"Chicago has been welcoming to us since we opened our first store in 2004, and this site makes sense as the trade area is perfect for us," said Ken Chica, district manager for Anna’s Linens in Chicago. "We are planning to be here for a long time."
The 12,000-square-foot store already has hired 20 employees, many from the community, to help sell its popular lines of bed comforters, pillows, sheets, blankets, scented candles and more, Chica added.
The new South Side store means Yancy Moses, 34, won't have to travel far to do Christmas shopping.
"I give the same presents every year, and that's a comforter set. Normally I go to the Anna's Linens on 75th and Stony [Island Avenue], but now I can walk down the street to do my shopping this year," said Moses, who lives in the 8500 block of South State Street.
"Nothing beats shopping in your own neighborhood. I pay my cellphone bill at the mall. My bank is located at the mall, and I also go to the movies at the mall."
Ald. Howard Brookins (21st), whose ward includes the shopping center, said he is glad to see that national retailers like Anna Linen's want a presence in Chatham.
"Chatham is a black, middle-class community, and for some retailers that is not attractive. It's always good to see new businesses open up, especially those willing to hire employees from the community and offer products and services of interest to consumers."
Melinda Kelly, executive director of the Chatham Business Association, agreed.
"Chatham is an excellent place for a business to have a presence. We look forward to working with them in stabilizing the business district."
And Chica said he is not worried about the store being located next door to a future mega-church.
"It could be great for area businesses," he said.
By year's end the 4,000-member New Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church could begin the process of moving into the vacant site at 8522 S. Lafayette Ave., former headquarters of Soft Sheen Products Co.
New Fellowship's pastor, the Rev. Charles Jenkins, said the 14.5-acre site would include up to seven retail stores, a restaurant, youth center and school at an estimated cost of $26 million.