Local businesses have begun offering discounts to customers that lost money when the Deerfield children's superstore Wonder! abruptly closed its doors on Monday.
Beanstalk in Highland Park is offering a 15 percent discount on purchases of $50 or more to people who present a receipt that proves they paid for a class or membership at Wonder!, which was only open for three months. Starland Creativity Center in Deerfield offers $100 off one of its spring classes, which cost between $150 to $200.
"We share a common customer base," said Starland staff member Lauren Norberg. "Kids loved playing at Wonder!, and we want to have a place for those kids to go to enjoy some fun, play-date learning."
The children's superstore sent notice out that it would be "undergoing a restructuring process" earlier this week. A statement issued later in the week said that the owners were "no longer in a financial position to sustain operations."
The notice suggests the store will reopen, but doesn't say when. It also doesn't include contact information for customers who prepaid for products, put down deposits for party space or paid the $129 membership fee for the store's play area.
Wonder! did not respond to questions about customer reimbursement.
"We've had three Wonder! customers already call," said Beanstalk co-owner Wendy Warren on Wednesday about the store's Wonder! customer discount. "It's a close community and people talk a lot, so it's a nice way to reach out."
Wheeling resident Kelly Aron, who purchased the family membership for Wonder's play area, went to the store on Monday to get reimbursed.
"It was already closed," she said. "I emailed them and haven't gotten a response."
Aron is disputing the charge with her credit card company. She's happy that businesses like Beanstalk and Starland are reaching, though she thinks Beanstalk's discount may not go far enough.
"What would be nice is if Beanstalk redeemed some of the gift cards that people have from Wonder! versus just asking them to come in and spend money," Aron said.
Lindenhurst resident Lori Sandler, who exchanged a gift from Wonder! for a $75 gift card that she never spent, called the discounts Beanstalk and Starland are offering a "very generous gesture."
"I know a number of people who are out a substantial amount of money," she said.
Though Aron and Sandler expressed frustration at Wonder's abrupt closing, both say they saw it coming. The large space -- 135,000 square feet including a play area, party rooms and gift registry -- was rarely crowded. While Aron says she often saw children in the play area, she rarely saw people shopping.
"I didn't see many people buying things," she said.
Warren agrees the size of the space made maintaining it prohibitively expensive. She says she had a feeling the store was in trouble when she began noticing that "everything was going on sale."
"It was just too big," Warren said, "How could they make it?"
Aron is doubtful that Wonder! will reopen, and doesn't expect to hear back from the store about her reimbursement.
"I don't really buy that they're restructuring," she said. "I think they're done."
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