LITTLE VILLAGE — It’s been almost two years since the Little Village Discount Mall sold to a developer — but its vendors haven’t received an update about the mall’s future, even as half of their contracts are set to expire this month.
The Discount Mall and the shopping plaza at 3045-3117 W. 26th St. was sold to development company Novak Construction in February 2020 for $17.5 million, the Sun-Times reported. At the time, Novak’s president suggested the mall might not be the best use of the land and alluded to bringing chain stores to the area.
But for the owners and customers at the Discount Mall, closing the beloved shopping center would be a blow to workers’ incomes and the neighborhood’s Mexican culture. Little Village is known as “Mexico of the Midwest” and 26th Street is the the highest grossing shopping hub in the city after Michigan Avenue.
Half of the mall vendors’ contracts expired in February, and they have since been paying to stay and sell on a short-term basis, several said. Contracts for the other half are set to expire after Aug. 31. But vendors said there’s been no information shared about what will happen after that.
Novak Construction didn’t immediately respond to Block Club’s request for comment.
Esbeydi Mota, who helps at her mother’s shops at the Discount Mall, said she’s been getting customers coming in asking if they’re closed, and she just tells them it’s business as usual for now.
“But in reality, we don’t know anything,” Mota said in Spanish. “I hope it will be possible to be able to stay longer. Obviously, it will affect us all because so many people have businesses here. They get their salary day-to-day, and they take care of their family with that.”
People from all over Chicago — or even visiting from other countries, including Mexico — come to shop at the Discount Mall, Mota said.
“I think that they need to consider this, that to close the mall will affect all of us, all of us as a community, all of us who work here and the people who come to leave their money here,” she said.
And Mota and her family aren’t the only owners with unanswered questions.
“I am afraid. I have so many questions,” one woman said in Spanish as she worked the sewing machine at the shop she’s run for 28 years.
Kocoy Malagon, who has run a shop selling women’s clothes at the mall for 12 years, said she’s been in communication with Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th), whose ward will include the Discount Mall when the city’s new ward map kicks in. She said she’s hopeful the alderman will be able to connect the mall vendors and Novak to get information.
“This would be huge for us, to have a conversation between Novak and the vendors,” Malagon said.
Malagon said she knows neighborhoods sometimes change, but she wants to make sure the community’s own voice and vision are included.
Sigcho-Lopez said he’s recently met with Discount Mall vendors and the biggest thing they’re asking for is a sit-down meeting with someone from Novak Construction to answer their questions.
“It’s quite concerning that in two years, they have not had one single meeting with Novak Construction, so I see that as the first step — they need to disclose what the plans are,” the alderman said. “The new owners have a responsibility to respond to the hundreds of small business owners who are asking them for meeting.”
Sigcho-Lopez also said he hopes to hear back from the city’s Department of Planning and Development soon to voice concerns on behalf of neighbors about what they would lose if the Discount Mall closed.
“This would change the fabric of Little Village,” he said.
The Little Village Chamber of Commerce referred questions about the Discount Mall to Ald. George Cardenas’ (12th) office. Cardenas couldn’t be reached for comment.
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