DeKALB – When dozens of residents called William Staebler in the past week to complain about Barnes & Noble closing, he told them there was nothing he could do.
Staebler is the director of real estate development for Mid-America Management, the company that owns the building Barnes & Noble has rented for more than a decade.
The national book retailer will close Dec. 31 because Barnes & Noble made an offer on a new lease and refused to negotiate with Mid-America, Staebler said.
Staebler said Barnes & Noble representatives have rejected lease offers his company made during the past year that would have reduced the store’s rent for the 21,000 square-foot space at 2439 Sycamore Road.
“People ask me why I’m evicting Barnes & Noble,” Staebler said. “But I’m not closing the store. I’m not laying people off their jobs. It’s[Barnes & Noble’s] decision.”
Staebler said he still is willing to negotiate with Barnes & Noble over lease terms. Barnes & Noble officials, however, appear to have no interest in negotiation.
“We have commenced the store-closing process, and the inventory at this location will be marked down to facilitate the year-end closing,” David Deason, vice president of development for Barnes & Noble, said in a prepared statement. “We look forward to continuing to serve our valued customers at our many other Chicago metro area locations.”
Deason said the company had several conversations with Mid-America, but they couldn’t come to an agreement. Some 28 people work at the DeKalb store, Deason said, and they will be offered opportunities to interview at other locations. The nearest locations to DeKalb are Geneva and Rockford.
Barnes & Noble opened the DeKalb store in the Oakland Center in 2002. Staebler said he is actively searching for a new retailer, but he couldn’t disclose any potential tenants.
Staebler said he would rather keep Barnes & Noble than undergo the costly process of securing a new tenant.
It took nearly two years for Mid-America to find new tenants after Old Navy closed its location in the same shopping center in 2012, Staebler said.
Designer Shoe Warehouse and Five Below divided the building and opened in April.
Ellen Divita, community development director for the city of DeKalb, said she spoke with both par`ties a few times, suggesting they enter into a short-term lease. With negotiations at a stalemate, Divita, like Staebler, is looking for another bookseller.
“We think this community desires a full-service bookstore,” Divita said.
She said a private book retailer approached her about opening in DeKalb, but she hasn’t seen any formal plans. She is also open to suggestions from residents about other types of businesses they travel out of DeKalb to visit.