By Thomas Vogel
Home Owners Bargain Outlet, also known as HOBO, is set to open Sept. 1 in Forest Park Plaza, 7630 W. Roosevelt Road.
The discount home improvement store has half a dozen other stores spread across the Chicago area and Wisconsin. But Forest Parkers may not be familiar with HOBO. The other Chicago-area spots — in Oak Lawn, Waukegan, Villa Park and Crest Hill — are not nearby. The company, founded over two decades ago, plans to hire as many as 100 new employees, according to Scott Werner, a vice president at HOBO.
"It's one of our largest locations," Werner said, referring to the 97,000-square-foot space. "We're very excited."
HOBO signed a 124-month lease for the former Kmart location in March 2017. Kmart, owned by Sears, closed in December 2014. HOBO sells furniture, kitchen and bath, home décor and flooring products.
"You'll never know what you'll find but you'll always find it for less," Werner said in an Aug. 23 phone call, repeating one of the company's slogans.
HOBO does not have an incentive agreement with the village, so there are no public sales tax projections for the new business, Mayor Anthony Calderone said Aug. 24.
"They are not obligated to tell us what their sales are going to be," Calderone said. "Private business entities are in no way obligated to tell us what they think their sales are going to be."
Calderone did mention he would be talking with HOBO ownership in the next several weeks to try and get an estimate to help with village budget projections. He was part of several meetings with HOBO and Forest Park Plaza LLC, the site's owner, in the lead up to HOBO signing a leasing agreement.
"They want to get what I call a 'comfort feel' for how difficult is it to do business with a local government, meaning how much red tape they have to go through," Calderone said.
Werner said HOBO prefers to repurpose old retail locations, calling it a "win-win." Population density and demographics also made the Forest Park location attractive.
The high concentration of old homes in Forest Park and neighboring communities like Oak Park, which may need restoration or repair work, added to the appeal, Werner said.
With the old Kmart space in Forest Park Plaza set to be filled, there still remains a vacancy in the former Ultra Foods location. The grocery store shuttered in June. Rev. Bill Winston, the pastor at Living Word Christian Center, owns Forest Park Plaza LLC. Living Word is also a tenant in the 33-acre plaza.
"We are excited to welcome HOBO to Forest Park Plaza and feel this is a great addition for the Plaza as well as our community," Kim Clay, a spokesperson for Forest Park Plaza wrote in an Aug. 23 email to the Review.
"There's some movement on the Ultra [site]," Forest Park Village Administrator Tim Gillian said in an Aug. 18 phone call. "It's nowhere near completed but there are people interested."
Calderone pegged the likelihood of a deal for a new tenant at the old Ultra site at over 50 percent. There are ongoing conversations with a potential occupant, who is a grocer, he said. The village should know in the next 60 days whether that deal will happen.