LAKEVIEW — The owner of a punk lifestyle shop and an adult toy and lingerie shop in Lakeview has thrown his hat into the political ring — though he won't say whether it's for the ward in which he lives or works.
Mark Thomas, the entrepreneur behind The Alley, Taboo Tabou and other counterculture businesses at the corner of Belmont and Clark in Lakeview, loaned his campaign organization Friends of Mark Thomas $50,100 last month, according to public records.
Friends of Mark Thomas was created in April to support the businessman's campaign for public office, though it did not state which one. Thomas, 58, lives in Avondale in the 33rd Ward, where Ald. Richard Mell recently retired and left an opening.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel is taking applications for the 33rd Ward spot until 5 p.m. Thursday and plans to announce Mell's replacement before the end of the month.
Thomas has been telling people in the Lakeview community for months that he plans to run for alderman of the 44th Ward in the 2015 election. He confirmed to DNAinfo.com Chicago that he is running for a political office but said "it is a little early to lay out my plans" about which ward.
Thomas has been a vocal critic of Ald. Tom Tunney (44th), particularly after sewer main construction last fall. He called the way Tunney handled it "destructive" and disorganized in statements to the press at the time.
The two then butted heads after Cook County Assistant State's Attorney Sarah Naughton was accused of biting one of Thomas's employees. Thomas said Tunney bullied him in a voicemail asking that Thomas "try to help" Naughton, mentioning that Tunney went to high school with Naughton's lawyer. Naughton was ultimately acquitted in April.
Tunney's office had no comment. Tunney won his last election unopposed after resident David Winner dropped out of the race.
Thomas opened punk lifestyle store The Alley, 3228 N. Clark St., more than 30 years ago. He also owns adult toy and lingerie store Taboo Tabou, 854 W. Belmont Ave., cigar shop Blue Havana, 856 W. Belmont Ave., jewelry shop Architectural Revolution, 3226 N. Clark St., and an art studio collective in Avondale called The Art Colony, 2630 W. Fletcher St.
The businessman also helped start Central Lakeview Merchants and its corresponding special service tax area in the '90s. He left the organization in 1999 due to internal disputes, and the association later refused to let him back in because of continued tensions, according to a Chicago Reader report in 2003 titled "Loud Man Out."
Thomas, the Reader report said, is "one of Lakeview's most colorful characters." Most recently, the man known for selling studs, spikes and skulls aimed for a more "upscale," Nordstrom's-type market with a new jewelry line called Marche Noir Organics.
Though he can still be seen around Lakeview wearing black leather and metal skull rings, he said the new line proves that there's another side to him.
"If I fail, I fail," he's said of the line. "I wanted to do something different."