Downtown Libertyville is losing one of its better known and longest running retailers, but the prominent and expansive space isn’t expected to be empty long.
Arden’s Furniture & Design has sold an eclectic mix of middle to high-end furnishings and accessories since 1974 on Milwaukee Avenue across from Cook Park, a popular community gathering spot.
Though the family-owned business weathered the recession, sales couldn’t keep up with mortgage payments on the property purchased during a real estate peak.
“We bought it too high and basically couldn’t support it anymore,” said Mike Main, who with his mother, Carla Davidovic are partners in the business.
The duo also owned the building until last week when it was sold in an agreed foreclosure to local businessman Mark Khayat, owner of Austin’s Saloon and Eatery.
“When it comes down to it, furniture is the first thing affected by the housing industry,” added Main, who has been working furiously to liquidate about $1 million in inventory.
“Furniture has been one of those (categories) that have been slipping because people haven’t been buying homes, so they haven’t been buying furniture,” said Heather Rowe, the village’s economic development coordinator. “It’s been a recognizable location in downtown. It’s a loss for sure.”
Arden’s began with a store in Chicago in 1958 and expanded to locations in Mundelein and Round Lake before occupying the spot in Libertyville, built as an A&P grocery store.
It evolved to a design-oriented business including window treatments, lamps, art and other items as accessories. The design aspect of the corporation will remain and there is a chance it could reopen with a different business model in a much smaller location, according to Main. But the flagship has to be out by the end of the year.
“I remember coming here with my mom when it was an A&P,” said Libertyville native Becky Kinast, who stopped by recently with her 7-year-old daughter Kayley.
The business now is open to the public Thursday through Sunday, but the Kinasts recently were allowed to browse despite it being an off day.
“It’s very sad. I hate to see long-term businesses in town leaving,” Kinast said of what she described as a hometown store. “I remember when it was a grocery store, so we had a hard time when that went out. Change is hard.”
Davidovic has been involved with the business for more than 40 years working in various capacities before purchasing the business more than a decade ago. Main grew up there.
“I basically worked here on and off from 3 years old, from pulling the weeds and cleaning the bathroom through sales,” he said.
From a peak of 10 employees, the last few years have seen Main and his mom and one or two others at any given time shouldering the load.
An auction of remaining items is planned for Dec. 31.
“At the end of the day it could have ended up disastrous but it didn’t,” Main said of the sale. “The good part is it’s not going to sit vacant with paper across the windows.”
Rowe said the property contains leasable space of nearly 8,200 square feet on two lots amounting to about an acre — an enormous space in the downtown area.
In past years, the loss of a viable business of that size may have been regarded with trepidation by village officials. But downtown Libertyville has been resilient.
“History has shown in our downtown, when we’ve lost tenants, we’ve brought in new tenants fairly quickly,” Rowe said.
Six new businesses have opened in recent months. Singalila Gallery is about to open and the Bianchini group from Wisconsin plans to open a restaurant next month.
What becomes of the Arden’s space is not finalized but the zoning allows for a variety of uses.
Khayat, who also is a member of the village’s marketing committee, said he bought the property as an investment in downtown.
“It won’t be empty for a long time,” he predicted. He said his first choice is a higher end retail tenant, possibly a national name, as an anchor.
“It’s one of the few spots that can accommodate a larger retailer,” Khayat said. “If we can’t find that person, we’ll pull the trigger on a restaurant.”
Main said the last day open to the public will be Dec. 26.
“We know a lot of them (customers) by first name. They know us by first name,” he said. “Part of how we’re running this sale is when we see you in the grocery story, we can look you in the eye. Our lives are still here.”Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.