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Roughly a year after opening inside the Forest Park Plaza mall, Home Owners Bargain Outlet (HOBO) seems poised to close, issuing a notice to the village on Oct. 17 that it’s seeking a buyer.

“HOBO is pursuing a sale of its business operations and facilities, but due to current economic circumstances, is concurrently preparing to conduct an orderly liquidation and wind-down of its operations,” said Leo Schmidt, company CEO, in a statement to the village.

The company “anticipates” closing its doors in Forest Park by Dec. 31 if it doesn’t find a buyer, the statement said, and 48 local employees would lose their jobs. The company expects to begin terminating employees by Dec. 20.

Village Administrator Tim Gillian said that if HOBO does close, the village’s budget deficit will increase.

“That tax revenue we got from them was very helpful and we have a deficit. We’re not going to get that tax revenue [and] the deficit will grow,” Gillian said.

He declined to comment on how much sales tax revenue HOBO contributed to the village, specifying only that it is a “large producer.” The village of Forest Park projected a $1.9 million budget deficit in fiscal year 2019, which runs from May 1, 2018 to April 30, 2019. Revenue is budgeted at $19,673,215 and expenses are projected at $21,575,469, according to the village. 

HOBO did not have an incentive agreement with the village. Gillian said he has not spoken to Forest Park Plaza LLC, the parent company that owns the 97,000-square-foot property. Living Word Christian Center, the megachurch operated by Bill Winston, owns the parent company.

“We’ll help in any way we can, but that’s chiefly a function of the church” Gillian said about finding a new tenant. “But if there’s anything that we can do to assist them, of course we’ll do that.”

Spokeswoman Kim Clay said Forest Park Plaza officials have been in conversations with HOBO representatives, although she declined to say who they had been talking to. She was still hopeful the home improvement retailer would operate at the mall.  

“They’ve been a great tenant and we’re hopeful they would stay here in Forest Park Plaza, and we’ll see. We remain hopeful,” Clay said.

“They’ve created new jobs,” she added. “They’ve brought vitality to the mall, families and small businesses shop there for their various building needs. I think they’ve been a valued addition to the community and that’s why we’re hoping they remain.”

Clay declined to comment on the future or current terms of HOBO’s lease. In addition to meeting with company executives, Melody Winston, director of real estate and operations at Forest Park Plaza, said in a statement she was “exploring other options” for HOBO’s space in the mall and “vigorously seeks another tenant.”  

The home improvement store opened at 7630 W. Roosevelt Road in September 2017 and signed a 124-month lease for the property seven months earlier. At the time, HOBO Vice President Scott Werner told the Review that the Forest Park store was one of its largest locations.

“We’re very excited,” Werner said then. “You never know what you’ll find but you’ll always find it for less,” he added, repeating one of the company’s slogans.

As of Oct. 22, HOBO’s website was down and calls to the Forest Park store went unanswered.

When HOBO first came to Forest Park, Werner called taking up the old Kmart space — which closed in December 2014 — a “win-win” since HOBO preferred to repurpose old retail locations. The village’s population density and demographics also made the Forest Park location attractive, he said, pointing to the large number of old homes in Forest Park and neighboring areas that might need restoration or repair work. 

The Waukegan-based company operates four stores in Illinois and two in Wisconsin.

HOBO sells furniture, kitchen and bath, home décor and flooring products.

CONTACT: ntepper@wjinc.com

Michael Romain contributed to this report.