Rosemont outlet mall opens to throngs of bargain shoppers
Opening day for the Fashion Outlets of Chicago outlet mall in Rosemont brought huge crowds, long lines, and minor glitches such as failing registers, a packed parking garage and traffic snarls.
Yet, overall shoppers left with wide grins on their faces from having accomplished their bargain-hunting mission.
Shoppers, including Brian Perille, 17, and friend Quique Ballado, 16, both from Barrington, began lining up about 5 a.m. outside the new outlet mall, and were allowed inside after 7 a.m.
"There are a lot of great stores here," Perille said.
"This place is huge," Ballado said. "It's really upscale too compared to a lot of the other malls in the area."
They were first in line outside the Nike outlet, one of the most popular early destinations. The store opened its doors early at 9:30 a.m. after a staff pep rally.
Designer outlet stores that are unique to Illinois also got their share of attention. Dozens of people were lined up outside the Tory Burch outlet store.
"We love outlet shopping," said Barbara Stensland of Arlington Heights, who was shopping with her 22-year-old daughter, Katie, and some of her daughter's friends.
"We are really excited about the level of designers," she said. "We have shopped all over the country at outlet malls. This is the first one we've ever seen that's an indoor mall."
Previously she traveled to Huntley and Kenosha outlets to shop, she said, adding that it's nice to have a mall only 20 minutes away.
"You don't have to get on an interstate to get here. It can just be a quick stop," Stensland said.
As shoppers began lining up outside their favorite designer outlets, mall officials and dignitaries including Gov. Pat Quinn made brief speeches before stores officially opened at 10 a.m.
"It's a special day for Illinois," Quinn said. "Two thousand people didn't have a job yesterday and have a job today."
He also touted the location, at the nexus of O'Hare International Airport, two expressways, a Metra line and the CTA. "You can get here by plane, train and automobile."
Rosemont Mayor Brad Stephens said he was pleased with the crowd, though he admitted he expected more people to pour in for the opening ceremony.
"But that's OK as long as it's steady," he said. "The lineup of retailers is such that I think (the response) is going to be off the charts."
He said he was shopping for his wife's upcoming birthday. "How many men get to say they opened a mall for their wife's birthday?"
By lunch hour, mall traffic had picked up considerably with hundreds of shoppers buzzing from store to store in search of deals from the roughly 130 mid- to high-end retail outlets.
"It looks crowded, but there seems to be plenty of room," said Marie Nilson of Bensenville, shopping with her daughter at The Limited outlet store. "I think it's beautiful, airy, bright."
With merchandise marked an additional 40 percent to 50 percent off ticket prices, the women's Coach outlet was one of the most popular destinations.
Beverly Triplet of Itasca was like a kid in a candy store beaming as she carried nine designer bags in both hands.
"I'm a big Coach fan," she said. "I'm just a designer fan period. I think the real thrill is getting a bargain."
But about 11 a.m., the store's Internet service briefly went down rendering the mobile registers useless and unable to ring up customers.
"They definitely should have been better prepared," said Nicole Gibbons of Elmwood Park, one of many customers venting their frustration. Still the experience didn't dampen her spirits. "I think I'm still going to come in. I love Coach. I'm super excited," she said.
The line outside New York City-based fashion designer Tory Burch's store was long.
"We're told it's an hour wait right now" to get inside the store, said Myndee Larsen of Villa Park. "You wait in line for an hour, there's pretty much a lot of pressure to come out of there with something."
Larsen gave the mall a thumbs-up despite the wait time.
"I love that it's indoors and air-conditioned," she said. "Waiting outside would not be fun. It's really pretty. It's a nice, wide open design."
The two-story, 530,000-square-foot mall is located just south of the Balmoral Avenue off-ramp from the northbound Tri-State Tollway. It will be open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, except Sundays when it closes at 7 p.m.
Christine Derbes of Glenview said she used to go to Kenosha for outlet shopping, but found the Rosemont location convenient with mall workers accommodating and friendly.
"We're very impressed," she said. "And we love the stores. Artwork is gorgeous and parking is close by. We wish them a lot of success."
Officials advise shoppers to use public transit. The village partnered with Pace to develop the new Entertainment Circulator, Pace Route 811, which will be free to users. The bus makes stops at the Rosemont Blue Line station, MB Financial Park at Rosemont, the Fashion Outlets of Chicago and the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center. Buses will pick up passengers every 7 to 8 minutes. And the Rosemont Metra station on the North Central Service Line is nearby.
Parking fees in the attached seven-story, 2,000-space garage with 2,000 spaces go into effect Monday, Aug. 5.
Stephens said the parking fees are to discourage employees and airport travelers from parking at the mall. Store employees can park at a nearby village garage, he added.
"It's not about the revenue," Stephens said. "It's about protecting the spots for the people that they are intended to be for."
Stephens said studies show outlet shoppers typically spend about three hours at a mall. With the first two hours of parking free, $3 for an extra hour shouldn't hurt all that much, he said.
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