Local Veteran Owned Store Forced Out of Des Moines Mall


DES MOINES, Iowa --When Allen Ung and Justin Baccam opened up their own shoe consignment store in Merle Hay Mall they were ecstatic.  "It felt great because I always dreamed of doing this since I was a little kid," said Justin.

Illest Around Sneaker Boutique opened in November and offered something most Iowans could never see, exclusive hard to find shoes.  Justin said, "Many customers come in looking for a certain shoe and they say they've been looking for years. When they walk in and find it, their eyes light up.  That's the best feeling."  Allen said the store was bringing joy to young and old.  "A grandma and her grand kids came in and spent $1500 to $2,000 on four pairs of shoes for the kids and they still come back."
It has brought everyday Iowans and former professional athletes like Seneca Wallace back to Merle Hay Mall.  "They brought me back to Merle Hay Mall," said loyal customer Jason Stuyvesant.  He added, "I didn't go out there a lot.  Through that, I found out that I really liked the stores in their food court."

For Allen, a U.S. Army veteran, it gave him the footing he needed to acclimate into civilian life.  "This is our passion, this is what we want to do."

Earlier this month the dream business went up in smoke when Merle Hay Mall management notified them of a contract issue with another shoe store within the building.  It is forcing them to leave by May 2nd.  Allen said, "There was a certain agreement with another store that we were not allowed to sell athletic kicks there."  Merle Hay Mall has the right to terminate their contract at any time but it is a problem the two thought they cleared with mall management before they moved in.  Justin said, "We asked if it would be alright if we move in to carry exclusive sneakers and they said it'll be ok and it was fine to move in."  Justin added, "Now that's their excuse that we have to leave."

Merle Hay Mall would not reveal the reason Illest Around is no longer welcome, saying in a statement only, "All tenant matters are confidential."

Loyal customers wondering why two local Iowans are not getting a fair shake."I was pissed really. I was like that's not right," said Jason.

An American dream Allen says he'll fight for again, much like he thought he already did in the Army.  "We thought we were doing something good.  We thought everything was going good and then it tanked on us."

The owners still do not have a new place to move into. Illest Around will hold their final sale inside Merle Hay Mall on Sunday April 22nd from noon-5pm.