First reported 7/16/2009 1:28 p.m.

Trage Bros. appliance store on Madison Street was named in a bankruptcy filing, indicating the family-owned business is in fact doomed. According to federal court records, William Trage petitioned in late May for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and informed the court that he does not have the money to pay creditors.

In a Chapter 7 filing – versus other types of bankruptcy protection – there is no restructuring plan available and any business closings would be permanent.

Trage, 41 and a Glen Ellyn resident who used to live in Forest Park, is not listed as an owner of the longstanding business. His attorney said the financial ruin outlined in the court filing is separate from that of the appliance store. That attorney, Robert Benjamin, of Querrey & Harrow in Chicago, told the Review that his client was simply an employee of the store.

Trage’s court filing, however, states he was doing business as Trage Bros. and as a real estate investment company called TNT Investments. A mortgage foreclosure in the amount of $719,480 against TNT Investments is the primary reason for his client’s bankruptcy, according to Benjamin. That foreclosure was filed by Community Bank of Oak Park and River Forest for a loan tied to property at 1230 N. Lombard in Oak Park.

There is no financial relationship “whatsoever” between Trage and the family business, said Benjamin. He also denied that the appliance retailer was financing his client’s real estate adventures.

“There’s no creditors of the store in his bankruptcy,” Benjamin said.

But according to the executive director of American Bankruptcy Institute in Virginia, Sam Gerdano, a personal bankruptcy would typically name only those businesses with which the individual has a financial relationship.

“Obviously, the question is why the business is listed as a debtor if there aren’t any creditors listed for the appliances,” Gerdano said.

That an employee receives their income from a particular company is not typically a strong enough relationship that would allow the business to be pulled into a personal bankruptcy, said Gerdano. A factory worker in an auto plant, for example, would not be allowed to say they are conducting business as General Motors.

“The employee is not doing business as the store, he’s just an employee,” Gerdano said.

Trage listed the value of his assets at $517,000, which falls well short of the more than $1.5 million in total liabilities. He listed his monthly income at about $7,400, but with more than $14,900 in expenses every month. Trage told the court he is incapable of making ends meet.

The bulk of Trage’s debt is business related, according to paperwork filed with the court. But separate county records suggest the appliance store may have been intertwined with real estate speculations.

Trage’s brother John Trage and their 70-year-old mother, Judith Trage, both of River Forest, are named in the filing as having a financial interest in various holdings. They’ve filed no paperwork in the case. Records maintained by the secretary of state show that John Trage and Judith Trage are the owners of the appliance store.

Calls to John Trage’s home and cellphone were not returned.

Trage Bros., now at 7440 Madison, has been in business in Forest Park since 1946. The company, which was started three generations ago and has relocated within the village several times, at one point sold furniture in addition to appliances. Laurie Kokenes, executive director of the Forest Park Chamber of Commerce and Development, hailed the retailer as an institution in the community. In recent weeks, however, it has become apparent that the store is failing, she said recently.

Signs taped to the large display windows inform customers only that the business is closed for inventory. There is no indication that the store will reopen, and calls to Trage Bros. are sent straight to voicemail.

In addition to William Trage’s personal bankruptcy filing, the Trage family is mired in a series of county court cases related to real estate investments. According to records filed in Cook County Circuit Court, individual family members, the appliance store and TNT Investments are facing mortgage foreclosures and liens.

At least four cases are currently pending, and a 2008 complaint has since been resolved. Benjamin, William Trage’s attorney, said he was aware only of the Oak Park foreclosure case against his client.

In April, Forest Park National Bank foreclosed on a mortgage extended to Trage Bros. and Cherryfield Development, among others. Cherryfield had been a prominent residential developer in Forest Park until the housing market crumbled; a partner in that company, Barney O’Reilly, fled the country.

Other complaints filed with the circuit court in 2008 name John Trage, 45, and William Trage as defendants alongside handfuls of other investors and contractors.

Community Bank of Oak Park and River Forest foreclosed in September 2007 on a building at 1230 N. Lombard in Oak Park. The defendants in that case are TNT Investments and Judith Trage. Dennis Trage, brother of John and William, is handling the pre-foreclosure auction of that residential building, according to Dennis Trage, 48, is a Florida resident who, in 2007, was fined by the Florida Real Estate Commission for improperly sharing money from real estate sales.

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A July 21 story, “Trage brother bankrupt,” incorrectly reported on an unrelated foreclosure filing involving Trage Bros. appliance store. The foreclosure case against Cherryfield Development names Trage Bros. as a defendant, however, the retailer is a party to the case only because it had filed a lien against the mortgage holder.