Businesses keep coming back
02/23/2011 10:00 PM
We’re weeks away from spring and Easter and thoughts of resurrection. But after making a few observations in the South Loop recently, all I can think about is the resurrection — of our retail landscape.
Like my neighbors, I have been despairing over what seemed like a depression befalling our fair neighborhood. Businesses going, businesses folding, businesses closing down a mile a minute, big and small. Longtime establishments and fly-by-nights. They’ve all been flying the coop.
But I have noticed and have made many a mental note of late that whatever goes ultimately gets replaced. True, it might be something different. And maybe we like what comes less. But maybe we like what winds up there in the end even more.
Tears were shed when two independent wine stores disappeared recently on South Michigan Avenue. Oddly, it wasn’t the big Sam’s at Wabash and Roosevelt (soon to be a Trader Joe’s) that put them out of business like everyone assumed would happen. In fact, Sam’s left before the other two wine stores did — bought out by Binny’s, which already had a nice South Loop outlet in place a few blocks west.
Everyone cried over Wine Styles and South Loop Wine Cellar. They were such nice female owners, neighbors lamented over a glass of wine. They were always packed with wine tasters and cheese eaters, neighbors gushed over wine and cheese elsewhere. They had such good wine at such good values, went the heartbroken. Was it the franchise fees? Were they giving away too many free sips of wine? The two storefronts stand bare and naked waiting for something new.
But Saturday night, the owner of the former South Loop Wine Cellar, South Looper Amy Garman, put on a wine tasting for Weather Mark Tavern — her former neighbor — that was to beat the band. Twenty bucks, five great wines to taste and plenty of hearty appetizers (and an apple crumble for dessert) to wash down the wine. Everyone said, “such a deal.” It was literally standing room only.
I asked Garman if she thought she’d do it again at Weather Mark, and she said, “I guess — it seemed to be a success!”
After wine and eats, I followed friends to a sneak peek of the new Overflow Coffee Bar, which is in the process of finishing their build-out at 16th and State. It’s going to be an old-fashioned coffee house where you can come, drink great coffee and talk — even play a board game. Except, it’s going to be bright and airy and not dark and cramped like the old beatnik cafes on which this place is based. The cops from the station a block away will love it, as will the teachers in the Daystar School building in which the café is located.
But here’s the important thing: There have been coffee and sweets places that have gone out of business — in fact, one that was across the street from Overflow, and another that was in the Dearborn Station. But Overflow, in all its glory, is there to take their places and hopefully will be a great success.
Yes, we lost Gourmand, which became Café Mediterra, which we also lost on Printers Row several months ago — but we have a brand new Donna’s Café in the building at 1255 S. State, just a few blocks away, and she’s rarin’ to go. She’s planning a full grand opening in the near future (already had her soft opening and has been doing business for a few weeks) when she pulls everything together in perfect order that she is totally proud of, she recently tweeted.
What’s going on in the South Loop retail world is interesting and engaging and definitely worth a more than a short stare. What dies here gets new life here.
Grace O’Malley’s has closed and so has Opera (both upset me — I loved them both) but both swear they will reopen with different concepts very soon that I hope I like as well.
We lost a boutique on Wabash that we all loved to shop at, and meet each other at to browse and dish. But we got an exercise boutique in its place. We lost a neighborhood pet store on Printers Row (in fact, we lost two in a row) — but we got an earth- and pet-friendly place called Kriser’s at 11th and State.
Across the street, we traded in a ho-hum dive turned snack shop for a tattoo parlor that serves snacks. The old-fashioned Savoy in the Essex Inn on South Michigan is gone (and from what I hear may have seen its better day before closing) but will soon be replaced by Tribute — an upscale place that may give our end of South Michigan Avenue the same panache that The Gage gives Michigan several blocks north.
They come; they go. I could keep listing. And listing. And listing. Not only this minute, but week after week. And I could resurrect them from the past: Prairie left and I freaked out — but then came Custom House. Moonraker left and I freaked out — and in its place came Hackney’s. A Mexican place left in Dearborn Station and I freaked out — and then came Bar Louie. A deli left Printers Row and I really freaked — and a few years later we got Flaco’s Tacos, not to mention Eleven City Diner. Fine dining iconic restaurant Printer’s Row left but in its place came Potbelly. OK! I’ll shut up. The point is that when they go, something else comes.
Change in our neighborhood is inevitable. And not every closing means despair. Like they say in cliché land, when a door closes, a window opens. If that is true, in the South Loop I think we’re living in a big conservatory.