My experience: went to many of them; and probably all of them from the west subs.
Old Town Aquarium:
first thing to notice - pricey. Have some plants, but limited; both salt and fresh water fish with decent selection. Various gravel, stones. Clean. Many nano tanks setup. Sale personnel nice, and knowledgeable.
Ocean Design Aquarium:
small store, both fresh and salt water fish. Price on fish ok, variety. Fish looked healthy. Plants - not that much into that. Equipment, as expected, limited and on pricey side. The owner, i guess, an easy going guy, nice talking to.
Tropi-Quatics Pet Center:
a significantly big store, with large selection of fish, both salt and fresh water. Tons of equipment, including used ones, some of it at good price. Good selection of stones, gravel, substrate, including Eco-Complete. It also has a section for pets, that gives a not so pleasant smell. Plants on very limited side, to say at best. The personnel - depends. The young guy, probably the son of the owner, was very nice to talk to, honest and helpful. The other couple of guys were less useful, with little knowledge about fish, and even less about plants. The owner, i guess, Jim - a character - kind of arrogant and inflexible, talked to me like i owned him something.
Aquarium Adventure, Bolingbrook:
ok, sort of chain store. Good selection of fish, both kinds. Had some plants, some in good shape, others less good looking. Equipment, as with many chains, in good selection. The only drawback - the personnel works on commission, as i understood, and tries to sell things hard, and at some point become annoying. The good part, some of them know what they are talking about, the funny part some of them had no clue
Oak Park Natural Pet & Fish
stopped by briefly. Ok prices, good selection of fish, and equipment. no plants, essentially.
Dave's Pets N' Stuff:
never, just please never go there, unless you want to see a disaster, and report them to the authorities. It was really bad to see in what conditions they keep the fish.
so far, among all the stores I went to, the best in terms of plants, and i could say by far. Had a very nice time there. Good selection of fish, both salt and fresh, tons of plants, from basic to some less common, several set up planted tanks with plants in excellent shape. Gravel, stones, soil, etc with good selection. The owner - very nice guy, and you can feel he likes what he does, both keeping tanks, and having a business that assumes dealing with people.
disclaimer: these are my personal impressions, positive or negative. I am not affiliated with any of these stores - so far