Borders and Noon Hookah close doors

The two closures make it a bittersweet week for Hyde Park retail.

Photo: Camille van Horne/The Chicago Maroon
Borders announced that it will be closing its Hyde Park location on 53rd Street.

Borders on East 53rd Street and South Hyde Park Avenue and Noon Hookah Lounge on East 55th Street and South Lake Park Avenue are closing their doors, the stores announced this week. The two closures make it a bittersweet week for Hyde Park retail, which hopes to get a boost from the anticipated opening of the Five Guys burger joint on 53rd and Harper Avenue.

Noon Hookah Lounge closed to customers last Saturday, after a rent increase caused owner Kal Muhammad to decline to renew the business’s five-year lease with MAC Property Management. MAC signed the lease with Muhammad about a year after they bought the property in 2005.

A new tenant has already signed a lease for the property, said Director of Community Development for MAC Property Management Peter Cassel. According to Muhammad, a nail salon will be opened in its place.

Cassel would neither confirm nor deny the signing of the lease for a nail salon.

Muhammad said business had been good, but that MAC’s proposed increase wasn’t economically feasible for the lounge. “We didn’t have any problems with customers. We have a great customer base, a lot of loyal customers that we appreciate, that were very upset with us closing. But it kind of wasn’t by choice,” he said.

Instead, Muhammad said, there had been issues renegotiating a lease with MAC. Cassel declined to comment on the lease, citing business policy.

According to Muhammad, MAC had raised the rental prices and then ignored his attempts to renegotiate.

“It was the lease process, renegotiating the lease, that’s all it was. Basically it was a miscommunication from the landlord’s part with us and lack of opportunity to renew the lease at a reasonable rate,” he said.

“I had sent them my offer to renew the lease. And their response: they kind of ignored me for a while. Which I came to find out later it was because they were negotiating a lease with someone else. They finally returned my call letting me know that somebody else has already signed the lease for the space and that they did not want to renew my lease,” he said.

Cassel said retail in Hyde Park is healthy and on an upward trajectory, citing turnover among stores as evidence.

“I would say that in the last year we’ve had two new businesses open—that would be Phli and Tamer Hair Salon—and then we grab this third lease that signed [at the current Noon Hookah Lounge location]. And if you look back two years, five of the existing businesses [on 55th Street] renewed their leases. So we have a pattern of renewal, growth, and new businesses,” he said.

The decision to close the Borders store was announced last Friday, according to a manager who declined to be named because he was not authorized to discuss the closing. The bookstore, which is currently offering large discounts on both its inventory and furnishings, will close on March 4.

“This came literally out of nowhere,” said another employee.

Other Borders stores around the country have already closed, including the flagship store at 830 North Michigan Avenue—the largest Borders store nationwide.

According to Borders spokesperson Mary Davis, the decisions to close the stores were independent of each other.

“We regularly evaluate our portfolio of stores to make sure that each and every one within the chain is meeting our business objectives. And we make decisions on a case-by-case basis to close stores that don’t meet those objectives. The stores that we’ve closed in the Chicago area and others we’ve closed nationwide have not met our business needs,” she said.

According to Davis, the future is uncertain for the Borders employees at the 53rd Street location. Some will be offered positions at other stores, while others will be laid off. “Typically, when we go to close a store we take a look at the staff to see where we can place them at other area stores, when it makes sense for them and it makes sense for the company,” said Davis.

With over a month before doors close permanently, not all the details have yet been worked out for the current employees, Davis said. “It’s still very early in the process, they were just told, just in the last couple of days,” she said.

  • JohnDoe

    Just what 55th Street needs East of the tracks – another nail salon…

  • FG

    What exactly about Borders closing is a surprise? It’s been in the news for several years that it’s been a possibility.

  • Jane Doe

    I agree with John Doe; just what Hyde Park needs, another nail salon?!

  • a hyde park lady

    Its Very Upsetting to me
    Hyde park is becoming DEAD
    i got upset when baskin robin closed
    whats wrong with hyde park?
    i love hyde park
    they need a great dollar store, like dollar tree
    or & a walmart or & another ice cream place
    they need alot
    they closed up harper court
    looks like a Useless walking area,
    i used to be so proud of hyde park
    how can i invite out of town friends to hyde park? & say
    ohh hyde park is beauitifull
    no its not no more
    hyde park is going down hill
    get some cheap buisness here & create a new hyde park
    & on 53rd street
    if it wasnt for the beauitifull art works in the windows, NOTHING would perk it up
    hyde park Get to work & let us be proud oi again
    thanks for reading
    now create more things in hyde park
    i hope nichols park doesnt take away the music in summer
    next well hear that,
    october fest was great
    keep doing that
    A thumbs up on that
    upset with hyde park
    8 years living in hyde park

  • Left for the Loop

    A Hookah lounge should never be allowed anywhere. The same applies to tobacco and record stores.

  • FG

    If you want nice businesses in Hyde Park why not patronize them instead of going up to Roosevelt to shop?

  • HydeParkNative

    I grew up in Hyde Park in the 60s and it has gone downhill from the 80s until now. There is still that HP charm, but for the most part, the “element” moved in and ruined a great neighborhood. Gone are the days we could walk to Murray school or play at the Hyde Park Neighborhood Club or go to Harper Court for an ice cream or take in a movie. Sad.

  • JohnDoe

    FG –
    Hard to patronize businesses in Hyde Park when they don’t have a wide variety of shops or a wide selection within specific types of shops.

  • Christian

    It all comes back to the University of Chicago which makes the final choices of what business are allowed in Hyde Park. They have blocked major chains like the Gap from coming in when these are the type of stores that the students and locals need. They’ve destroyed Harper’s Court an the movie theater for some development that still isn’t up. It doesn’t need a dollar store, it needs some quality stores. Hyde Park used to be a place to shop, dine and walk around, but thanks to the REAL ELEMENT (U of C), that place is gone.

  • Dave F

    Border’s at Hyde Park was opened with great promise of revitalization, jobs, and economic development. It was a long drawn out affair to get this chain store in that location, displacing a vibrant outdoor public space active with chess and board games. It was said then and is worth repeating now, this is a perfect way to kill a vibrant community — replace vibrant public spaces with badly-run commercial enterprises.

  • Dave F

    Replacing a great outdoor space for chess and board games with a closed commercial building was a big mistake. Hitching the economic future of the community to a failed chain store with no tangible benefits accruing to local community (for we already have several good book stores), was a bigger mistake. Now we have replaced a great outdoor meeting space full of activity, vitality, and sense of community with an empty building waiting for a tenant.