along in front of their car, waving, smiling, having a kind word, or helping an elderly woman across an icey spot fell from our priorities. You may not get it folks, but this is yet another branch falling from a once great and mighty oak. And, it is a big branch. A town once built on character, your word, stewardship, grace & dignity by industrialists creating a haven has long since been forgotten along with common sense. To Don Ruffalo and all of us that remember what was once important, God bless you... oh and FYI, God's own son forgave what other's did to him. Let the man who has no need for forgiveness himself, refuse forgiveness to others. Or as he put it himself, "forgive us our debts/trespasses as we forgive our debtors/those who trespass against us".
Joe

Libertyville, IL

#53 Mar 1, 2008
Wire Hair Fox Terrier. Thank you for that post, God I did love old Lake Forest I grew up in down town Lake forest, With all my family cousins aunts and uncles this was home and the people were the best (old Cod town folks) again thanks so much for your words they made me remeber the great things about life in a small town. And it was a small town.
Joe

Libertyville, IL

#54 Mar 1, 2008
Thought I might add 1 more thing, My Grandfather would smoke fish behind his house then we would go over to Janowitz and trade for cuts of meat Try that now days.
Wire Hair Fox Terrier

United States

#58 Mar 1, 2008
I have had two children killed. I have forgiven the killer for his crimes. Lake Forest was a wonderful place to grow up, and Janowitz/Don's was a very special part of that. There were many special, dear, good people who worked there.

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