Northfield Square mall (copy)

The food court at Northfield Square mall in Bradley has been vacant or nearly so for the past few years. The mall has recently signed leases with local businesses and will have six new restaurants within the next few weeks.

Within the next two to four weeks, Northfield Square mall’s vacant food court will be bustling and offering a variety of options.

Mall manager Conrad Raczkowski reported five new vendors are planning to open food court locations.

The mall’s food court has largely been vacant for the past three to four years.

Windy Hill Grill of Bradley, which has operated at 184 W. North St., Bradley, for several years, will be opening its second location. The restaurant, which offers beef, pork and chicken sandwiches, is owned by Bob and Geanie Lafin, of Grant Park.

The Greek restaurant, Niro’s Gyros, 275 S. Main St., Bourbonnais, will be opening its second location. Owned by Jose Bobadilla, of Manteno, the restaurant recently closed its Manteno location.

Three other new restaurants will be opening as well.

Jerk Island, a Caribbean-focused restaurant owned by Ruchelle Henry, of Kankakee, is set to open.

Chef Vaughn’s, a pasta- and Alfredo-focused restaurant operated by Bradley resident Joshua Vaughn, has signed a leased.

Lastly, Dee & Rene’s, a soul food restaurant, owned by Anthony Smith, of Bourbonnais, will open as well.

Jennifer Barrera, the mall’s newly promoted assistant manager, noted Windy Hill also is planning to open a second food court restaurant, this one focusing on pizza. The mall’s most recent pizza restaurant, Papi’s Pizza, recently closed.

In addition to those establishments, D&D Popcorn, a snack shop, recently opened in the mall across from the Barrels & Bins location.

Barrera, who has been with the mall’s management office since January 2017, was promoted in September. The 2005 Kankakee High School graduate had previously been the location’s marketing director.

In her new role, she also will focus on leasing.

Prior to the mall, she had worked seven years with Three Source, a third-party fulfillment business in Manteno. Three Source closed a few years ago.

• • •

There has been plenty of local news coverage within the past 30 days regarding the legalization of recreational marijuana. Bradley and Kankakee are weighing options of allowing sales.

It’s expected that one or both of these municipalities will allow the sales of marijuana to take place beginning Jan. 1, when it becomes legal in Illinois.

Those opposed and those supporting this move can argue all day long regarding the wisdom of such a move, but one thing is becoming clear as the new year draws closer: Legal marijuana will become big business.

According to recent published reports, by the year 2025 — a mere few years from now — there will be nearly as many people in Illinois employed through the legal cannabis industry in this state as those who teach in our elementary schools.

Stop and think about that for a moment.

It is expected legalized marijuana — according to the report from New Frontier Data of Washington, D.C. — will employ more than 63,406 people people by 2025. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics from May 2019, there were 65,630 elementary school teachers in Illinois.

By 2025, annual national medical marijuana sales are expected to grow to $13.1 billion and recreational sales to $16.6 billion.

In addition to the potential for marijuana retail outlets in Bradley and Kankakee, there also is a marijuana cultivation complex on Kankakee’s southside. The cultivation center, operated by Cresco Labs, is expected to increase its workforce from about eight to upwards of 100 as a result of this legalization.

Cresco has been producing only medical marijuana, but recently received the approval to grow recreational marijuana as well.

The market for recreational marijuana, however, is somewhat unknown.

According to the U.S. Cannabis Report 2019 Industry Outlook, authored by New Frontier, notes there are more than 38 million adult U.S. residents who consume marijuana at least once per year.

In addition to the “at least once a year” consumers, the report states that 36 percent of pot users report using cannabis daily, with 59 percent stating they use marijuana once a week.

The demographic group which is the largest consumers of users? Those between the ages of 25 to 44. This group represents 45 percent of all marijuana consumers.

The Daily Journal’s Lee Provost writes about local business rumors, comings and goings and other notes of interest. Anyone with information to share contact Provost at lprovost@daily-journal.com or 815-937-3364. A version of this story appeared in the Friday digital edition of the Daily Journal.

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