Bed Bath and Beyond on Harlem Avenue in Forest Park. | Igor Studenkov/Staff

The Forest Park Bed Bath and Beyond location, 215 S. Harlem Ave., is one of the 87 locations slated to close as the home goods chain is poised on the brink of a Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

The closing was announced Jan. 30, six months after Bed Bath and Beyond closed 150 locations nationwide. It is not clear how soon the store, which opened inside the building in 2004, will close. Forest Park Mayor Rory Hoskins said he hopes to see another retailer come into the building, and while he hasn’t heard anyone reach out to the village, he expects that to change soon.

The 25,000 square foot building at 215 S. Harlem Ave. has seen many uses over the years. It started out as a National Tea Company grocery store location in 1964. A&P grocery store bought the space in 1976. Butera Finer Foods grocery store bought out the lease in 1981, only to close in 1987. After that, it was home to F & M Drug store, a Pep Boys auto service shop and even a temporary main branch of the Oak Park Public Library  while the current main library building was being built at 834 Lake St. in 2002 and 2003.

As the Review reported on Jan. 21, 2004, once the library moved out, Walgreens, Aldi and “several fast food restaurants, banquet halls and bank” expressed interest, but local developer and leasing agent David King, who was among the owners of the building at that point, ultimately chose Bed Bath & Beyond, because it would create jobs and bring in customers to the quieter part of the Harlem Avenue corridor.

At the time, the village and the retailer agreed to a 13-year deal that allowed Bed Bath & Beyond to keep half of the sales tax revenue generated. Then-Mayor Anthony Calderone told the Review that the trade-off was worth it.

“We are extremely excited,” he said at the time. “We see it as a superb opportunity… that’s going to fuel development along the Harlem Avenue corridor.”

In 2004, Bed Bath & Beyond had 525 stores and did around $3.5 billion in sales. But, in recent years, its fortunes declined. By 2019, it sold off half of its real estate holdings in a leaseback agreement. The Forest Park real estate was sold for $3,571,500 to Edison FPIL001, LLC, which leased it back to the company until Jan. 31, 2025.

In 2021, the chain disclosed losing hundreds of millions of dollars due to shortages in inventory. On Aug. 31, it reported that its sales dropped by 26% compared to 2021. In response, it announced several initiatives to reduce costs, including the aforementioned store closures, cutting its workforce by 20%, discontinuing three of nine company-owned brands and reducing the inventory of its remaining six brands. The latter is a reversal of a shift toward company-owned brands last year.

At the same time, Bed Beth and Beyond also announced several initiatives to improve its bottom line, including increasing the inventory of national brands, expanding its loyalty program, improving supply chains by working closer with suppliers and implementing “impactful, organic changes to accelerate further growth and unlock the brand’s full potential including building on its digital and registry platforms, addressing additional age groups and expanding products and services.”

According to the 2022 third quarter report, the most recent report available, the company’s sales declined by 33%, even as its expenses declined by a little over $100 million.

CNN reported that, “on or around” Jan. 13, the company defaulted on its debt to JP Morgan Chase, and the company indicated that it doesn’t have the means to pay off the debt, which could force it into Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Bed Bath & Beyond described store closings as a way to cut costs.

“It’s disappointing that it closed, but it’s not a surprise, because, from what I understand, this is not one of their highest-performing stores.” Hoskins told the Review.

The building is zoned as B-2 Community Shopping District, which allows for a wide range of business and restaurant uses, as well as rooming houses, hotels and motels, taverns, hospitals, theaters, municipal offices and “community use” buildings such as libraries and museums.

“In terms of what will replace it, we’d like to see another retailer  here,” Hoskins said. “I think it’s a prime location for the retailer. To my knowledge, we haven’t seen any specific inquiries yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we hear something soon.”

King said that, while Bed Bath & Beyond didn’t work out in the long run, he believed that it had positive impact on Forest Park’s development.

“That was  a big deal for Forest Park to land that store, and we were just coming of age, back then, in the early 2000s, that was a pretty big statement that someone of that caliber would come to Forest Park,” he said. “My regret is that we sold the building. We should’ve kept it. I would love to have that property right now.”

For all the changes in the retail market in the past 18 years, King said he still believed the site has retail potential.

“The advantage to that building is that it’s a stoplight location, so you can get in and out pretty easily, and it has an 80-car parking lot. That’s phenomenal,” he said.