carson pirie scott store

Skywalk bridge connecting Louis Sullivan’s Carson Pirie Scott store (originally Schlesinger & Mayer store) to the elevated train station at Wabash and Madison c. 1899.

This bridge was torn down shortly after and not many photos exist. The Sullivan facade on Wabash was only recently uncovered after being hidden for decades. The Wabash/Madison CTA station began demolition earlier this week.

anonymous asked:

can i ask HOW walmart (and target i guess?) are at odds with Chicago retail? How does Chicago retail function?

Chicago, much like New York, is a lot of people in a very small space. We have really exceptional public transit, too, so a lot of people who live in the city proper don’t have cars. Up until, well, probably ten years ago or less, Chicago had few to none of the “big box” stores that are common to suburbs and smaller cities. There simply wasn’t the real estate for it, and if there was real estate, it was so far from public transit that most people wouldn’t bother. It’s easier to go to the tiny bodega under your train stop than haul your ass ten miles away by bus to buy food that’s not that much cheaper, if it’s cheaper at all. There’s no room for a Walmart in my neighborhood. Target had to spend ten years wrangling for the land just north of where I used to live, and they only got it on condition that the rest of the land go to build mixed-income housing.  

The few large department stores in Chicago were all in downtown and they were destinations for lots of Chicago locals, but they were centrally located, established from the early part of the 20th century, and also catered to tourists who stayed downtown and businesspeople who worked downtown. Also, crucially, they delivered if you bought stuff like furniture. 

A few years ago Target moved into the Carson Pirie Scott building downtown, which used to be a department store, and they had a hell of a time. For months they couldn’t figure out why people weren’t shopping there, or why people weren’t buying the big ticket stuff when they did. Finally they worked out that their target (ha!) demographic in downtown Chicago was like, ninety degrees rotated from their usual suburban demographic.

Nobody wants to buy 36 rolls of toilet paper or a papasan chair or a mop and bucket and haul that shit home on the train. There’s no parking for the downtown Target, so people who COULD do that kind of heavyweight hauling couldn’t get it loaded into their cars, so they just drove to a Target that had parking. People who needed shit like chairs and mop-and-buckets just bought it from somewhere near them or somewhere that delivered. 

Things that urban Chicagoans don’t buy from big box stores because they can’t get it home include stuff like appliances, furniture, bulk food/supplies, basically anything you can’t hold in your hands on the train. Things urban Chicagoans or tourists visiting downtown DO want to buy: snack food, emergency cold/first aid stuff, souvenirs, small home decor, toys, cheapish clothing, bargain bin doodads. It’s why Walgreens, which sells drugstore stuff AND a small assortment of home amenities, does so well here. 

So City Target totally revamped itself; it stopped selling bulk, it stopped selling furniture, it barely sells camping gear and nothing large. A vast majority of the store is clothes and “drugstore” type stuff, makeup and snack food. 

The South Loop Target where I normally shop, which is still “downtown”ish, does sell more and larger items, but that’s because it has a parking garage underneath. 

So yeah – Chicagoans are very neighborhoodly, they buy local because that’s often the only option. And you can’t really crowbar a “local” big box store into most neighborhoods, there’s no room. So we banned Walmart – but it wasn’t like anyone other than Walmart was agitating for its arrival in Chicago in the first place. :D