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Developer meeting casts doubt on Yellow Bird’s future in Plaza del Lago

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Developer meeting casts doubt on Yellow Bird’s future in Plaza del Lago

Yellow Bird Stationery, Invitations and Gifts is the newest Plaza del Lago shop to specific concern over the direction of the shopping mall under latest owners WS Development.

Shop owner Cindy Manhoff shared on social media an update from a recent conversation wherein WS Development officials offered the gift shop a brand new and smaller space throughout the center.

“We were shocked!” reads the post, which also describes an initial meeting with plaza owners that “looked as if it would go thoroughly and so they regarded us as an anchor store. Last week’s meeting with them was a unique story!”

A representative for WS Development declined to comment on negotiations with Yellow Bird and didn’t deny the main points shared by Yellow Bird, a 40-plus-year-old Wilmette business.

Cindy Manhoff — whose family acquired Yellow Bird 34 years ago — told The Record that the initial meeting with WS Development was in May and the more-recent discussion occurred in early December when she called the developer in hopes of hearing an update on prospective latest tenants. As a substitute, Manhoff said WS told her they wanted Yellow Bird to maneuver to an interior space much smaller than the shop’s current footprint.

“I used to be just floored,” said Manhoff, who responded by posting a summary of the situation throughout the store and eventually online. The post also included a request for the shop’s customers to contact WS Development in support of the shop.

“My customers once they read the data were so upset. Some were on the register crying,” Manhoff said. “The support has been amazing. … I don’t know the way many messages (WS Development) got. It needed to be loads.”

A message posted at Yellow Bird and online.

Plaza del Lago is a historic, 100,000-square-foot shopping mall near Wilmette’s lakefront that claims to be the second oldest such development within the country. Formerly in an area dubbed No Man’s Land, the plaza was annexed into Wilmette within the Nineteen Forties and currently comprises greater than 30 storefronts in spread between an open-air concept and indoor galleria.

WS Development purchased Plaza del Lago in 2022, not long after it acquired Edens Plaza on the west side of Wilmette, and committed to restoring and enhancing the shopping mall. Improvements include aesthetic upgrades throughout with construction set for 2024 and a grand reopening tentatively scheduled for mid 2025.

The developer has also promised latest “best at school local and national retailers” but has not announced any at this point. As for current tenants, a minimum of seven businesses have left Plaza del Lago since WS Development took over.

Longtime Wilmette stores Hanig’s Footwear, Chantilly Lace, and Giggles and Giraffes/La Colonna moved to downtown Wilmette, while Rosati’s Pizza closed its plaza location and Char Crews closed entirely.

Amid public concern, WS Development sent a letter to the Wilmette Village Board in June that partially reads, “We ask in your patience while we finalize our plans and definitely while we undertake improvements to portions of the property and reopen the doors in 2025. The start of those projects is rarely essentially the most fun part but what’s to come back from the newly restored Plaza del Lago is a spot that we consider will make you all proud and that’s what we try to do day by day.”

Plaza del Lago continues to be anchored by national chains Jewel, CVS and Starbucks and native stalwarts Convito Cafe and Market, Burhop’s Seafood, and Yellow Bird.

When (customers) read the data (they) were so upset. Some were on the register crying. … The support has been amazing.”
Cindy Manhoff, owner of Yellow Bird in Wilmette

While Yellow Bird’s future in Plaza del Lago is up within the air, Manhoff said she wants the shop to stay in Wilmette.

Wilmette officials, including Village Manager Mike Braiman and Village President Senta Plunkett, met with Manhoff and Yellow Bird management on Monday to debate the shop’s future. Braiman said that the Village is committed to keeping Yellow Bird in Wilmette, “whether that’s somewhere in Plaza del Lago or elsewhere locally.”

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