Roughly a year after opening inside the Forest Park Plaza mall, Home Owners Bargain Outlet (HOBO) employees are now standing outside the store with signs advertising a discount on all merchandise. The home improvement retailer’s website is down. Calls to the Forest Park store rang and rang.
The national home improvement retailer, along with the limited liability corporation it operated the local store under, filed for Chapter 11 in Chicago bankruptcy court on Oct. 25.
“We will vigorously seek another tenant to fill the space if HOBO proceeds with closing this location,” Melody Winston, director of real estate, operations and construction at Forest Park Plaza, said in a statement.
HOBO, along with the FP Retail Associates company it operated its Forest Park location under, filed for bankruptcy less than a week after issuing a notice to the village that said it was seeking a buyer. At the time, Kim Clay, spokeswoman for Forest Park Plaza, said she was “hopeful” that the mall and HOBO executives would be able to meet and work out a deal to continue operating through the holidays and ideally through the duration of its 10-year lease. Clay said she does not believe that meeting occurred and mall executives are “waiting and watching the news.”
“It’s unfortunate,” she said. “They were a great tenant and, as I said before, brought value to the community.”
Attorney Jonathan Friedland, HOBO’s bankruptcy attorney, did not respond to interview requests. He was quoted saying that store closing sales are expected to finish by the end of the year, in the Chicago Tribune.
“Brick-and-mortar retail, of course, has been decimated in recent years and the story of retail generally is very much a part of HOBO’s story,” Friedland said in a release to the Tribune. “But other factors also contributed, including intense competition from new and rapidly expanding competitors, and slowing of discretionary spending, including do-it-yourself home projects.”
In a statement to the village on Oct. 17, HOBO officials said they anticipate closing the doors in Forest Park by Dec. 31 if the company doesn’t find a buyer. Forty-eight local employees would lose their jobs. The company expects to begin terminating employees by Dec. 20.
Village Administrator Tim Gillian said then 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 at the time.
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.
The home improvement store opened at 7630 W. Roosevelt Road in September 2017. At the time, HOBO Vice President Scott Werner told the Review 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.
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.