If Borders can't find a buyer to operate its bookstores this weekend, the chain's remaining locations might close, including the one in Oak Park.
Borders has been trying to wrestle itself out of bankruptcy since filing Chapter 11 in February. A suitor was lined up to purchase the company for $215 million and continue operating the remaining 399 stores, but Borders' creditors rejected the deal, according to news reports.
Instead, they favored a $252 million offer from a group of liquidators, which would mean the remaining stores, including 14 in the Chicago area, would close. Now, Borders has until Sunday to find an alternate buyer or face liquidation, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The local Borders is prominently located, at the northeast corner of Lake Street and Harlem Avenue, in a 19,000-square-foot retail space spread across two floors. Pat Zubak, head of the Downtown Oak Park Business Association, said Borders has consistently been one of the area's top retailers and thinks its closure could have a powerful effect.
"It would be devastating to have that vacant," Zubak said. "It's an important building in the downtown. It belongs to a retailer with some kind of swagger. You want a significant retailer there, and we've always felt that Borders is significant."
Even the competition doesn't want to see Borders go. Rachel Weaver, who co-owns The Book Table a few blocks east on Lake Street, said that Borders drives traffic to downtown Oak Park. With it gone, some shoppers would likely just stay home and buy their books online. Seeing the entire chain disappear could drag down the publishing business, she added.
"The last thing that anyone wants to see is for them to close down completely, because it's the ripple wave through the entire publishing industry," Weaver said.
No one knows what might take Borders' place if the local location closes down. Many retailers are reluctant to occupy two floors, because you can lose track of employees and customers, along with losing efficiency, said David King, a commercial real estate broker who owns David King & Associates in Oak Park.
"It is the best corner in the village. At the same time, it would be a challenge to find a retailer that would go on two levels," said King, who does not represent the owner of the property.
For more on this story, see the July 20 print edition of Wednesday Journal, and check OakPark.com for updates.