LINCOLN PARK — With the addition of a number of unique businesses that have opened along Armitage Avenue in the past three months, longtime business owners along the "watermark" stretch of real estate say the area is back on the rise.
Just last week, Nike opened its one-of-a-kind Nike Training Club, a unique women's retail and fitness studio, at 833 W. Armitage. And this week, Peruvian Connection, a women's clothing boutique, opened in a space previously occupied by Armitage Hardware at 925 W. Armitage.
Those openings along with the arrival of Glazed and Infused Donuts, 939 W. Armitage, last month and DAVIDsTea across the street, have filled vacant storefronts that have plagued the block since the economic downturn.
"To see the investment coming back along Armitage should lead to further investment," said Padraic Swanton, marketing director for the Lincoln Park Chamber of Commerce."I know a lot of people see that as the watermark for the rest of the community."
Peruvian Connection's Lincoln Park location is the company's first store in Chicago and only its seventh nationwide.
Charlie Caffrey, who has owned McShane's Exchange designer clothing consignment since 1988, said the addition of the new businesses makes him optimistic for 2013.
"We hate to see any kind of empty storefronts on Armitage," he said. "The lure of the area is to come to this street. With Nike and Peruvian, I think that it's very healthy."
The owners of the highly popular Art Effect boutique echoed Caffrey's sentiment, pointing out the diversity of the businesses in the business district, which recently housed national brands such as the United Colors of Benetton, Barney's Co-Op, Paul Frank, Lucy Activewear Inc. and Abercrombie & Fitch.
"I think it's exciting," said Art Effect owner Esther Fishman, who has been on Armitage for 28 years. "It's much better to have stores that are full and it's nice that the businesses are so different."
While the new business activity along the small stretch of Armitage is providing a sense of optimism to business and property owners, there remains a few major vacancies, including the newly-vacated space at 1000 W. Armitage Ave. where Ralph Lauren Rugby operated until January.
"The high rents don't seem to go down here on Armitage and it's hard to fight," Caffrey said.
Despite those high rent costs, moving Glazed and Infused to Armitage was a no-brainer, according to general manager James Gray.
"I think being right next to the Brown Line, we are right there in the heart of Lincoln Park," he said. "We anticipate that being probably out busiest location of all of them."