Borders closing Oak Park store, along with 398 others, after failing to find a buyer

Liquidation could start as soon as Friday


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By Marty Stempniak

Staff Reporter

Borders Books is closing its remaining 399 stores, including one in Oak Park, after failing last weekend to scare up a white knight buyer for the bankrupt chain.

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 will have a powerful effect.

"It would be devastating to have that vacant," Zubak said before Borders announced its demise on Monday. "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."

The Michigan-based retailer has canceled an auction of its assets planned for Tuesday, and is accepting a $252 million offer to liquidate its remaining locations. The liquidation could start as soon as Friday, according to a company statement.

"Following the best efforts of all parties, we are saddened by this development," Borders Group President Mike Edwards said in the statement. "We were all working hard towards a different outcome, but the headwinds we have been facing for quite some time, including the rapidly changing book industry, e-reader revolution, and turbulent economy, have brought us to where we are now."

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, who will eventually shutter the remaining stores, including 14 in the Chicago area, after selling off the inventory. The closing process is expected to wrap up by the end of September.

Even its local 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 will 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 after 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.

A call to the property's leasing agent, Nicole Moortgat, on Monday was not returned immediately. Borders set up shop at 1144 Lake in May 2000, according to village hall. The space was previously a discount shoe store, and before that, for many decades a Marshall Field's.

Reader Comments

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Ray Johnson from Oak Park  

Posted: July 20th, 2011 3:06 PM

It is a misnomer that there are parking supply issues for the Border's site, which ample supply in the Holley Court parking facility. At peak times - weekday lunch hours - the highest utilization is 75% which means that within the 1,213 space facility, there are 300 open parking spaces. In addition, the Southwest elevator addition, (near Bar Louie and Chipotle), provides easy pedestrian or vehicular access from the garage to Lake St.


Posted: July 20th, 2011 11:04 AM

(cont'd) The reason we shop Amazon for non-book items has more to do with the fact that there just aren't a lot of local stores where we can find these items! We're trying, but if the choice is to go to Oakbrook or buy something on Amazon, I might opt for the latter. If I can find something local, I will, though the stores are getting pretty sparse.


Posted: July 20th, 2011 11:02 AM

We used to shop almost exclusively on Amazon, and still do for non-book items. But the Book Table people mentioned that they can do custom orders in less time than we can get books from Amazon, and 20% off. I can't argue with that, even when you consider Amazon Prime etc. Plus, the Book Table will donate a fixed amt of your purchase to local charities, and taxes paid go to support local schools etc. It's the responsible thing to do, and can save you $ too.


Posted: July 20th, 2011 10:59 AM

Parking is a big reason we don't shop at Border's. The parking lot is just too convoluted and time-consuming, plus when you come out, you spill out into the horrid alley and there are no entrances off the alley. Yes, you can park across the street, and that is an improvement, but it's still not convenient. I am sorry they are gone, because the staff was helpful and their selection was decent for gifts etc.

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: July 20th, 2011 10:21 AM

Won't be Target. There parking requirements are will beyond OP's supply.

James Meredith from Oak Park  

Posted: July 19th, 2011 12:56 PM

Agree with Loren regarding Book Table. Can't remember the last time I bought a book from Borders, with such a great discount bookstore down the street. As for what store replaces it, I hope it's not Target, though it would have to be a similarly deep pocketed store that could handle the crazy taxes that a location like that would surely command in Oak Park. Another store that could handle that bill would be Apple. If their location scouters find out about this opening, look out!

Loren Andersen from Oak Park  

Posted: July 19th, 2011 10:55 AM

Little sad to see this go only because it was a place to peruse on a date night. Didn't buy much there. Agreed about the music selection - not only bad but overpriced. Thankful that they will stop flooding my inbox. We'll keep shopping where we always have - The Book Table. How many book stores do we need on the same street anyway (said the same thing about Barbara's)?


Posted: July 19th, 2011 10:34 AM

A loss for Oak Park and the other communities, but remember Borders caused problems for Barbara's. So now Kindles and Nooks are causing problems for Borders. The store is a business but unfortunately some fail, and there days more often leaving people unemployed and in this case leaving a vacant storefront on at a major "gateway". What is important is that the owner of the building quickly find a new tenant that will produce sales tax revenue for the Village; and "No" Target isn't feasibl

Resident from Oak Park  

Posted: July 19th, 2011 8:53 AM

I am very sorry to see Borders closing. I think if this wasn't a huge corporation,then more effort would be put into keeping individual locations open, but that is my humble opinion. I'm sorry for everyone losing their jobs.I have supported OP/FP/RF stores and restaurants as much as I can for the past 23 years. Borders has been a good anchor in the area and took a beautiful spot that had been empty for a long time.I hope something good will be found for the space soon.

business owner from chicago  

Posted: July 19th, 2011 12:03 AM

@ john murtagh-yes it does happen. granted the lionshare of our clients come from the op/rf area we have many clients that do come from other surrounding communities that frequent our store on a regular basis. unfortunately there are far less parking complaints from the out of area customers than the ones that live in the immediate area. if they have spent the time and the gas to come for a specific purpose odds are they will not turn around.

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: July 18th, 2011 11:34 PM

Hi TJ - after reading the rants of residents over Concordia closing ITS pool, I have to agree with you. You are hitting on an important issue. If OP residents cannot support the retail section, then it becomes critical that OP can attract people from other communities on a repeat business basis. Can that happen?

don't spend from Oak Park  

Posted: July 18th, 2011 11:07 PM

T.J. - you're right! I never spend money here in retail or parking - all of my discretionary spending goes to my property tax bill. I don't go to restaurants, buy stuff (at least in stores), pay for parking or anything else. I ride my bike, go to the beach, buy a pool pass and take vacations when I can. Oak Park doesn't get my money because I'm so broke from the taxes!!!!

epic lulz  

Posted: July 18th, 2011 10:09 PM

Liquidation to start Friday at the earliest. Small chance that 30 stores will be saved. More info here:

T.J. from OP  

Posted: July 18th, 2011 8:43 PM

@ John M. I respectfully disagree. I don't think B&N would do well. Oak Park residents aren't big retail spenders. Even an inexpensive book costs more than many OP residents will spend. They would rather just go to the library. You have to pry every dollar out of thier wallet. This is why most reailers in OP are doomed.

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: July 18th, 2011 8:03 PM

Borders was at best a blah book store of best seller selections. Even their music section was hum-drum. I think with two universities nearby and a well educated and salaried public in the region,a Barnes and Nobles would do well. Borders was born to fail -- anytime a book store is selling wrapping paper and novelties at the cash register, you know they are second rate.

Julie from Oak Park  

Posted: July 18th, 2011 6:36 PM

I would like to see Target move into the building!

Ray from Oak Park  

Posted: July 18th, 2011 5:51 PM

To Epic Lulz: That's right! Liquidators don't give a hoot about who the end user is. They're racing the clock and need to move everything within a certain time-frame. If the only end user was from Oak Park the event would fail and they'd incur loss.

S.Oak Park  

Posted: July 18th, 2011 5:32 PM

You've reached your gibberish quota for the month!


Posted: July 18th, 2011 5:27 PM

I'm sure the VOP board will be blamed for this too. Ha.

epic lulz  

Posted: July 18th, 2011 5:04 PM

I seriously doubt that liquidation will be directed toward the end-user. Sad day for OP.

Ray from Oak Park  

Posted: July 18th, 2011 4:50 PM

May as well adjust to the facts of life, brick and mortar outlets are totally unable to compete with low-cost digital and other electronic means for reading and owning media. Borders is a fine organization, but the end has come. In liquidations, the assets of a business are sold at auction and the inventory is liquidated or sold through a series of progressive discounts until everything is gone. Area residents will find amazing bargains in the coming weeks and months.

Mary from Oak Park  

Posted: July 18th, 2011 3:39 PM

I sure hope that the "white knight" comes through. It would be terrible if nobody did. It is a great store and it offers so much. Lets hope that all goes well.

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