Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr., with Maywood Mayor Edwenna Perkins, Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin and Congressman Danny K. Davis, among other community members, outside of the Maywood Aldi on Madison Street. | Michael Romain/VFP
Wednesday, December 21, 2016 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews || UPDATED: 12/22/16
Despite a vigorous push to keep the store open, a group of village officials and elected leaders have resigned themselves to the reality that the Maywood Aldi, 216 Madison St., will close on Dec. 24. Company executives announced the news earlier this month.
Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin (1st), who convened a Wednesday afternoon press conference outside of the store, said that, during meetings held earlier this week, Aldi executives gave two main reasons for the store’s closing.
“The first reason is because this store is the least shopped store in Cook County,” Boykin said. “[Aldi] has over 160 stores in the Chicagoland area. [There’s been a] downward trend in terms of the number of shoppers at this store over the last 10 years.”
Boykin said the other main reason Aldi gave for leaving is because of rising property taxes.
“Property taxes, at this location, have increased 80 percent over the last six years,” he said. “So, the combination of low shopper rate, high property taxes and high sales taxes makes it untenable to do business here in Maywood.”
When asked why it decided to close on Christmas Eve, Boykin explained that Aldi officials were thinking about the work schedules of its employees.
“Whenever you close a store it’s never easy,” Boykin said. “But they said it’s the fourth quarter. In 2017, they want to start anew and fresh, so the timing is kind of awkward. But they also indicated that they wanted to give their employees a chance to have a bit of a vacation.”
Boykin said that county officials “would do well to heed this trend [of business leaving the village],” before referencing Corbin Colonial Funeral Chapel, located at 1001 Madison St., which closed its doors roughly a decade ago because of the village’s high property taxes.
It was previously reported that, according to village officials, Aldi received a Class 8 property tax incentive. But based on a recent communication with an Aldi official and Cook County records, the company didn’t receive any property tax exemptions. According to county records, the 2015 first and second installment tax bills for the Maywood Aldi totaled nearly $150,000
In a 2009 West Suburban Journal article, Corbin Colonial’s owner estimated that his 2008 second installment property taxes were $110,000.
“We have to figure out a way to make sure that the county is competitive and that we’re attracting business here and in Maywood,” Boykin said.
Rev. Marvin E. Wiley, pastor of Rock of Ages Baptist Church, 1309 Madison St. in Maywood, said that the problem with taxes also rises to the state level.
“The taxes in Maywood are high,” Wiley said. “I think the problem is state government and we need to talk to the governor, who came out and said that he was concerned about Maywood. We need to talk to him about lowering the taxes in Maywood — if only for three years — to try to bring in businesses […] If you don’t’ lower the taxes, other businesses are going to go.”
Boykin said that he was able to negotiate a three-pronged agreement with Aldi. The company, he said, has agreed to provide free shuttle service to nearby Aldi stores for shoppers who relied on the Maywood store. The details of the transportation arrangement, Boykin said, will be hammered out in the days ahead.
Aldi also agreed to lift any restrictions on the sale of the store, which it owns, to another grocer that may be interested in moving in; and that no jobs will be lost because of the closing.
Thirdly, Boykin added, employees at the Maywood store have been notified that they will be transferred to other stores in the area.
During the Dec. 21 press conference, village officials explained that they’re looking beyond Aldi to other prospective development projects. Boykin said that, according to Aldi executives, there may be another grocer looking to seize the soon-to-be-vacant property. Village officials agreed, adding that the grocer is among other developers that are knocking on the door.
“I would like to ensure all of Maywood that I’m working around the clock to improve the goods and services of this village,” said Maywood Mayor Edwenna Perkins.
“Currently, we’re looking at adding businesses and are in talks with grocers and manufacturers who are interested in making their products in our village and the surrounding consumer trade area,” she said. “We’re looking forward to adding many additional businesses to our village.”
Maywood Village Manager Willie Norfleet, Jr. said that he considers Aldi’s exit an opportunity.
“It’s always disheartening when you lose a service, but the right posture is to get back up, snap out of it and seek another alternative,” Norfleet said. “We need to begin recruiting somebody to come in and not just limit ourselves to one company. We need to find another way to get those services back. Sometimes, you can get something a bit better if you don’t lock yourself in for somebody who wants to leave.”
U.S. Rep. Danny K. Davis (7th), who said he frequents Aldi, said that the Maywood Aldi’s exit is part of a larger narrative of economic change happening across the country.
“When people moved out here there were jobs everywhere, but many of those jobs have left urban America,” he said, adding that the expansion of expressways into far-away that allow people to travel to and from, and live in, faraway suburbs puts inner-ring suburbs like Maywood in a bind when it comes to attracting, and retaining, both customers and the businesses they serve.
“Trying to balance a budget, especially if you’re not getting much in the way of commercial tax revenue, is hard,” Davis said. “It’s hard to keep a community going.”
Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr. said that Aldi’s exit from Maywood, where it’s been located since 1992, is part of a more insidious pattern.
“I saw them leave 87th Street (in Chicago), I saw them leave Peoria and now Maywood,” Jackson said. “It looks as if they’re expanding, generally, but moving away from black communities. We find that pattern unacceptable. And they’re getting tax breaks from the state and county and cities. We need a good social contract with consumers, taxpayers and store owners to share in the benefits of the relationship.” VFP
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article misstated the amount of property taxes Aldi was paying on its Maywood location and that the company received tax exemptions. VFP regrets the error.