There’s about to be one fewer vacancy in River Forest Town Center II. Retail may be having a tough time in much of Chicago and the rest of the country, but the Oak Park and River Forest downtown areas seem to be going against that trend.

Opening in the space next to Lenscrafters is Qboba Mexican Grill, a fast-food chain specializing in Southwestern cuisine that has more than 470 locations in 40 states. The River Forest location is scheduled to open Feb. 9. This location will be the 10th Qdoba in the Chicago area.

Qdoba’s local arrival marks yet another entrée of a national retail chain in the Oak Park and River Forest downtown areas. Five Guys Burgers opened on Lake Street in Oak Park in November. Trader Joe’s opened on Harlem and Ontario in Oak Park in December. Bruegger’s Bagels has a sign on a Lake Street storefront in Oak Park announcing a spring opening.

Qdoba is a chain that was started in Colorado in 1995. In 2002, it was bought by Jack in the Box, a publicly traded restaurant company headquartered in San Diego, and has grown strongly since. More than 150 locations have been added since 2007.

The chain’s claim to distinction comes from its emphasis on using fresh ingredients, according to Qdoba spokesman Carissa.

“If you look in our kitchens, you’ll see boxes of tomatoes and onions and avocadoes,” McCabe said.

Qdoba’s real estate manager Chip Beltchenko, who is based in Libertyville, said River Forest was attractive as a midpoint between downtown Chicago and the western suburbs. The company also liked local demographics.

“… good daytime work population, high residential density and good average income level,” Beltchenko said. “Additionally, the quality of the co-tenants in River Forest and Oak Park is important to us. We think that all of these factors will help us generate strong brand awareness in the market.”

Location and demographics are factors that attract numerous other businesses to the two villages, according to David King, who leases commercial real estate in Oak Park and River Forest. He said the Oak Park and River Forest area has the kind of population density and income levels that help protect against economic downturns.

“Oak Park has always bucked the trend,” King said. “Chicago is doing better than the rest of the country. And, in general, the Near West suburbs are doing better than the rest of the Chicago area.”

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