LAKEVIEW — Three storefronts previously occupied by mom-and-pop shops on a popular Lakeview block soon will be combined to make room for one big Starbucks, right next to an independent coffee shop.
The Starbucks has been at 3359 N Southport Ave. for 20 years, but would be moving across the street to 3400 N. Southport Ave. by April 2013, a Starbucks spokeswoman said.
That means the half-block south of the Southport Brown Line station once occupied by Very Best Cleaners, She One Boutique and Serda's Store, soon will house the new Starbucks and just one small business, a four-year old coffee shop called Safari Cup.
But not everybody is happy about chain expansion on Southport. Dave Laughlin, owner of Safari Cup, complained he would be competing with Starbucks for foot traffic. He said that Starbucks' location across the street had put a distance between the two, and he viewed the move as a strong message to him and other independent businesses to get out.
"This is like, 'We really want to shove our "green cancer" right up your nose,'" he said, referring to Starbucks' green logo. "It’s blatantly arrogant."
In response, a Starbucks spokeswoman said the move was a reaction to community need, not a push against it. Customers expressed an interest in more seating, and the new location will be bigger, she said. The current location only fits five small round tables. Plus, Starbucks trusts the market for coffee on the street is strong, she said, and that "all of us are going to thrive."
"It's really a reflection of the needs of the neighborhood," she said.
Of the three businesses that used to stand where the new Starbucks will, Very Best Cleaners and She One Boutique both moved north to the 3500 block of North Southport Avenue. Their new location is several blocks further from the L stop.
While Rebecca Girsch, She One's owner, said she was happy about the move, and Serda Amil of Serda's Store will start selling online, Soon Kuh of Very Best Cleaners said she did not want to leave her corner storefront. The dry cleaner had been at Southport and Roscoe for 18 years and was willing to pay higher rent to stay — but she said the landlord refused to renew her lease.
"They wanted us to move," Kuh said. "We were very upset."
Property manager Kass Management did not comment.
Starbucks' expansion in the neighborhood is no surprise, given how attractive the Southport corridor is to chains, said Bill Baumann, senior managing director at Kiser Group, a commercial real estate brokerage firm in Chicago.
In the last year, restaurant Noodles and Company, Gap athletics brand Athleta, and yoga outfitter Lululemon have joined the street. Add in relatively affluent residents and an uptick in the economy, and Southport Avenue is a logical place for national retailers to grow, Baumann said. They will probably keep coming in, he said.
"Retailers are more comfortable than they were two years ago that there will be demand for their products if they open new stores," said Baumann.
Bennett Lawson, chief of staff for Ald. Tom Tunney (44th), said he contacted Laughlin to talk after hearing about his complaints. Unlike liquor stores or salons, coffee shops don't have to go through the alderman's office to expand, so Tunney's office was not involved the Starbucks move.
Changes like this can't be stopped, said Heather Way, executive director of the Lakeview Chamber of Commerce. If Starbucks has the money, it can move in. All Laughlin can do is encourage neighborhood residents to buy local, said Way.
Part of the problem is that people like neighborhood color, such as farmer's markets and local bookstores, but don't actually spend lots of money there, Way said. If anyone's upset about a dearth of local business, she has some advice: "Put your money where your mouth is."
"The solution is to accept what’s happening and support independent small business," she said. "Don’t go to Starbucks if you want Safari Cup to stay in business."