Metro-East News

Retail Roundup: Walmart building revived; Jimmy John’s leaves downtown Belleville

The former Walmart building on Carlyle Plaza Drive in Belleville has sat vacant since 2008, when Walmart moved to Green Mount Crossing, but a Miami developer plans to resurrect the sprawling space with an indoor self-storage business.

David Bernstein, president of Larkspur Properties, wants to renovate the building and install 650 to 700 storage units of varying sizes.

The storage industry is booming, he said.

“It’s amazing how many people have stuff. Everybody’s got stuff.”

Indoor, climate-controlled storage businesses are becoming more popular across the country, Bernstein said. Customers can store their things in a building with air conditioning and heat to avoid extreme temperatures.

In Belleville, Bertstein wants to build a drive-through lane that would allow customers to drive into the building and unload or pick up storage items without being exposed to bad weather.

Bernstein bought the Walmart building for $1.2 million. He declined to say how much he plans to spend on the renovation, which he hopes to finish by the end of the year.

The “placeholder” name for the business is “Belleville Self Storage” on an artist’s rendering, but Bernstein said he has not yet formally named it. Also, he has not set the prices he will charge. The proposal still needs to be approved by the Zoning Board of Appeals and Belleville City Council.

“It seems like it’s the right strategy for this size box at this location in this market,” Bernstein said.

Five metro-east Payless stores to close

Payless ShoeSource will close more than 2,000 of its stores, including five in the metro-east, as part of a bankruptcy plan.

Payless has stores at St. Clair Square in Fairview Heights, Green Mount Crossing in Shiloh, Nameoki Commons in Granite City, Cottonwood Station Mall in Glen Carbon and Alton Square. A Waterloo location already had been slated for closure. Its going-out-of-business sale began last month.

“Payless will begin liquidation sales at its U.S. and Puerto Rico stores on February 17, 2019, and is winding down its e-commerce operations,” according to an emailed statement from corporate spokeswoman Lauren Jeffords.

“We expect all stores to remain open until at least the end of March and the majority will remain open until May. This process does not affect the Company’s franchise operations or its Latin American stores, which remain open for business as usual.”

Payless was founded in Topeka, Kansas, in 1956. The 4,000-square-foot store at St. Clair Square has been operating for 25 years. It’s located on the top level near Sears, which is closing in March.

On Friday, mall manager Michael Hagen said he hadn’t been directly notified that Payless would be leaving St. Clair Square, but he had heard about its plans to go “in a different direction.”

“The move would make Payless one of the most high-profile victims of the string of bankruptcies that have hit the brick-and-mortar retail sector as more shopping is done online,” according to a Reuters report that broke the news Thursday about store closings.

Jimmy John’s closing in downtown Belleville

The “freaky fresh, freaky fast” sandwiches in downtown Belleville are gone.

Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches on the corner of East Main and High Street has closed. Tuesday was its last day of operation, according to workers cleaning out the space.

On Wednesday, they removed tables, equipment, signs and the red awning in front.

Jimmy John’s is a national chain based in Champaign with more than 2,800 restaurants. Each employs 25 to 40 people.

Nathan Louer, director of consumer engagement, said the lease on the space in downtown Belleville had expired, and the franchise owner is looking for a new site.

The franchise owner operates more than 10 restaurants in the area, he said.

“The employees have many other places where we can gladly continue their employment.”

Johnny Mac’s closing in Swansea

Johnny Mac’s Sporting Goods will close all nine of its retail stores, including the one in Swansea, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The company sold its team division to BSN Sports of Dallas in a deal announced Monday.

“The sale means about 65 full-time sales and support employees will transfer to similar roles with BSN,” the Post reported. “But the company will be closing its retail locations — a move that affects about 150 to 175 full- and part-time workers.”

The Johnny Mac’s store in Swansea is at 4500 N. Illinois St., next to Hokkaido Seafood Buffet and Grill. On Tuesday afternoon, employees weren’t answering the phone.

“We apologize, but we are unable to take your call right now due to such a high call volume,” the message stated. “We know you have many questions, and we would love to answer them, but at this time, it’s not possible.”

The message asked customers to consult the company’s website or Facebook page for information on store-liquidation sales. It noted that hours at all Illinois and Missouri locations will be 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.

Starbucks to get facelift at SIUE

On Thursday, the Southern Illinois University Board of Trustees approved plans to spend $583,000 to renovate the Starbucks coffee shop on the Edwardsville campus.

“The University’s contractual agreement with Starbucks requires a reburbishing every seven to 10 years,” according to a press release. “The remodeling will include refreshing existing finishes, such as new floors, walls, ceiling and lighting, as well as the serving line, customer seating and food-preparation equipment.”

Starbucks is in Morris University Center. Costs for the renovation will be covered by the MUC Repair and Replacement Reserve Fund, which comes from student fees, according to SIUE spokesman Doug McIlhagga.

The coffee shop is scheduled to close the week of May 13, after commencement weekend, and remain closed until mid-August.

But students attending classes this summer won’t have to go without their morning Joe.

“Kaldi’s, another coffee shop, will be open in the Student Success Center, which is attached to Morris University Center,” McIlhagga said. “It’s maybe a 100-yard walk.”

Joseph Bustos is the state affairs and politics reporter for the Belleville News-Democrat, where he strives to hold elected officials accountable and provide context to decisions they make. He has won multiple awards from the Illinois Press Association for coverage of sales tax referenda.
Mike Koziatek joined the Belleville News-Democrat in 1998 as an assistant editor and is now a reporter covering the Belleville area. He graduated from Marquette University in Milwaukee and grew up in St. Louis.