After Dominick's-owning Safeway announced Thursday that it plans to exit the Chicago market entirely by early 2014 due to declining profits, the fate of the 72 stores the grocer operates in the city remains unclear.

A Safeway official said on a conference call Thursday they'd "love to find a buyer" for all the stores -- but that it is expected to play out "in pieces," DNAinfo Chicago reports.

Two of those pieces already accounted for are Dominick's stores at 2550 N. Clybourn Ave. and 1340 S. Canal St., both of which have already been sold to Jewel, according to DNAinfo.

Meanwhile, outside of the city, two suburban stores -- 14200 S. Bell Rd. in Homer Glen and 1340 Patriot Blvd. in Glenview -- have also been sold to Jewel, according to the Chicago Tribune.

The stores will continue to operate as Dominick's stores during a brief transition period.

The West Coast-based chain, which purchased Dominick's 15 years ago, struggled amid increasing competition from other grocers including Mariano's, Aldi and increased grocery offerings from both Target and Wal-Mart in recent years in the Chicago market.

"When you look at the sales, the losses sustained there, market share, and resources we're allocating to support that business, the conclusion was we just were not able to make as much progress as we would have liked," Robert Edwards, president and CEO of Safeway, explained to the Daily Herald.

Mariano's, for its part, just opened a new store in the city's South Loop earlier this week, NBC Chicago notes, and is also anticipated to make a play for some of the stores.

Dominick's was founded in Chicago in 1918 by Dominick DiMatteo. The stores employ 6,600 people throughout the Chicago area; most of them unionized workers.

Watch a vintage Dominick's commercial from the store's heyday:

Photo by swanksalot via Flickr.

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