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The Alley's Closure 'Shuts Coffin Lid' On Lakeview's Punk Culture, Fans Say

By Ariel Cheung | December 2, 2015 1:08pm
 The Alley back in the day and today.
The Alley back in the day and today.
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LAKEVIEW — Parting is such sweet sorrow, and fans of The Alley wasted no time bemoaning its loss.

After news broke Tuesday that the iconic punk store would close after four decades in Lakeview, readers shared their favorite memories of their rebellious adolescent purchases. Comments poured in on Neighborhood Square, DNAinfo's online community platform, Facebook, Twitter and Reddit.

RELATED: The Alley in Lakeview Closing After 39 Years, 'Slaughtered' By Construction

"At 13 years old, my mom drove me to The Alley so I could buy my first leather motorcycle jacket (side note: I still have it)," Christopher Racana wrote on Facebook. "Upon entering she says 'this is where they keep Rosemary's baby' .... To which I thought to myself 'Perfect' and I was in love with The Alley."

Some mourned a slew of Lakeview counterculture icons that are no more, from Spin to Medusa's:

"If the demolition of Punkin' Donuts signaled the end of Lake View and it's former 80s punk culture, the closing of The Alley officially shuts the coffin lid," wrote Neighborhood Square user CrustyB. "RIP to Lake View's color, culture, character, history. Is The Vic next?"

Readers shared their favorite memories of "the original Hot Topic" and its long history as a Mecca for cutting-edge and fashion-forward teens.

"If you knew the alley it wasn't about a genre like emo, punk or goth. It was an original idea store that was copied by many. It was a dress how you feel store. Then people made label's for people like emo, punk or goth," wrote Jeff Riggs.

As a gathering place for rule-breakers, it's not surprising some were there on less-than-truthful trips.

In the ancient days of pay phones, Erin Shea Smith would call her parents in Joliet and assure them she was just down the street at the Family Table, but "I was always at The Alley and then Pick Me Up. Because of course."


"I miss ditching high school with friends to get on a train, to get off at Belmont, to eat Philly's Best pizza, and then go to The Alley," recalled Jera Sue Dean.

In the days before the Internet, it was "the only place to get docs in town and the only place to steal decent tshirts," wrote Laura Lewinski. "We supplied our own safety pins unlike the pre-safety pinned clothes of hot topic."

Digging through the coffin filled with pins "way messed up my hands," said Dayne Puhala. "Being young in this city was pretty special."

Some of the now-grown punks took a more practical stance, noting their own declining interest in leather jackets and Doc Martens.

"My 17 year old self is crying and writing bad poetry right now," wrote Jenny Seidelman. "My current 30(something...) self is having vague feelings of nostalgia, but is also not surprised and is kind of shrugging."

Others focused on happier times.

"I remember the first time I ever stepped into The Alley! The only entry was in the alley with barely any light to see, going down the stairs and finding all of the awesome stuff you sell!," reminisced Stacey1997. "Bought my first pair of Frankenstein boots and a few other items. I WAS 19!"

Back in 1988, "it was a place where you can find some cool stuff ... I mean stuff that nobody else had and it was really on the edge for Chicago," wrote makingadifference. "Fast forward to 2015, Mark Thomas did a tremendous job surviving all these years ... we will indeed miss The Alley for the many years of loyalty to the community, uniqueness that enhanced the character of the neighborhood and the civic duties of the owner Mark Thomas."

To Neighborhood Square user julius-cavira, The Alley was "my oasis, my Chicago shred of identity."

"I dare say The Alley is a historical site," julius-cavira wrote. "When Pres. Reagan's Recession hit so very hard on Chicagoans and people wanted a different look from the previous looks (Disco, Glam Rock) ... The Alley was the ideal go-to store. The Alley IS the Fight Club to suicidal domestication."


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