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Updated 12/13/2011 1:00 p.m.
A multi-generation, family-owned appliance and television store chain may be coming to the long-empty 7440 Madison St. storefront that formerly housed Trage Bros.
Grand Appliance and TV - which has stores in Wisconsin as well as Naperville, Chicago, Crystal Lake and Zion - will possibly close on the property by the end of the month said Village Administrator Tim Gillian. If all goes well, the store will open in the spring, he said.
Grand sells kitchen appliances and washer/dryers as well as televisions, audio systems, mattresses and grills. Grand's operations manager Anish Gauri said the 7,500 square-foot retail space is mid-size for a Grand store. "But we will have a full product offering." He says the business has weathered the real estate downturn by focusing less on sales to new development builders and more on "the replacement market" of retail customers. Gauri said Grand offers refrigerators that run the cost spectrum between $300 and $12,000. "Some people don't want to go to a big box store where the salesmen don't know about specific products." Gauri says the town is an ideal location. "Forest Park is the perfect community for us. We feel the customer base is strong. It's right in the middle of town. Forest Park is an up-and-coming community and very much our sort of niche."
Despite some upset by commissioners over the negotiating process, the village board voted unanimously Monday on a tax incentive rebate plan already accepted by Grand that Gillian says was negotiated by both parties over the course of the past year. Under the plan Forest Park will rebate a total of $300,000 in local sales tax revenue to Grand over a 10-year period. Those payments will begin after the village has collected sales tax on the first $500,000 in yearly sales, said Gillian. After the first half-million dollars, Forest Park will rebate to Grand 60 percent of the sales tax collected for seven years followed by 50 percent the last three years. The deal will end after 10 years, or when the village has rebated a total of $300,000.
The plan also includes a provision that Grand receives a larger percentage of the tax rebate money sooner (an additional 5 percent) for joining the Chamber of Commerce. Further accelerating the payback to Grand could be a two percent bump for each of five full-time positions the store fills with Forest Park residents. The deal also stipulates that a two-story dilapidated brick coach house behind the Madison Street property be torn down by July to provide more parking and remove a local "eyesore."
But Commissioners Chris Harris and Rory Hoskins complained at Monday's meeting that they had been kept in the dark during the negotiations until the deal appeared on the agenda Monday night.
"I was shocked and disappointed that the first I've heard about this is on an agenda. This has been going on for a year? It seems odd. It seems closed and I'm wondering why?" Harris said. He added, "Perhaps [the other four commissioners'] input could have been valuable."
Hoskins, a former economic development consultant, said in an interview later that he didn't like linking Chamber of Commerce membership to sales tax rebates. "I'm not comfortable with that precedent. Will other businesses expect the same?" He says he supports the plan in general, though. "I'm glad there won't be an empty storefront on Madison Street. I don't think I've ever voted no to economic incentives for business."
Sales taxes are collected by the state which refunds a local portion, 1.5 percent, to Forest Park, said Gillian. The village would issue a rebate to Grand once per year, he added.
PrivateBank, a Chicago-based bank, holds the property's mortgage. Trage Bros abruptly closed in July 2009 and the property was foreclosed amid personal bankruptcies of family members who co-owned the business. The building was sold at auction last March to PrivateBank.
Trage's was a Forest Park institution, said Gillian. "My parents bought every major appliance from Trage Bros. They were absolutely a neighborhood resource for appliances and could always beat everybody else's prices - but you had to ask them." Gillian says Grand has a similar feeling. "All of our dealings with Grand so far have been exactly that way." He added that the manager of the new store dropped into the Chamber-sponsored Holiday Walk to "see the town" and get acquainted with Forest Park.
The new store is expected to provide jobs, real estate and sales taxes and be a "destination for vehicular traffic" that will spill over into the other businesses on Madison Street, the village hopes.
"One of the largest benefits of the deal will be having that commercial space filled with a living, breathing retailer," said Gillian.