LAKEVIEW — Many Southport businesses were shocked to hear a children's clothing boutique owner call neighborhood customers "snobby" people who treat local businesses "like crap," they said Monday.
Katherine Dyon told DNAinfo Chicago last week that she planned to close Katie B's, 3715 N. Southport Ave., because she was tired of rude residents who don't support local businesses.
She recounted incidents of people throwing shoes at employees and letting their kid pee in the store.
"Not making money and being treated like crap doesn't work," said Dyon.
Owners and employees at other shops in the neighborhood rejected such a strong characterization of Southport locals. While all retailers admitted to having had unpleasant customers, most said that "99 percent" of locals are "loyal," "pleasant" and "friendly."
Paula Eisen, owner of Click Shoes and More at 3729 N. Southport Ave., and Lauren O'Neill, the store's manager, both fielded "awkward" calls and visits from longtime customers who read the article and wanted to know whether they thought Southport customers were snobs, too.
O'Neill and Eisen said absolutely not. O'Neill said she's had only two bad incidents in more than six years on Southport. Customers have supported them despite a tough retail climate, she said.
"I've had a really different experience," O'Neill said. "I have people call from the floor of Nordstrom's to ask 'Do you have this?' We've even had customers give other customers jobs."
"I was surprised that her feelings were that strong," said Eisen, who considers Dyon a friendly neighbor. "I love it on Southport. My family is the store."
Some businesses speculated that maybe Dyon had a tougher time because her business attracted more children than other spots.
But they said they had never witnessed the terrible parental behavior that Dyon described.
Most parents have been considerate, said Sarah Dayiantis, manager at Krista K, 3458 N. Southport Ave., for example, making sure to throw dirty diapers away outside instead of inside the store.
Shin Lee, manager of designer consignment store Second Time Around, 3709 N. Southport Ave., said stroller-toting stay-at-home mothers and nannies frequent the store without any issues.
"Parents will let their kids run wild [at the Armitage location], but nothing too terrible," Lee said. "It's your job to just deal with it."
Despite their surprise at how negative Dyon's experience was, the businesses said that retail on the street can be tough. Many businesses have seen declines in sales in the last year, and several closed, including White Birch Trading Co., Bad Ass Coffee and Frida's, a Mexican restaurant.
Many residents and business owners have anxiously watched as the street has become more corporate in recent years. Seeing another mom-and-pop close is unsettling, regardless of the owner's reason, said Jim Dudley, who's owned That's Amore Florist, 3454 N. Southport Ave., for more than 20 years.
"It's, 'Oh my God, that could be me'," Dudley said. "It seems like every storefront's been a couple things already."
"Residents like to support local," said Tracey Glibowski, owner of Cerato Boutique, 3451 N. Southport Ave. "In general, I don't know if people shop local as much as they'd like to though."
Dyon, meanwhile, is glad she spoke her mind. There's been backlash, but many people have supported her, too, she said in an email.
"I wasn't sure how I'd feel about the article, but I have to say I'm glad it's known," she said. "I know most business owners won't voice this opinion, but I know they feel the same."