Good morning, troops. It's Wednesday, May 2.
It had to be seen to be believed, after so many decades, but Bergner's in the Sheridan Village shopping center really is closed. The department store shut down Monday following a 60-year run at Lake Avenue and Sheridan Road in Central Peoria.
The shuttering of the Sheridan Village Bergner's was announced in January. It was a prelude to the extinction of the entire Bergner's fleet, which in Peoria includes its flagship store at The Shoppes at Grand Prairie.
The Grand Prairie Bergner's is to close by late summer. So are its counterparts in Galesburg, Pekin, Peru and elsewhere in the bankrupt Bon-Ton chain.
Nick in the Morning's esteemed colleague Phil Luciano assembled a fine collection of Journal Star readers' memories regarding Bergner's. They were published last weekend and can be read by clicking here and here.
Regarding the Sheridan Village Bergner's, we had a couple of favorite aspects.
It was the most prominent local home of Ticketron, an outlet that sold tickets to concerts and sports events from central Illinois to the Chicago area. It was the forerunner of Ticketmaster, minus most of the usurious fees.
We bought many a seat to a Bradley University basketball game or a rock concert — Rush at the Rosemont Horizon, 1982, was notable — through that Bergner's Ticketron, which was at the customer-service counter on the second floor.
Bergner's occupied the corner spot in Sheridan Village, with its entrance the most prominent in the plaza. But if we wanted to get in and out quickly, we used the Bergner's side doors, off Ridgemont Road.
That entrance was so forgotten an old-school Bergner's sign, not the newer font with the red Bon-Ton symbol, still was hanging above it Tuesday when we visited.
What will become of that sign and the rest of the 160,000-square-foot Bergner's building is uncertain.
The Sheridan Village owner, Toronto-based Northbridge Investment Management, has been marketing the Bergner's space for a few months. It's received no nibbles so far, according to Northbridge partner Michael Lazier. He said it's unlikely a future tenant will want all the available space.
The rear section of the Bergner's building, parallel to Lake Avenue, might be the most endangered.
"You never know what can happen with that back building," Lazier said. "There might be someone who sees value in it. We might end up demolishing it. All options are on the table right now."
Lazier and his associates are attempting to attract traffic to Sheridan Village, which has a number of vacancies and whose major business now is a Hy-Vee supermarket.
On Saturday, the plaza will play host to "Hop Into Spring," a program that is to feature a car show, a petting zoo, food, face painting, balloon art and other festivities.
That's much more than is happening at what once was the major mall in Galesburg.
Sandburg Mall has been on life support for a while. Galesburg Register-Mail counterpart Robert Connelly, the hardest-working man in Knox County, reported recreational walking in the mall was to end Tuesday.
Only one retailer is open in the main part of the mall — a GNC vitamin store. (A GNC also is open in Sheridan Village. Coincidence?) Bergner's there is not long for this world. Neither is the other Sandburg anchor, J.C. Penney.
The Galesburg City Council has approved subdividing the mall property, but potential plans for it haven't been revealed publicly.
All of this contributes to a narrative regarding the difficulties of retail in the internet age. But instead of disappearing, retail might be evolving. As it always has.
WGN-AM (720) in Chicago aired a discussion recently on that topic. Merchants have been coming and going forever. Anybody in Peoria remember Venture? Szolds? Block & Kuhl?
"It's not like retail is completely dead," Lazier said. "There are still tenants active in the market, expanding or looking to relocate. Sheridan is a great, quality shopping center."
Sandburg Mall no longer is. Here's hoping the retail evolution is rapid enough to prevent a similar fate for Lazier's property.
The song heard on the way to work was popular about the same time the Sheridan Village Bergner's was selling more merchandise per square foot than any department store in the country, if you believe Wikipedia.