December’s final week is busy time for Joliet bargain hunters
By Tony Graf firstname.lastname@example.org December 26, 2012 5:10PM
Braidwood residents Paige Ehrsam (left) and Tiffany Towe (right) make their way through Louis Joliet Mall Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2012, in Joliet. | Matthew Grotto~Sun-Times Media
What brings folks to Louis Joliet Mall on the day after Christmas?
“There are a lot of sales.” — Katie Schimp, Braidwood
“The gift cards and the money I got (Tuesday).” — Paige Ehrsam, Braidwood
“I’ve been (home) for the whole month. I was away from my family for three months.” — U.S. Marine Pvt. Jason Jarboe, Lemont, happy to be with his family while home on leave.
“The sales — lots of sales.” — Tiffany Towe, Braidwood
Updated: January 28, 2013 3:43PM
JOLIET — There were no ghosts of Christmas past at Louis Joliet Mall on Dec. 26.
Only the goodies of Christmas past.
Shoppers seeking post-holiday bargains visited the mall from near and far Wednesday. They made good use of gift cards from loved ones, financial gifts from family members — and the merchants’ desire to end off 2012 on a strong note.
In a mall midway crowded with customers, Tiffany Towe and Paige Ehrsam, of Braidwood, carried stylish pink and white shopping bags from Charlotte Russe, Rue21, Foot Locker and Spencer’s. They discussed what brought them to Joliet.
“The sales — lots of sales,” Towe said.
“The gift cards and the money I got (Tuesday), and the sales, of course,” Ehrsam said.
Around noon, shoppers filled the food court at Louis Joliet Mall, taking a break from bargain-hunting before fanning out again into the bustling concourses that connect the anchor stores. As Santa took the day off, these folks had some work to do.
A group of U.S. Marines — home on leave for the holidays and doing some recruiting work — visited the mall Wednesday. Some diners in the food court struck up a conversation with the young men in their neat uniforms.
The Marines were Pvt. Jason Jarboe, Lemont; Pfc. Christopher Tropp, Joliet; Pfc. Miguel Silva, Plainfield; Pfc. Michael Young, Joliet; and Pfc. Eugene Jones, Joliet.
On a national level, the week between Christmas and New Year’s is going to be an important week for merchants. Retailers still have time to make up lost ground in a disappointing holiday sales season. The final week of December accounts for about 15 percent of the month’s sales, said Michael McNamara, vice president for research and analysis at MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse.
U.S. shoppers spent cautiously this holiday season. Sales of electronics, clothing, jewelry and home goods in the two months before Christmas increased 0.7 percent compared with last year, according to the MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse report.
That was below the healthy 3 percent to 4 percent growth that analysts had expected — and it was the worst year-over-year performance since 2008.
On Wednesday, shoppers visited Walt’s Hobby & Model Shop in Crest Hill, which sees an increase in business around Christmas. Trains — running a circular track around the Christmas tree — are an enduring holiday image.
Walt’s has a Christmas tree decorated with model train ornaments. Train tracks create four concentric rings around the tree. Trains roll smoothly on two of these tracks, while the other two are filled with stationary models. One moving train has 11 cars, many of them having different themes from each successive year: 2012’s theme is Santa and his pets. In a picture on the side of the car, Santa celebrates with five dogs that lavish him with attention and unconditional love.
None of these Christmas cars is a coal car. Now that’s unconditional love.
Walt Mueller founded this store in downtown Joliet, on Clinton Street right across from the library, in 1951. Owner Ron Mueller bought the business from his father in 1984 and moved it to the Hillcrest Shopping Center. After another move in 1998, the business today sells trains, slot cars, rockets, science kits and other fun stuff for every season at 2207 Plainfield Road in Crest Hill.
The store enjoys generations of customers. Ron serves the children and grandchildren of his father’s clients. The sons of Pullman porters, and the sons of engineers.
And the Christmas presence is unmistakable: Two other huge trains roll around elevated tracks near the ceiling, circling almost the entire store. The tracks are lined with gold Christmas lighting as the store is decorated with festive boughs.
The Herald-News had to ask a question of Ron, the son of Walt and Catherine Mueller. Was there a grand circle of trains around Walt’s own Christmas tree during the years he lighted up so many other houses in the Joliet area?
“We had some, but we didn’t have anything elaborate,” Ron said. “I’m one of 13 kids. We didn’t have room for anything.”