Wilmette Loses Some Businesses, Gains Others
Even with the loss of two stores from the village, new suitors are still knocking, officials told Patch.
Wilmette leaders say business is still good, despite the upcoming departure of two local stores.
Crate and Barrel will close its Plaza del Lago location in April, and Sunshine Plant Shop, the florist at Central Street and Green Bay Road, is also shuttering.
Crate and Barrel, which opened its Wilmette location in 1968, is taking advantage of its expiring lease to “do some pruning” to accommodate its customers’ changing buying habits, Vicki Lang, a company spokeswoman, told Patch.
“We’re looking at our real estate portfolio very carefully and evaluating the changing face of retail and the popularity of mobile buying,” Lang said. “Maybe the customer’s preference is a local store, maybe it’s online, or maybe it’s from their phone. The community is much bigger now.”
Lang added that Crate and Barrel’s larger home store in Skokie will serve customers who previously shopped in Wilmette.
Joe Moss, who owns Plaza del Lago, was unavailable for comment, but he told reporters in September he was negotiating with businesses interested in leasing the space. Sunshine Plant owners did not return a phone call, but an employee confirmed the store is in the process of closing.
Despite the impending loses, commercial development is bouncing back from the economic downturn, said Lucas Siversten, Wilmette’s business development planner. Siversten tracks the village’s vacancy rate, which typically hovers from a low of 5 percent to a high of 7 percent.
“At the beginning of 2010, it was at the higher end,” he said. “Fortunately as 2010 moved forward, that number dropped, and we saw more businesses moving in than closing.”
Siversten said the village, and the Midwest United States overall, hasn’t been hurting as badly as other areas of the country.
“If you look regionally and nationally, people are around 9 percent, even 10 percent,” Siversten said.
Meanwhile new businesses are also stepping in to fill the holes left by departing stores, said John Adler, director of community development.
Still, Wilmette isn’t waiting around to see if development rebounds on its own. In 2008, officials commissioned the Urban Land Institute Technical Assistance Panel, a study that aimed provide ways to "revitalize and reinvigorate" the area. Specifically, the study’s findings suggested adding more commercial buildings to the street façade along Central Street. The plan also advised street and landscaping projects in the village center.
The city is determining whether it should phase the study’s findings, known as the Village Center Master Plan, into its Comprehensive Plan. On Tuesday the village board introduced the Master Plan for future discussion. Adler said the evaluation should conclude by the end of January.
Wilmette leadership has also sought out companies that might be interested in expanding to the village.
“We make many calls to businesses we think would be a good fit for Wilmette to see if they have any expansion plans,” Adler said. “We also network with real estate professionals to make sure they know what Wilmette has to offer.”
The city also recently established Twitter and Facebook accounts to promote local businesses. Additionally, some stores, like Gilson's, are partnering with Groupon to offer hot deals to their customers.
“It’s fun when you see 1,000 to 1,500 people buying those Groupons and knowing that those are people who are going to be coming to our village," Adler said.
Wilmette’s business development plans can be found on its website, and a list of available properties is here. You can keep up with the latest deals in the community by following @WilmetteBiz or @WilmetteChamber on Twitter.