Wheaton church has deal to buy Toms-Price furniture store

A historic church has reached a contract with Toms-Price to buy the furniture retailer's Wheaton store, a fixture on the edge of the city's downtown since the 1950s.

Edwin Toms and George Price founded the high-end chain in Chicago more than a century ago. The second-generation of family owners moved the store to Wheaton in 1955 and grew the business there.

That place in company history made the Wheaton store a source of sentimental pride for CEO David Price, who in 2001 secured $1.8 million in city tax incentives to stay downtown and expand the store with a 25,000-square-foot addition seen at the time as a catalyst for development on the east side of the downtown.

Nearly 20 years later, Price wrote a letter to officials earlier this month expressing the company's intent to terminate that development agreement subject to the sale of the east Front Street property - also the site of Prairie Path Books - to College Church. The city council agreed Monday to release both sides from the pact.

Though it's next to Wheaton College, the congregation is not affiliated with the school.

"College Church has a contract to purchase the Toms-Price property," church spokesman Wil Triggs said in an email. "The church is buying the property to give us future flexibility for expansion, but there are no immediate plans for how the property will be used."

The church and Toms-Price have not yet set a date for closing on the sale, but Triggs said the purchase "might possibly be" finalized before the end of December.

"Our commitment is to lease the property back to Toms-Price for six months after closing," Triggs said.

The church currently doesn't have firm plans for the future of the building, but options include using the property for administrative offices and/or parking.

"We have no specific plans as to whether the building will be retrofitted or partially razed or totally razed," he said.

The northwest corner of the building houses an indie bookstore. Sandy Koropp opened Prairie Path Books in the store's empty model, two-bedroom apartment four years ago, lending a cozy atmosphere and nooks and crannies to the book displays, cooking demonstrations and other community events.

Earlier this year, Koropp and co-owner Jenny Riddle opened "Prairie Path Books Annex," an extension of their original store, but the first to open in the heart of downtown.

Koropp said in a text message she expects to have an answer on the future of her two stores "very soon."

Toms-Price CEO David Price did not immediately return a phone message left at the company's Bloomingdale headquarters.

New chapter as Prairie Path Books plans second shop in Wheaton

  An expansion nearly 20 years ago added 25,000 square feet to the Toms-Price store in Wheaton. Bev Horne/
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