Despite news of financial trouble for Steve & Barry’s, a company that sells casual apparel, a lease in Evanston Plaza between shopping center owner Joseph Freed & Co. and Steve & Barry’s is “fully executed,” Jeff Renkert, vice president of corporate marketing for Freed, told the RoundTable last week. He added the company would be “a good addition for the shopping center.”

A notice put up several weeks ago on the vacant-corner storefront of Evanston Plaza postponed the orientation of new employees for Steve & Barry’s, which had been scheduled for June 21. Mr. Renkert said Steve & Barry’s had completed most of the work to ready the commercial space to open for business. “It’s hard to say when Steve & Barry’s will open,” Mr. Renkert said, “but it will be within the next couple of months.”

Dennis Marino, interim community development director for the City, said he was “cautiously optimistic” that the store would open. “We know the lease has been executed. Steve & Barry’s looks like it might be going through some restructuring and is in need of capital, as are many other businesses, when capital markets are almost in turmoil.”

While there is local optimism that Steve & Barry’s will open, stories in the national press have suggested that the company is in serious trouble. The Wall Street Journal reported on July 1 the company was readying to close more than 100 stores nationwide and taking other action if it did not find emergency financing.

Still, said Mr. Marino, companies like Steve & Barry’s are “well-positioned to raise capital. As we step down in the economy, it is the higher-end stores that may find fewer customers,” he said. He added the Steve & Barry’s in Highland Park is “doing very well, and Steve & Barry’s opened their most recent store on June 24.”

On May 14 of this year, City Council approved an amended redevelopment agreement with Freed, under which the City allows Freed to share $2 million of sales tax revenues – an increase of $1 million from the original redevelopment agreement – to help offset the cost of bringing Steve & Barry’s to the shopping center.

The terms of the agreement will protect the City should Steve & Barry’s not open, Mr. Marino said. Steve & Barry’s must open a retail shop of not less than 38,000 square feet in Evanston Plaza in order to trigger the terms of the amended agreement, he said. “So Steve & Barry’s has to open and operate a retail shop of that size.” Should Steve & Barry’s close, Freed will have 270 days to come up with a replacement tenant acceptable to the City, Mr. Marino said.

The shopping plaza, located at Dempster Street and Dodge Avenue, is now about 75 percent leased, Mr. Renkert said. He added that, at present, Freed is “not expecting any new tenants” at the shopping center.

When contacted, a representative of Steve & Barry’s declined to comment on the Wall Street Journal article and the proposed store in Evanston Plaza.

Mary Gavin

Mary Gavin is the founder of the Evanston RoundTable. After 23 years as its publisher and manager, she helped transition the RoundTable to nonprofit status in 2021. She continues to write, edit, mentor...