Vendors told to leave Little Village Discount Mall will ‘exhaust every resource and method’ to stay, local alderman says

The Little Village Shopping Plaza, which includes the Discount Mall, is in the midst of transformation by its new owner, who has told some of the shop owners at the neighborhood icon to leave. They plan to stay.

SHARE Vendors told to leave Little Village Discount Mall will ‘exhaust every resource and method’ to stay, local alderman says
Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez addresses reporters at a news conference held in a store at the Little Village Shopping Plaza regarding the future of the vendors at the plaza’s iconic Discount Mall.

Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th) addresses reporters at a Thursday news conference held in a store at the Little Village Shopping Plaza regarding the future of the vendors at the plaza’s iconic Discount Mall.

Michael Loria/Sun-Times

After about 30 years in operation and a year fighting to stay in business, dozens of vendors at the Little Village Discount Mall have finally been told to leave the Southwest Side neighborhood icon.

But, they won’t go without trying every means of remaining in place, said the local alderman.

“We’re going to exhaust every resource and method of our office until we come to an agreement,” said Ald. Byron-Sigcho Lopez, whose redrawn 25th Ward now includes parts of the Southwest Side neighborhood. “If there’s no agreement, we’ll begin legal action.”

Sigcho-Lopez announced the intention to fight the changes at a news conference held Thursday evening at La Baguette Bakery, across from the mall at the intersection of 26th Street and Albany Avenue.

The news conference was attended by dozens of the vendors who were left out of an announcement Monday from Novak Construction, which acquired the site in 2019, that about half of the mall’s vendors would remain under a new lease.

Kocoy Malagón, who has run a dress shop at the Little Village Discount Mall for the past 13 years, is flanked by other vendors as she addresses reporters at a news conference about the future of the neighborhood icon.

Kocoy Malagón, who has run a dress shop at the Little Village Discount Mall for the past 13 years, is flanked by other vendors as she addresses reporters at a news conference about the future of the neighborhood icon.

Michael Loria/Sun-Times

The announcement came as a shock to vendors on the side of the mall left out of the deal and on Thursday, Sigcho-Lopez met with John Novak of Novak Construction and city officials to discuss the future of the remaining vendors.

The fears of the remaining vendors were confirmed at the meeting — they would have to leave. The date given was March 26.

Management responsible for the vendors informed them of the coming changes at about the same time as the meeting in a statement sent via email.

“We recognize the impact this will have on you and your business. We understand the emotional attachment you have to the mall and the L.V. community, as we have known most of you and your families for over three decades now. It is with genuine sadness that we must bid farewell,” the statement read.

The statement explained that an agreement about the rate of the rent could not be reached, as sources had told the Sun-Times earlier, and urged the vendors to liquidate their stores in the meantime.

Sigcho-Lopez urged vendors to hold out and said he planned to ask Mayor Lori Lightfoot to suspend any licenses or permits extended to the site.

Many of the vendors present for the news conference hold out hope that they will get a chance to remain, but some are worried.

Rafael Gomez, the owner of a candy shop in the Little Village Discount Mall, where he’s worked for the past 10 years, attends a news conference on the future of the neighborhood icon. 

Rafael Gomez, the owner of a candy shop in the Little Village Discount Mall, where he’s worked for the past 10 years, attends Thursday’s news conference on the future of the mall.

Michael Loria/Sun-Times

Rafael Gomez, who runs a candy shop at the mall where he’s worked for the last 10 years, wonders what he would do next.

The longtime Chicago resident said he and his wife raised three kids through what they earned at the business. His wife didn’t attend the conference because she was still manning the shop, he said.

“That’s my livelihood,” he said. “I don’t know where to go. I don’t know where I can bring my business.”

Michael Loria is a staff reporter at the Chicago Sun-Times via Report for America, a not-for-profit journalism program that aims to bolster the paper’s coverage of communities on the South Side and West Side.

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