By Bob Uphues
Toys R Us on March 15 asked a federal bankruptcy judge to expedite its request to allow the company to begin closing all of its 735 stores remaining in the United States, including the store at 7451 Cermak Road in North Riverside.
The motion filed in the Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Virginia states that on March 14, the company informed its employees that they may be terminated within 60 days.
A press release from the company stated that Toys R Us seeks court approval "to begin the process of conducting an orderly wind-down of its U.S. business and liquidation of inventory."
The filing did not detail when stores would begin liquidating their inventory or the date by which stores would close.
It did however, indicate that as many as 200 of the company's top-performing stores in the United States could be bundled into a sales of Toys R Us' Canadian operation, for which the company is seeking bids.
While the filing does not identify those 200 stores, North Riverside Mayor Hubert Hermanek said it was his understanding that the Cermak Road location was one of the company's most profitable.
"If they're going to take the top 200, we'll survive," Hermanek said, "but I'm not optimistic about it."
Even if Toys R Us abandons the property, said Hermanek, the roughly 220,000-square-foot property has already attracted significant interest from other retailers.
"People are interested in that property," Hermanek said. "It's very, very highly sought after."
The property would be a perfect location for a grocery store, such as Pete's Fresh Market, Hermanek said. That would be a welcome addition to the village in light of news earlier this week that the Berwyn City Council approved a package of economic incentives in order to finalize a deal to move Tony's Finer Foods across Harlem Avenue, from North Riverside to the Cermak Plaza.
"We've made it clear that [Toys R Us] is a great location," Hermanek said. "I think it's the best location on Cermak."
Carson's future in doubt
News of Toys R Us' impending liquidation comes at a time when another major retailer's future in North Riverside also hangs in the balance.
The fate of Carson Pirie Scott, one of the anchor tenants at the North Riverside Park Mall, could be determined by early April.
Carson's parent company, The Bon Ton Stores, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in February when it also announced the closure of more than 40 stores. While North Riverside's location was not on that initial list of closures, the company may be headed toward liquidation.
While a group of vendors is attempting to put together a bid to save the company, its creditors are pushing the federal bankruptcy judge assigned to the case to order The Bon Ton Stores to liquidate and pay off its lenders.
Debtholders reportedly may also be planning a bid for the company's assets, which, if successful, would result in liquidation.
According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, auction bids are due by April 2. An auction of the assets of the company is scheduled for April 9.