Current Events, Forgotten Chicago, This Week on Facebook

Want places like The Alley to stay open? Shop at them more often

After almost four decades of operation, Mark Thomas owner of The Alley said he was going to close his Lakeview shop.

Thomas said the main reason was a long term construction project down the block is essentially killing foot traffic though he also cited online shopping and neighborhood crime as other contributing factors.  It probably doesn’t help that he pays $44,000 in property tax every year.

Now my Facebook feed is filled with people lamenting the loss of another icon from their childhood/Chicago experience. Most of the people haven’t been to The Alley since they were teenagers and now live in exotic and remote places like Plainfield, Naperville and Joliet.

It’s not like The Alley is going away forever.  It will still have an online presence and Tomas said he hopes to open shop in Avondale, an up and coming neighborhood neighborhood that Chicago Transplants have never heard of and assume is next to Plainfield.  Avondale mirrors the edginess of Lakeview when Thomas opened up shop 39 years ago.

I’m sure it’s the same in other cities; whenever some local historic icon from yesteryear closes its doors, people get nostalgic for something they didn’t even give two thoughts about the day before.  It’s fine to reminisce.  But to act shocked and hate on anyone for this happening doesn’t make a lot of sense.

It usually comes down to a business decision and if the money isn’t there, nostalgia ain’t gonna pay the bills.  Sometimes business is fine but there isn’t someone to continue on the family craft and other times its just too expensive to keep up with the gentrification of the neighborhood.

There is a solution for two of these scenarios, however.  It might be too late for The Alley but I bet there are tons of local retailers and mom & pop shops you love but don’t frequent as much as you like, but would surely miss once they are gone.  Why not make an effort to visit them before that happens?

Just go into one of those places and buy something.  Even if you don’t need anything, I hear this is a good time of the year  to give things to other people.

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Throughout the city there are plenty of intersections where three arterial streets* intersect. What most people don’t realize is that calling any of these intersections Six Corners is likely to out you as a transplant. The intersection of Milwaukee, Cicero and Irving Park has always been referred to as Six Corners. It’s a proud name for a historic shopping district in the Northwest Side neighborhood of Portage Park neighborhood where yours truly happens to live.

* I’m assuming these three are arterial street, but I’m too lazy to look it up.

Although the shopping district has fallen on hard times in recent years, at one time it was the largest commercial center in Chicago, outside of the Loop. As a kid, my mom and grandma would drag me there for Sunday shopping.

The intersection is home to a number of prominent architecture endeavors, including the art deco Sears and Klee Buildings, the classical revival Portage Theater and the landmark Peoples Gas Irving Park Neighborhood Store.

In short, True Chicagoans generally agree that the name rightfully refers to the original Portage Park intersection.

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Current Events, Forgotten Chicago

There Can be Only One…Six Corners in Chicago

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After college, a good portion of my summers were spent either visiting friends in other cities (mostly St Louis) or hosting friends from out of town. When friends would visit me, I would rack my brain on trying to figure out things to do, specifically where to take these college buddies to show them Chicago. We also had the constraint of not having a lot of disposable income at the time so non-tourist traps were preferred.

Here are some places I discovered. Note: these are not the only places, nor am I saying they are the best. They are simply a few options outside of the standard Chicago Tourist circuit (i.e. Sears Tower, Buckingham Fountain, Shedd Aquarium, etc).  What are some of your own?

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Forgotten Chicago, Life Lessons

Five off the beaten path places you should take out of town guests visiting Chicago

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