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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