Web Extra! Updated 07/29/08

Home goods retailer Linens ‘n Things has announced it is closing its store in River Forest Town Center II.

In May, the corporation said it would be closing 87 “underperforming” stores as part of a Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition. That number was cut to 57 stores, including the River Forest location. The closure would leave three vacancies in River Forest Town Center II.

In a press release Monday, Michael F. Gries, Linens ‘n Things’ chief restructuring officer and interim CEO, said the closings are essential to the company’s long-term viability as the nation’s number two home goods retail outlet.

“While a very difficult decision, the stores that are closing are necessary given the current retail and economic climate and the need to drive the cost savings and operational efficiencies that will allow us to position Linens ‘n Things for long-term growth,” he said.

Spokesman Susan Kenney said there was no set timeline for the closings.

“We expect an orderly wind down over the next few months,” she said.

Linens ‘n Things currently has 589 stores nationwide and had sales of $2.8 billion last year.

Stacy Taxman of the Taxman Corporation, which represents the shopping center’s owners, recently received a signage variance from the board after enduring some pointed questions regarding the original signage agreement. Such a variance, she argued, was essential to securing a lease agreement with a potential tenant for one of two currently vacant Town Center II retail spaces.

Asked about the looming Linens ‘n Things closing afterwards, Taxman was abrupt.

“I understand Linens ‘n Things is in bankruptcy and will eventually close all their stores,” she said. When a reporter attempted to note their CEO’s comments regarding plans for long-term growth, Taxman said curtly, “I’m saying bankruptcy,” then, “I have no further comment.”

However Village Administrator Steve Gutierrez shed a little light on the issue during his comments at a recent village board meeting.

“It’s my understanding that the timing of the closings has a lot to do with the bankruptcy process,” he said. The court process also apparently affects efforts to find a replacement tenant for the Linens ‘n Things space.

“The owners of the town center are also limited in their ability to talk to new tenants,” said Gutierrez, noting that presents a “challenge” to strategizing on how to replace Linens ‘n Things.

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