Little Village’s Discount Mall is open as usual

Chicago (CBS) – It’s business as usual at the much-loved Discount Mall in Little Village. The lease was due to expire at midnight until another extension was issued.

That prevented about 200 businesses from closing down, but the mall’s future remains in limbo after it was sold to a developer. CBS 2’s Andrew Ramos spoke with the suppliers involved.

If you walk along West 26th Street in Little Village, you can get a feel for the culture. It’s this sense of community and tradition that gives the people here (mainly made up of Mexican immigrants) a sense of belonging.

And for entrepreneurs chasing the American dream, Discount Mall has always been their outlet.

For nearly four decades, the mall has housed more than 200 vendors selling everything from dresses and boots to electronics.

But in the three years since the site was sold to developer Novak Construction, things have been rocky. A vendor like Juan Zarrate, who has been running his pet store in the mall since the mall opened, knows next to nothing about the future.

“They keep saying they’re going to shut us down. It makes me uncomfortable. I don’t know what to believe,” Zarate said in Spanish.

Veronica is in the same boat as Miguel Gutierrez who runs the electronics booth.

“We live in fear because we don’t know what to expect,” Miguel said. “We don’t know if we’re going to be kicked out of this mall.”

It’s this lack of communication that has frustrated many suppliers at the Discount Mall, where three lease extensions have been issued. The latest happened this week, buying both sides more time to work out future issues.

After mounting pressure, Novak Construction responded to an outcry from suppliers fearing displacement and eventually agreed to meet with them.

“Nowalk looks forward to sharing plans to improve the mall and correct recent misstatements. Our goal is to benefit the Little Village community and continue the tradition of attracting shoppers and tourists to the Discount Mall,” the company said in a statement.

While she’s open to any discussion, Veronica Gutierrez has just one request. “If these people have plans and projects, we want to be included in those projects. Don’t leave us behind,” she said in Spanish.

A much-anticipated meeting between the supplier and developer Novak Construction is scheduled for February 2. 16.

While no official plans for the site have been announced, the vendors here say they just want to be a part of the next chapter.

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