The local shopping blues

11/28/2012 10:00 PM

By Bonnie McGrath

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By the time you read this, it will no longer be a secret as to what retail is going to move into the newly renovated Roosevelt Collection on Roosevelt just west of Clark and Target.

When I walked over there to see the current blockbuster, Argo at the resident Icon Theater, it was completely sold out, save for a few front row seats that no one wanted — especially for the Saturday night price of $12.50. But it’s a magnificent looking complex now, all lit up, bright and beautiful, clean and nicely designed. It’s all open in the center, with a breathtaking view of the Chicago skyline looking north. What a holiday season gift to the community! With cobbled steps and paths with twists and turns, it’s a wonderland.

It’s complete. There’s even a cute little spanking new children’s playlot. And lots of big windows and doors awaiting the retail component of the condo-turned-rental apartment complex, punctuated so far by its anchor tenant: The aforementioned upscale, user-friendly 16-screen Kerasotes movie venue.

In any case, this time next year, we South Loopers are going to be able to do “real” shopping right in the neighborhood. From what I understand (again, the story may be different as this paper hits the street) we may not have to run to North Michigan Avenue, Water Tower Place, Rush Street and the Gold Coast — not to mention State Street in the heart of the Loop — to patronize national boutiques such as Lululemon, Victoria’s Secret, H & M, maybe even Apple. But at the moment I don’t know who will be there. All I know is there better be something of which I speak, or the reputation of the lifesaving mallsters who have taken over the place will suffer greatly.

Which brings me to this year’s Rahm-admonition to shop local. I take what he means as Shop-Your-Neighborhood, which never ceases to confuse me. Shouldn’t it be a city-wide admonition? Aren’t our dollars as good for the city if they are spent downtown? Or are they better spent at the corner store? If so, why? Educate me.

Ald. Bob Fioretti’s latest 2nd Ward newsletter says to follow Rahm’s advice: “Earlier this month,” it says, “the City Council passed a resolution proclaiming Nov. 23 to Dec. 2, ‘Buy Local First Week,’ which encourages citizens to support locally owned, independent businesses while shopping during the holiday season. This goes along with the citywide campaign, ‘Unwrap Chicago: Eat, Drink & Buy Local,’ which encourages citizens to spend money locally during the holiday season in order to help Chicago’s economy. To take the pledge that you will shift a small percentage of your holiday shopping dollars to locally owned stores, restaurants and entertainment establishments, visit eatdrinkbuylocal.org. By shopping local, you experience Chicago’s unique flavors and textures while supporting our city’s local living economy.”

So like last year, there seems to be a balkanization of the city economy. A force to clique-ify your holiday dollars and stick within your own block. Forget the melting pot Kumbaya-ness of the city. Spend your dollars in a store that says, “your own kind.”

But maybe I’m reading too much into it. Rather than not crossing ward lines to shop, or going under viaducts that separate the two sides of the tracks, maybe Rahm and Fioretti just need a good editor to remove the curse of many a writer: ambiguity. Especially since there is no advice for people who may not happen to have any kind of “local” shopping out their door. And who don’t know what ward border to cross, what train track to go over or under — or what neighborhood to turn to, and in what direction — if they have nowhere to shop local. Hopefully, next year Rahm will define what he means by “local” and hopefully, holiday shoppers will feel as free as birds to travel to anywhere in the city, but NOT beyond the city boundary. No matter how much savings on sales tax there is.

Which brings me back to the South Loop and how lucky we are. Because we have our own “local,” no matter how you slice it. Every day, there’s a new business starting up on South Michigan, South Wabash, South State — or as we speak, on South Delano, the “main street” of the Roosevelt Collection (named for the wrong Roosevelt, but that’s another story). There’s a new boutique willing to take a chance, a new food/wine venue, a new spa, a new pet store or a new shoe store. Some make it; some don’t. Some last longer than others. For some, it’s a loss if they close. And for others, some of us are glad to see them go.

But come they do. And go. But never does it ever seem any harder for us to shop local, especially since we can fudge a little and cross Congress Parkway, where there’s everything your heart could ever desire. You’re still local, right? If you stay on this side of Madison Street?

So watch the numbers on the doorways. Make sure they say South-whatever-number if you are on a north/south thoroughfare. But don’t go too far south.

Maybe the 2500 block is south enough? Keep it local. And stick with your own kind of merchant. OK?

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By christy from Lakeview
Posted: 11/29/2012 10:18 AM

The encouragement to "shop local" this holiday season is not to just shop within your ward/neighborhood. Rather, city officials urge customers to shop & dine at locally- & independently-owned establishments instead of national chains. Economically speaking, there are many benefits to spending at mom-and-pop shops & corner markets (anywhere in the city) over the big-box alternative. More info in my company's blog: http://oxandpenblog.com/2012/11/shopping-local-this-holiday-season-not-just-a-fad/