What business will fill Gap in downtown Hinsdale?
The Gap store closed in June, leaving a large vacancy in a prime spot in HInsdale's downtown. | Kimberly Fornek~Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 20, 2012 11:21AM
HINSDALE — The closing of the Gap store at the southeast corner of Washington and First streets in Hinsdale has left the former bank building empty for the first time in more than 20 years.
The site is a “superb location,” said Timothy Scott, Hinsdale’s director of economic development, but the size of the empty store will be more challenging.
Gap Inc.’s efforts to operate more efficiently with a new management team and fewer stores have cost Hinsdale two stores, Gap, at 101 S. Washington St. and Gap Kids, at 44 S. Washington.
“Right now, it’s about casting a wide net, and finding owner-occupied stores that will complement our current mix,” ” Scott said. “But we also want to fill in the blanks if possible,” meaning bring in businesses with products or services not available in Hinsdale.
Scott did not want to list the types of businesses the village lacks, but did say a bookstore and an ice cream shop come up when people talk about what they would like to have in their community. But expectations should be realistic, he said.
Bookstores in general are a dying industry, Scott said, and independent book stores, in particular, have been closing at a rapid rate. Perhaps, a specialty type of bookstore would fare well in Hinsdale, such as one that focuses on collectibles or offers appraisals.
“Those are the type of businesses we covet,” Scott said.
While two ice cream stores, Baskin & Robbins and the Coldstone Creamery, have come and gone in Hinsdale, they closed because of circumstances other than a lack of demand.
“Hinsdale can support an ice cream shop, if you get the right one, in the right spot at the right time,” Scott said.
Neither an ice cream store, nor a specialty book dealer, however, is likely to need as much space as in the empty Gap and Gap Kids stores.
The Gap store is 4,300 square feet on the main level and Gaps Kids, at 44 S. Washington St., is 2,700 square feet.
“What’s popular (among retailers) is somewhere between 1,200 and 2000 square feet, with the sweet spot right in the middle. It’s rare we have people looking for (space in) the upper 2,000s and beyond,” Scott said.
The location of the vacant stores will be a marketing advantage, Scott said.
“Washington Street from Hinsdale to First Street is the premier block in Hinsdale. It has the highest profile,” from a real estate perspective, he said.
The appearance of the 101 S. Washington building, also is appealing.
“It’s so beautiful and such a dramatic space,” Scott said. “It’s light-filled and has gorgeous millwork.”
The larger space and interesting interior might be suitable for a restaurant, but the drawback is the building lacks the infrastructure a restaurant requires.
Kitchen build-outs require grease traps, exhaust and fire suppression systems. Often the size of the sewer and water lines must be increased.
“Reuse of historic buildings can be a challenge. It’s not insurmountable, but it would require investment to adapt them for an eatery,” Scott said.
Pete Burdi is making that investment in another old Hinsdale landmark down the street from the Gap store and across the street from two restaurants he already owns: Il Poggiolo and Nabuki, Burdi is in the process of renovating the old Hinsdale Theater into a restaurant to be called Ciné, Spanish for theater.