How to Start a Retail Store in Chicago

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Starting a business in Chicago can be a very lucrative and rewarding endeavor. Before you can open your retail store, however, there are certain preparations, licenses and forms you will need. The following is a list meant to help you make the process of starting a business in Chicago less complicated.


Decide on the type of retail store you want to run and the type of merchandise you will sell. Perhaps go visit a few of your future competitors and scope out what they carry.

Choose a legal structure for your store. Do this by choosing whether you would like your store to be a sole proprietorship, general partnership, limited partnership, corporation, S-corporation or limited liability company. According to the IRS a sole proprietorship is a business that is unincorporated and owned by one owner. A general partnership is a business in which there are two owners, both contributing to the business. A limited partnership is when there are two owners; however, one is a silent partner and only contributes financially to start the business, while the other is the operator. A corporation is a business that is incorporated and runs as its own separate entity.

Choose a name for your store. This is an important decision because everyone will know this name and you will be stuck with it for a very long time.

Open a corporation with the Illinois Secretary of State, if you chose a corporation for your legal structure. You can do this online, through the mail, or in person if you are willing to drive to the state capital in Springfield. To file an articles of incorporation for Illinois go to .

Apply for an EIN number with the IRS. The IRS requires this of anyone starting a new business, since they keep track and identify all businesses by this number. You can do this online at .

File an Illinois Business Registration Application with the Illinois Dept of Revenue. You can do this online at or by filling out Illinois Dept of Revenue form REG-1 and mailing it in or bringing it to the IL Dept of Revenue in person. The Illinois Department of Revenue will in turn issue you an IBT number, or account number, after this form has been filed authorizing you to do business in Illinois.

Record your corporation with the Cook County Recorder of Deeds. All new corporations conducting business in Illinois must register with the county recorder of deeds. In Chicago, the county is Cook.

Select a location for your business and sign a lease.

Register with the Illinois Department of Employment Security within 30 days of startup. This is done by filing the IDES UI-1 form. This can also be done online at .

Apply for a building permit and remodel the store according to your needs. Afterwards, get a building inspection done.

Apply for a business license with the Department of the City Clerk for the City of Chicago. This can also be done online at: .

Apply for a liquor license if liquor will be sold. This is a comprehensive process, but can be done by contacting the City of Chicago Business Affairs & Consumer Protection Agency.

Buy retail furniture, cash register, create a store name sign, store hours sign and any other miscellaneous items you may need for your type of store.

Open a company checking and perhaps savings account at a bank.

Sign up for credit card processing and purchase credit card processing machine.

Report new hires to the Illinois Dept of Employment Security within 20 days of hiring them. This can be done online at .

Buy merchandise to be resold at the store and stock the shelves with it.

Establish the store policies. This will include sales procedures, return policies and so on.

Advertise the grand opening of the store. How to advertise depends on your budget. Try putting up signs, running an ad in the local newspaper, running a spot on the local radio station, passing out flyers or even hanging colorful grand opening flags.