You’ll still see plenty of vacant lots and empty storefronts in the West Loop. Though the area is slowly attracting more businesses, the change from industrial to hip isn’t always speedy. We talked to three business owners with stores along Madison Street about the area and its evolution.
The concensus seems to be that it’s still a little harder to draw outsiders to the neighborhood than business owners would like. On the other hand, parking also has become an issue, which might be the right kind of problem for a neighborhood looking for enough bodies in the neighborhood to support retail and service businesses.
Cafe Ciao, 939 W Madison St
Owner Julie Chung hopes her cafe – which she took over two years ago – serves as a meeting place for the West Loop community. She hosts wine tastings and dance nights, though she says it can still be hard to attract people to the area.
“The West Loop still isn’t quite the destination spot that Wicker Park and Bucktown might be, but it’s slowly getting there,” she says. “Right now we have a lot of dry cleaners, haircutting places and nail shops but not enough of good clothing stores, shoe stores and boutiques. Varying it up a bit more would be nice to attract more people.”
Maxima Barber Salon & Nail Spa, 949 W Madison St
Maxima has been located on Madison Street for six years. Owner Rahman Williams says the store, which serves about 5,000 clients, has grown every year, though parking has become an issue in the area.
“Now parking is a little tight but we still try to work around some dynamics of trying to establish parking in the area,” says Williams, who is a board member of the West Loop Community Organization.
Ouest, 1063 W Madison St
Ouest (that’s French for west, les femmes) is one of the few clothing boutiques in the West Loop. Opened in August, the store features French-inspired women’s clothing, accessories and jewelry. Owner Kelly Bry says while it’s nice to be one of the first clothing boutiques in the area, “a challenge is creating a destination and getting people from other areas to come shop here…parking would be good. We need more.”