Macy's has made its long-awaited debut at Gurnee Mills and is receiving high marks from some shoppers.
At least a couple hundred customers were in line for a ribbon-cutting ceremony for Wednesday morning's grand opening. Gurnee Mayor Kristina Kovarik, village board trustees and other dignitaries attended the festivities.
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Kovarik said she began targeting Macy's well before November 2011, when trustees voted in favor of spending a maximum of $10 million in public money that was borrowed through a bond sale so the store could open in the village through upgrades Indianapolis-based Simon Property Group Inc. made to Gurnee Mills.
"Simon Group had a vision, which took a lot of guts," Kovarik said before the doors opened amid a festive atmosphere. "A lot of guts on the part of Simon Group, a lot of guts on the part of Macy's, a lot of guts by the village of Gurnee. Because, like anything in business, it's always a gamble. And this was a gamble, but everybody had the grit and the fortitude and the determination to see it through."
While it is Macy's first venture in a mall known for outlet and value shopping, the 149,000-square-foot store is anchoring Gurnee Mills' new full-price wing. Jan McBee and her sister-in-law, Sherry Holmen, both of Grayslake, led the pack into the Macy's and gave it a thumbs-up.
McBee and Holmen like the Starbucks near the social dresses department and the store's one-level layout, which is similar to a racetrack. They also like that Macy's, which has a Vernon Hills store, located in Gurnee.
"We've been always running to Vernon Hills," Holmen said. "You have to go through Libertyville and all that traffic. So, this is a perfect, perfect location and we needed a big store out here."
Gurnee Mills opened in 1991 and was the first in the Chicago area with an outlet concept. However, Gregg Goodman, president of Simon Property Group's The Mills, said research showed Gurnee-area consumers wanted some higher-end retail options and specifically asked for Macy's.
"I think that what we're providing on this property is spot-on to what the customer wants in an out-of-home environment," Goodman said. "And we're excited about it."
Other stores in Gurnee Mills' new full-price area that opened this week include Victoria's Secret PINK, Bachrach and Crazy 8.
Macy's employees handed $10 gift cards to the first 300 customers who went through the store's main east-side entrance. Simone Coisman of Gurnee was one of two shoppers who received a $500 gift card.
Coisman and her husband, David, are frequent mall walkers and decided at the last minute to join the Macy's line. Simone Coisman said she likes the way Gurnee Mills is being upgraded.
"I think it's a good thing they're doing to get some more regular retail to draw people here to the mall," Coisman said.
Shopping is a big deal to Gurnee village government, because sales tax represents 48 percent of general fund revenue.
Village officials project $16.6 million in sales tax revenue for the fiscal year that started May 1 and runs through April 30, 2014. If the projection holds, the sales tax would increase by $325,000 or 2 percent from the last budget year.