Sears closing catches Oak Brook off guard
The decision to close the recently downsized Sears store in Oakbrook Center caught village officials off guard, Oak Brook Village President Gopal Lamalani said Tuesday, but its economic development team already is working to find a new tenant.
Transform Holdco, which is overseeing the transition of Hoffman Estates-based Sears Holdings out of bankruptcy, said this week it would not take on the lease on the Oakbrook Center store and will close it on Sunday. A liquidation sale already has begun.
A Transform Holdco spokesman said the store was not profitable and the firm "has the right not to acquire various contracts that were entered into by Sears Holdings."
Lamalani said he was led to believe the store was doing well "and then this thing happened, so we're obviously unhappy about the closing."
Sears has operated in the center for almost 60 years and had just gone through a remodeling, repositioning and reopening last October.
"It's so sad that they have to close this Sunday after what they went through," Lamalani said. "After repositioning and downsizing Sears into one-third of what it used to be, we were hoping it was going to take off, at least in Oak Brook, but it's unfortunate that this happened. I guess it's a sign of the times."
Lamalani said it's "obviously significant to lose a department store like Sears that has been there for so many years."
"We didn't have any heads-up," he said. "We actually heard it from the media first. We didn't know anything about the fact that this was coming. Usually we see it coming, but this thing happened and next thing you know we hear they're having a 30 to 70 percent sale in anticipation of closing the store on Sunday.
"So it was a surprise. It wasn't a welcome surprise. Let's put it that way."
Employees will be eligible to receive severance and have the opportunity to apply for open positions at area Sears or Kmart stores, the Transform Holdco spokesman said.
The Oakbrook Center store was a downsized version of Sears' original store at the mall. At 62,000-square-feet, it was about one-third the size of the original store and sold shoes, apparel, appliances, tools, mattresses, sporting goods, grills and lawn and garden items. Roughly 55 workers were employed there.
Sears' parent company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy shortly after the Oak Brook store's reopening and was given a new life after a federal judge approved a $5.2 billion restructuring plan by Sears Chairman Eddie Lampert, which is being funding through an affiliate of Lampert's ESL Holdings hedge fund.
The Oak Brook store's closing leaves only three remaining Sears in the area: Stratford Square in Bloomingdale, Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg and Spring Hill Mall in West Dundee.
"Hopefully there will be some other, profitable, retail company that will take its place," Lamalani said. "It's a beautiful location out there. Our economic development team is working very hard to make sure we find something even better than what we had."
• Daily Herald Business Ledger Editor Richard Klicki contributed to this report.