NORMAL — Local officials will help fill another retail space following Monday's announcement that Dressbarn, a women's clothing chain that's been around nearly 60 years, is closing all 650 of its stores.
Normal staff plans to work with M&J Wilkow, the Chicago real estate developer that owns the Shoppes at College Hills, to replace Dressbarn once it vacates a large space next door to Hobby Lobby off Towanda Avenue.
"We have not received any details specific to the store in Normal; however, obviously we are disappointed with losing a significant tenant like Dressbarn in the Shoppes at College Hills," said Assistant City Manager Eric Hanson.
"Although retail development remains a very tough environment throughout the region and country, we will work with our contacts at M&J Wilkow to find a suitable replacement for that space."
An M&J Wilkow representative did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
Dressbarn's chief financial officer, Steven Taylor, said the chain's stores have not been operating at an "acceptable level of profitability in today's retail environment." Its owner, Ascena Retail Group Inc., said it wants to focus on its more profitable brands; Ascena also owns Ann Taylor, Lane Bryant and other clothing stores.
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The company did not say when Dressbarn will shut all its stores. Dressbarn employs about 6,800 people, and also has stores in Champaign, Peoria and Tuscola.
After the news was announced Monday, shares of Ascena Retail Group Inc. rose 2.6 percent to $1.17 in extended trading.
Meanwhile, M&J Wilkow is still working to fill the former Hobby Lobby space at the center of the Shoppes after that business moved into the former Gordmans location last summer. Gordmans closed its Normal store in 2017.
Other recent developments at the Shoppes include a multi-million-dollar remodel of Target that includes a new Starbucks; Torrid, a national women's clothing chain that focuses on plus-size items, opening in the center; and Comcast that moved its Twin City retail store to the Shoppes last fall.
Normal officials also are working to fill the former Fresh Market off Veterans Parkway. That space is part of a pair of shopping centers recently purchased and now being improved by Cincinnati-based developer Phillips Edison. Ross Dress for Less replaced Dick's Sporting Goods in that area last fall.
Normal is now without an economic development director following the retirement of Sally Heffernan at the end of March.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Contact Derek Beigh at (309) 820-3234. Follow him on Twitter: @pg_beigh