Elgin Mall vendors seek extension, new home after abrupt news
After two decades of selling Western and formal wear at the Elgin Shopping Mall, Ezequiel Lael learned less than two weeks ago that the mall would be closing at the end of this month.
“It was devastating,” Lael said. “We’ve been here since day one.”
Lael’s La Moda Western and the more than 100 other vendors received a letter on July 31 from the company that manages the mall, at 308 S. McLean Blvd. It said everyone needed to be out by Aug. 30.
“A hundred families are being affected because of this,” Lael said. “One month is not enough time.”
But the vendors could get additional time if they can strike a deal directly with the shopping center that owns the mall building.
Kostas Cios, an attorney representing Town and Country Shopping Center LLC, acknowledges the vendors were caught in a situation not of their making.
He says years of difficulties with the mall’s management prompted his client to file for eviction in March.
“It’s been a couple of years of them being totally uncooperative with just the simplest things, and then they stopped paying rent, or they would pay sporadically,” Cios said. “It just got to the point where enough was enough, and we had to file an eviction.”
The two sides agreed that the mall would leave the 80,000-square-foot space by Sept. 1.
But the Elgin Shopping Mall management did not share that information with their tenants until the July 31 letter. It did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
“Why they waited so long to give everybody notice, God only knows,” Cios said.
Because the lack of notice left vendors with little time to relocate, Cios said the shopping center has agreed to work directly with the shop owners to smooth the transition. If a deal is approved, the vendors could get six to nine months to plan.
“Hopefully, that would give them enough time to come up with an alternate arrangement,” Cios said, “instead of the three weeks they were given by the current Elgin Mall owners.”
Lael and another tenant at the mall are leading the group. They are gathering the information needed from vendors and arranging for city approval and other logistical details like insurance.
After they work out a plan for the extension, the vendors hope to find another location where they can all move together.
The unique nature of the mall, which draws customers from throughout the region to find everything from traditional Mexican clothes to furniture, jewelry, religious items and electronics, makes it difficult for the vendors to relocate on their own.
“We all benefit from more traffic, more people,” Lael said. “If you come in here on the weekend, oh my God, there are so many families. It’s more profitable for everybody to be together.”
After 20 years in business, Lael said he’s seen generations grow up shopping there.
“I’ve seen parents with their kids, and now those kids with their kids. It’s nice to see that,” he said. “There is a community here.”