AVALON PARK — Dirty floors. Expired food. Rat droppings. The Dollar Tree at the busy intersection of 87th Street and Stony Island Avenue has been a source of community complaints for decades, with residents regularly calling the local alderman’s office.
As of Monday, the neighbor’s headache is gone — if not for good, at least temporarily. The city’s Department of Public Health temporarily suspended the store’s license Monday morning pending a public hearing.
It was a victory for Ald. Michelle Harris (8th) who had heard complaints about the discount chain at 8721 S. Stony Island Avenue before she took office in 2006.
Getting a response from Dollar Tree’s corporate offices has been hard, Harris told Block Club this week, but she feels the move will definitely get their attention.
“This store has been a thorn in the community for years, but this was the first time we were able to get concrete evidence of the expired food and the rodent droppings,” said Harris. “The store was just filthy.”
The alderman isn’t sure if it’s the timing or a matter of the inspectors actually getting there, but said that she’s “ecstatic” over the city taking action.
“It’s not like they weren’t taking any. They had to find something. They had to see it. I can say a crime is committed, but if I can’t prove it…? They have to go in and see what we see,” said Harris.
Harris added that she and a number of residents had tried to speak to the manager about the cleanliness of the store — which shares a building with a dialysis clinic — but none of them stayed long enough to address the problem.
“They’re kind of transient. They come, they go, and you might get get a good one temporarily but the next three after them might be horrible,” said Harris.
She also plans to be front and center at the hearing, though she’s unsure how or when it will happen. With the city now under a “stay at home” order, protocol regarding public hearings remains unclear.
‘They have to go through a whole litany of things before the health department will let them reopen,” said Harris.
The Dollar Tree was one of a dozen or so discount stores to move into the area around the early aughts, according to Harris, who added that, even if the store closes permanently, her constituents will have plenty of others to choose from.
“If I don’t have another dollar store, this community will survive,” said Harris, who added that she’d love for a family-friendly, dine-in restaurant chain to move into the space.
Dollar Tree was unavailable for comment.
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