Many of Chicago’s neighborhoods have gentrified, and along with higher real estate prices, gentrification brings big chain stores. Often they force out the small storefronts, but there are many mom-and-pop shops that stick around.
A proposed Walmart for Lakeview East has residents and business owners actively protesting the move and debating the issue of big vs. small business.
Consultants say unique products, combined with a keen sense of demographics and stellar customer service, can make a noticeable difference for small businesses.
Take the Clark/Diversey corner, for example. It boasts several examples of small stores outlasting chains, even with high rents. Several cafes, boutiques and small bookstores stayed the course over the years while larger chains have vanished, including Pier 1 Imports, PetSmart and Barnes and Noble (long before the emergence of the Kindle). An Urban Outfitters sits nearly next to Akira (hardly a start-up business, but it once was).
Now, Trader Joe’s is slated to open Friday on Diversey Parkway, right across the street from Milk and More. The tiny store sells mainly organic food, a niche in the organic grocery desert of East Lakeview. Rather than despair about the new TJ’s, Milk and More’s owner, Tom Ciesla, said he will make adjustments with his business as he needs to and hopes Trader Joe’s brings more customers during the day.
So while small business may not be able to fight the big guys when it comes to comparable resources, they can compete by being more flexible and creative.
No one is telling you what to do. Isn’t that the reason you opened your own business?
Published at 3:25 PM CDT on May 4, 2011