The Boy Scouts of America is setting up shop on the busiest street it can find -- Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg.
On May 31, the Northwest Suburban Council will officially open the area's first recruitment center -- called the Discovery Outpost -- near the play area in the center of the mall.
All five councils serving the Chicago area hope to find new Scouts among the mall's estimated annual crowd of 28 million, and put new life into the BSA's lagging numbers.
Terry Parke, development director of the Northwest Suburban Council and a former state representative, said 40 percent of respondents in a survey said they didn't join the Boy Scouts because they'd never been asked.
Any boy can join once he's graduated from kindergarten, Parke said.
The 1,086-square-foot storefront will be staffed during all the hours the mall is open. Displays and running videos will share the breadth of activities Boy Scouts of America is involved in, with a special emphasis on science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
"Scouting is more than camping," Parke said.
Indeed, Northwest Suburban Council's Interim Scout Executive Matt Thornton said the Discovery Outpost will share little known information, like how the Boy Scouts have the second largest skateboard park in the nation and how they are the top agency in certifying scuba divers.
The storefront also will have seminars on activities like backpacking, and also will sell the relevant equipment.
The Northwest Suburban Council signed an eight-month lease, but Thornton said the intention is to go on long beyond that.
"It's a new concept and we think it's going to work," he said.
The Boys Scouts first explored renting a kiosk inside Woodfield, but decided that the extra cost of a regular store space would better serve the concept.
Woodfield is one of the top tourist attractions in the state and its space is much in demand among retailers and restaurants.
"It's an exciting adventure, but also an expensive adventure," Parke admitted.
Though some sales are expected at the site, philanthropic donations will be the main funding source for the rent and staff.
The Woodfield management has been very cooperative, but the Northwest Suburban Council expects to follow the same rules and be treated like every other tenant at the mall, Thornton said.
While the grand opening is definitely scheduled for May 31, Thornton hopes the storefront will be ready for a "soft" opening on May 17.
The grand opening itself will be accompanied by a full day of Scouting demonstrations in the mall's center court.