A hometown appliance store seems a bit quaint these days. But we like quaint. And so it is good news that Grand Appliance and TV, a family-owned, multi-generational retailer, is close to finalizing plans to open its newest store in Forest Park, on Madison Street, in the location occupied for decades by Trage Bros., Forest Park’s own lamented family-owned, multi-generational appliance and TV retailer.
Trage Bros. went dark in July 2009, a victim most immediately of this brutal recession and its squashing of home sales, condo conversions and new construction – all things which move dishwashers, gas ranges and flat screen TVs by the truckload. Trage also fell victim to the immense challenges of passing a business through to successive generations.
Monday night Forest Park’s village council gave its approval to a creative deal that will ease Grand Appliance into town by rebating a portion of the local sales tax the store generates. The village is giving back up to $300,000 in sales tax revenue over the next decade. But the payout comes only after the store racks up a half million in sales in a given year and it comes with several caveats that benefit the village Ð the store must be active in the Forest Park Chamber and its traffic-building events, Grand must demolish an eyesore of a garage behind the store, and it gets its money quicker if up to five of its employees are Forest Parkers.
In a week when the Illinois legislature is playing giveaway with tax incentives to major corporations such as Sears and CME, a financial services company, in a hardball effort to keep their headquarters in our near bankrupt state, it would be easy to be jaundiced over tax rebates. But Forest Park has, at least, twice used similar deals to lure and to keep business in town. The Walgreens at Harlem and Roosevelt won a sales tax rebate as an incentive to locate at what had been a dilapidated corner. And, more recently, the village held on to a lucrative car dealership, Currie Chevrolet, with a tax deal tied to its reinvestment in its Roosevelt Road facility.
The benefits to Forest Park in generating greater property taxes on a rejuvenated Trage site, in collecting some sales tax and in filling the discouragingly darkened frontage on our main retail street will be repaid generously in our view.
The deal isn’t done. Grand still has to close on the property which has been through the now common commercial real estate wringer of foreclosure and a bank auction. We are optimistic though that with this village assistance that Grand Appliance will be open by spring.
All is not praiseworthy, though. We are mightily discouraged to discover that this negotiation, more than a year in the works, was kept secret from some members of the village council. It wasn’t until board packets were delivered to all council members in recent days that officials duly elected by Forest Parkers were clued in. That’s nuts. And that’s wrong. It reflects the unhealthy consolidation of power in the hands of Mayor Anthony Calderone.
This is a good deal. A win for Forest Park. But it is another undercutting of open discussion and fair dealing for our politics.