CHICAGO-Two men are prepared to launch a new retail chain that will cater to one group that may be recession-proof – children. Venture capitalist Shane Christensen and Bill Colaianni, a former Wal-Mart executive, plan to launch the first 135,000-square-foot Wonder! store later this year. The building, a former Great Indoors property in Deerfield, is expected to open in the fourth quarter with 85,000 square feet of selling space, party rooms and an indoor park as large as a football field.

Colaianni, CEO of the company, tells that the duo decided that even though many retail chains have cut back on stores, they hope to open 19 Wonder stores in five years and up to 120 stores nationwide. There are a few reasons why they think a store catering to children ages 0-7, selling items such as clothing, strollers, diapers and toys, will stand up to the competition. “It was our thinking that in down times people will still spend money on children’s needs,” Colaianni says. “Also, if you look at the statistics, live birth rates were up 1.2% each year in 2006, 07, and 08. The potential customer base is growing at a rapid rate.”

Sears Holdings is sub-leasing the property for the first store, and Colaianni says this is another reason why launching a big-box is a good idea today. “It’s a great opportunity to recycle these properties, there are quite a number of big boxers standing empty in good demographic areas,” he says.

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