Bakers Square closes Alsip, Lansing, Orland Park locations

Bakers Square has closed its south suburban locations in Lansing, Alsip and on LaGrange Road in Orland Park. (Photo by Bob Bong)

By Bob Bong

Nashville-based Bakers Square Restaurants announced on Saturday that it had closed without warning all but one of its south suburban locations from Merrillville in northwest Indiana to Orland Park in southwest Cook County.

Locations closed include 3545 Ridge Road in Lansing, 4839 W. 111th St. in Alsip, 14651 S. LaGrange Road in Orland Park and 8140 S. Mississippi St. in Merrillville, Ind.

The action leaves a Bakers Square still operating at 15711 S. Harlem Ave. in Orland Park in the south suburbs and one at 1675 U.S. Highway 41 in Schererville in northwest Indiana. The next closest locations still open are at 942 S. LaGrange Road in LaGrange, one in Woodridge and another in Bourbonnais-Bradley.

A news release taped to the front doors of the closed location in Orland Park states, “After very careful consideration, we have made the tough but necessary decision to discontinue operations at the Orland Park location. This is never an easy decision to make and one driven by many business factors.” The same message was taped to all of the other locations with the name of that location changed in the release.

One of those factors apparently was the filing on Monday for Chapter 11 federal bankruptcy protection by American Blue Ribbon Holdings, the corporate parent of Bakers Square and Village Inn restaurants.

In the filing, the company said it closed 33 locations over the weekend citing high wages, growing competition, declining sales and higher operating costs. American Blue Ribbon has $14 million in unsecured claims, including unpaid rent and litigation claims, according to the filing.

A press release on Monday said American Blue Ribbon filed for bankruptcy to restructure under “a healthy core of restaurants.” The company said it was exploring “a variety of strategic and structural alternatives to best position the company for success in the future.”

The 33 restaurants represented a quarter of the locations American Blue Ribbon operated before filing for bankruptcy. Following the closures, the company operates 97 restaurants, 75 of which are Village Inn locations. Franchisees own and operate another 84 Village Inn locations, while Bakers Square has 22 restaurants in the Midwest.

Bakers Square began in December 1969 with a single restaurant called Mrs. C’s in Des Moines, Iowa, that became popular for its pies. Pillsbury purchased Mrs. C’s around that time, renamed it Poppin’ Fresh Pies, and opened additional locations. VICORP, owners of the Village Inn restaurant chain, purchased Poppin’ Fresh Pies from Pillsbury in 1983 and renamed the chain Bakers Square.

The company said pies represent 30% of Bakers Square’s sales. They were also known for giving away pie slices on Wednesdays.

Beverly coffee shop closes

B-Sides Coffee & Tea, which opened at 9907 S. Walden Pkwy. in October 2017, closed its door on Friday as owners Kevin and Karen O’Malley have relocated from Chicago’s Beverly community to her hometown of Indianapolis.

The couple named the business after the B-side of records and because it was located next to the Beverly Metra stop.

The couple has been managing the business from Indianapolis but said it was too much for them.

Express closes 2 Illinois stores

Fashion apparel retailer Express closed 31 stores last weekend including stores at River Oaks Mall in Calumet City and Hawthorne Mall in Vernon Hills.

They are among 100 stores the company said it would close by the end of 2022.

Express said it will also close another 35 stores by the end of January 2021 and the remaining locations by 2022. An additional nine stores had already closed in 2019.

The move to close stores is part of the company’s new corporate strategy, which focuses on customer engagement. The retailer is also looking to relaunch its loyalty program and private label credit cards by this fall.

Matteson Bar Louie survives purge

Bar Louie, the Texas-based gastropub chain founded in Chicago 30 years ago, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last Monday and closed more than 30 corporate-owned locations.

Thirty-eight corporate-owned locations were closed over the weekend due to “accelerating” sales declines. The chain, which had grown to 134 locations in 26 states, cites recent expansion, an “inconsistent brand experience” and decreased traffic to shopping malls as leading to the declines, according to the filing Monday in a Delaware bankruptcy court.

While the Bar Louie inside the Holiday Inn at Interstate 57 and U.S. 30 in Matteson survived the purge, locations at 22 E. Chicago Ave. in Naperville and 335 N. Dearborn St. in Chicago both closed over the weekend.

Wintrust announces cash dividends

Rosemont-based Wintrust Financial Corp. last week announced that the company’s board of directors approved a quarterly cash dividend of 28 cents per share of outstanding common stock.

The dividend is payable on Feb. 20 to shareholders of record as of Feb. 6. This represents an increase of approximately 12% from the 25 cents quarterly cash dividend paid in each of the quarters of 2019.

Additionally, the company’s board of directors approved quarterly cash dividends on outstanding shares of the company’s 6.50% Fixed-to-Floating Non-Cumulative Perpetual Preferred Stock, Series D. The dividend is payable on April 15 to shareholders of record as of April 1.

Aunt Sally’s, Bohemian Joe’s to close this weekend

Aunt Sally’s will close next Sunday at its longtime home in Calumet City. (Photo by Bob Bong)

Aunt Sally’s restaurant at 1215 Burnham Ave. in Calumet City will close at 3 p.m. Sunday, April 29, bringing the end to the Sidkey family’s 71-year relationship with local residents.

The Sidkey family opened a small grocery store at that location in 1947. It lasted until a fire in the early 1970s. The family then opened a full-service restaurant called Puffins. A few years later they converted it into a breakfast-lunch restaurant called Aunt Sally’s.

It will be open as usual for the rest of this week.

In neighboring Lansing, Bohemian Joe’s will close at 17940 S. Torrence Ave. the end of the day on Saturday, April 28.

The 6,200-square-foot restaurant was opened in January 2016 in the former Popolano’s restaurant by the Paliga family. It was put up for sale last year and has been sold.

No word on who the buyer is or what the future will bring.

Also, in Lansing, the Golden Crown restaurant was closed suddenly without warning at 17904 S. Torrence Ave. A note on the door from the owner said he was retiring.

Local JCPenney stores not on closing list

Seven Illinois locations are among 138 JCPenney stores closing nationwide, the retailer announced on Friday.

Last month, the Texas-based company announced it was closing a large number of brick-and-mortar stores and several distribution centers across the country to better compete in a changing marketplace where online shopping has become common.

“We are pleased with the double digit growth of jcpenney.com and how leveraging our brick and mortar locations is enabling us to offset the last-mile delivery cost,” the company said in a statement in February.

“We believe closing stores will also allow us to adjust our business to effectively compete against the growing threat of online retailers,” CEO Marvin R. Ellison said.

The Illinois closings include JCPenney stores at the following shopping centers, plus a freestanding location in Macomb:

  • Centerpointe of Woodridge, Woodridge
  • Eastland Mall, Bloomington
  • Fulton Square, Canton
  • Village Square Mall, Effingham
  • Peru Mall, Peru
  • Northland Mall, Sterling

A full timetable for closings has not been released, but JCPenney has said liquidation will begin April 17 and most stores will shut their doors in June.

The closings will affect a reported 5,000 jobs nationwide.

“JCPenney is in the process of identifying relocation opportunities within the Company for esteemed leaders,” the company said Friday in a news release. “Additionally, JCPenney will provide outplacement support services for those eligible associates who will be leaving the Company.”

The closings will not affect stores in Calumet City, Bourbonnais, Orland Park, North Riverside, Joliet, Matteson, Mokena and Ford City Mall.