Last city Sears store to close
by BRIAN NADIG
The last remaining Sears department store in the city and the longtime retail anchor of the Six Corners Shopping District is closing in July.
"The Six Corners shopping district has revolved around Sears department store (for 80 years), and it’s going to be a big loss for all the businesses," said Six Corners Chamber of Commerce member Joe Angelastri, who owns City Newsstand, 4018 N. Cicero Ave.
One of the advantages which Six Corners had over other neighborhood shopping districts was it featured a major department store and a large theater, but that advantage is at least temporarily gone, Angelastri said. Earlier this year the Portage Theater, 4050 N. Milwaukee Ave., closed, but the building’s owner is seeking a new tenant.
Sears’ employees reportedly were notified of the store’s closing on April 12. Thursday’s announcement is not a surprise given that Sears has been closing many of stores in recent years due to declining sales, and the Six Corners store has been available for lease for the past year. Promotional materials state the building can be subdivided to accommodate smaller stores.
In his ward newsletter, Alderman John Arena (45th) said that he was saddened but not surprised about the store’s closing.
"With Sears’s well-documented issues, this was not unexpected. That’s why I have discussed the future of the site with the owners, Seritage Growth Properties. I have made sure they are aware of the Six Corners Master Plan so they will be mindful of the goals our community set forth. They are aggressively marketing the property, and I look forward to being able to present a specific plan soon."
Arena said that the closing of the store presents a new opportunity for new development.
"This corner will remain an anchor to the shopping district. We are now presented with an opportunity to attract businesses who will bring the same dedication to the community and call Six Corners home for another 80 years," he said.
Northwest Chicago Historical Society researcher Frank Suerth said that Sears has served as a landmark destination on the Northwest Side for decades and has played a significant role in the area’s growth and history.
"I suppose Six Corners wouldn’t be what it was without Sears on that corner," Suerth said. "Now two of those corners are going to be without an anchor."
The site of a former bank across from Sears has remained vacant for about 2 years. Last summer the site’s developer recommended the construction of a 10-story building with senior housing and retail uses there, but the plan has stalled. An earlier proposal for a one-story retail center with rooftop parking never materialized.
When Sears opened at 4730 W. Irving Park Road in 1938, almost 100,000 people showed up on the first day, and the store’s facade featured a multi-story glass showcase. Until 1957, a Hillman’s grocery store operated in the store’s basement, and in 1972 Sears underwent an expansion when a large addition was constructed.
Sears has an archive online of its history. The Web site can be reached at www.searsarchives.com.
According to the site, on March 19, 1943, more than 15,000 shoppers "invaded" the store because word got out that it had acquired a supply of war-scarce merchandise such as alarm clocks and hosiery. The Chicago Tribune wrote an article about how the "attack started promptly at 9:30 a.m.," and "sale soldiers" established "beachheads in all the aisles" and "wiped out the alarm clock sector in 15 minutes."
Five years ago the Six Corners Association hosted a celebration in honor of the store’s 75th anniversary.