Tuesday, September 17, 2013

A Random Walk Down Clark Street, Pt. 4

[This is an article I wrote in 2009, during the Great Recession.]

This particular stretch of Clark Street enjoys some advantages that might help it through the slowdown in the economy. There are lots of stores grouped tightly together that sell a variety of things – groceries, books, hardware, furniture, gifts, personal services, etc.

There are also a lot of bars, restaurants, and coffee shops to choose from. And other than a couple of the antique stores, most things are reasonably priced. Throw a roof over these 4-5 blocks and you’d have a nice mall.

The stores’ proximity to each other helps – shoppers don’t have to walk a long way to get to several outlets. And the shopping district is within walking distance of peoples’ homes, so stores have access to a customer base that wants to support local businesses.

Despite all this, there are signs that the boom times this area experienced over the last ten years is over. Here are some more pictures of storefronts that have recently vacated or remain empty.

This jewelry store has been around forever, but closed within the last three months. I think the owners were getting ready to retire, but I’m not 100% sure of that. Either way, they probably picked a good time to close up shop.
The last thing the neighborhood needed in the summer of ’08 was another bank, but WaMu set up shop anyway. Now that they’ve been bought by Chase and there is already a Chase branch a few blocks down the street, it remains to be seen whether they stick around.
This restaurant never got off the ground. It opened for maybe two months before going dark and a “For Sale” sign going up. I walked past the place many times and never saw anyone in it.
This hardware store has also been a fixture of the neighborhood for a number of years. They are still around, having moved a few blocks north into a La Raza’s old headquarters, a move I assume will cost them less in rent.
Joel Hall Dance Studio is another business that pulled up stakes and moved north – they are now neighbors with the hardware store. They used to be right in the heart of the business strip, across the street from the Starbucks. It’s nice to see they are hanging in there.
Sweet Occasions was a sensation while it lasted. They sold ice cream and candy in an atmosphere that was more kid-friendly than some of the other places around. I have read the reason this place went under was bad management, which resulted in lots of ugly rumors floating around on review sites like Yelp regarding the quality of the store's ingredients and the treatment of its staff. The people who ran this location said they were going to open up another place, but that apparently never happened.

Tomboy was a very popular restaurant that I’ve heard nothing but good things about. I’m still looking around to find out what happened to it. The economy might be a factor, but there are a lot of other reasons restaurants go out of business.

There are some other empty storefronts here and there, posting more pictures of them would only marginally add to the overall pictures. In sum, this area of Chicago isn't suffering as much as others, but is definitely feeling the pinch. Hopefully things will turn around they will soon be housing new businesses and making entrepreneurs’ dreams come true.

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