With a flourish of colorful streamers seemingly falling from the skylights above and onlookers that included Gov. Pat Quinn, Fashion Outlets Chicago marked its grand opening in Rosemont Thursday, August 1— the closest outlet mall to the city of Chicago.
“We hope this becomes part of the daily life of this community and that the pride we put into it shows through for Chicago and Rosemont,” said Arthur Weiner, chairman of Fashion Outlets’ developer AWE Talisman, following a 10 a.m. ribbon cutting before crowds of eager shoppers.
Court jesters in colorful costumes entertained in the aisles with ribbons and other props while children lined up to have their faces painted or receive a piece of balloon artwork.
Though it bills itself as an outlet mall, Fashion Outlets, located at River Road and Balmoral Avenue, is actually a mixture of more than 150 outlets, factory stores and brand-name retailers, in addition to a food court and the sit-down Villagio and Prasino restaurants. Stores range from high-end names like Last Call by Neiman Marcus, Barney’s New York Outlet, Bloomingdales Outlet Store, Gucci and Coach to the Children’s Place, Bath and Body Works and Forever 21.
More than six years in the making, Fashion Outlets also holds the distinction of being the “first two-level, fully enclosed outlet shopping center in the world,” according to Weiner.
Lines began forming outside several stores well before they opened, as shoppers hoped to be among the first to score a deal. Long lines persisted in front of shops like Prada, Gucci and Coach as of 12:30 p.m. Thursday.
Quique Ballado and Brian Perille, both of Barrington, arrived at 5 a.m. with folding chairs, camping out in the attached parking garage to order to score a spot at the front of the line outside the Nike Factory Store.
“Nike always pulls out crazy stuff the day it opens,” Ballado explained of their eagerness to get inside.
A line also formed outside the Gucci store, where women eyed a selection of must-have handbags in the display window.
One of them, Yvonne Asque of South Holland, was among a group of select shoppers to take part in an early-bird preview of some stores on July 30 — but that didn’t stop her from returning on opening day and planning to come back yet again on Saturday.
“I went to Bloomingdales and Neiman Marcus. I think I spent too much already, but I saved a little bit for today,” she said, laughing. “It’s beautiful. We needed this. We don’t have to go to Gurnee, we don’t have to go to Aurora.”
Barbara Stensland of Arlington Heights, with daughter Katie and her friends Monica Behrmann and Stacie Palmer, were the first in line for the Tory Burch Outlet, a designer clothing, shoes and handbags shop.
“I was the catalyst of all this,” Stensland said. “I said, ‘It’s going to be like Black Friday. We have to go.’”
Gov. Quinn, making an appearance just prior to signing a bill legalizing medical marijuana in Illinois, touted the number of jobs Fashion Outlets has generated — estimated at 2,000 — and a feature that allows passengers headed to O’Hare to check in and pick up their boarding passes right inside the mall before taking a shuttle to the airport.
Fashion Outlets also sports large, vividly painted murals and other art installations as part of the Arts Initiative, an endeavor that places interactive visual art in public places.
The mall’s grand opening celebration will take place through Sunday, Aug. 4. Until Sunday, parking at the mall’s adjacent garage and tolls at I-294’s nearby Balmoral exit will be free.