The loud and distracting construction going on in downtown Clarendon Hills has likely taken eyes away from the "Coming Soon" posters in the windows of the vacant space next-door to at 19 S. Prospect Ave.
The owners of the newest Learning Express Toys, a franchise chain that has 150 locations nationwide, reached a lease agreement to move into the Prospect Avenue space in June and are planning a Sept. 20 opening that, according to village manager Randy Recklaus, will mark the first time in several years every Prospect retail space south of the BNSF tracks is occupied.
Laurie and Noorali Kherani own the new franchise. It will be their second Learning Express store; they also operate one in Countryside.
Laurie Kherani said don't be fooled by the store's name.
"Sometimes people get confused and think it's a teacher's store," she said. "It's a toy store."
Kherani said the toys sold at Learning Express will be "higher quality with more play value."
The store will feature different toy departments—science, building, art, tween, infant, toddler, outdoors. Kherani said she and her husband, parents to 9-year-old twins, decided to open their own Learning Express stores based on Laurie's experience at the Glen Ellyn franchise.
"As a mom, you get stuck in the store for hours," she said.
And Clarendon Hills is a prime spot for a toy store, Kherani said, based on demographic information Learning Express provides their potential franchise owners.
"Obviously, we're looking for a community with children, a vested interest in their children," she said.
Recklaus said the is "thrilled" to have Learning Express open downtown.
"Their arrival ... means that all of Prospect, as far as on the south side of the tracks, is leased up," the village manager said. "That’s the first time it’s been that way in a few years, since the economic downturn."
Lindy's and Aguamiel, two restaurants moving into spaces on the west side of Prospect, are still working on their openings.
Kherani said Learning Express expects inventory to start arriving in the first week of September, in time for a grand opening celebration from Sept. 20 to Sept. 23.
She said there will be promotions and giveaways during the opening and special guests will include Elmo and SpongeBob SquarePants.