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Earlier today, we asked local experts to tell us which shopping neighborhood or street has improved the most over the past year. Brigid Sweeney being the most acclaimed and trusted expert in the retail industry as the retail reporter for Crain's put in her two cents... but there's more reasoning behind it. Now we turn to Brigid, lover of stationery and all-around funny lady (among her retail kingpinness) to expound on her feelings for Oak Street.
Racked: What shopping neighborhood or street has improved the most in 2012?
Brigid: Oh man, that's sort of tough. I'd love to highlight Milwaukee and Division or Clark Street in Andersonville. But if we're defining "improved" purely in terms of new store arrivals, I'm going to say Oak Street. It welcomed Louboutin and Lanvin, which obviously bring heavyweight luxury cred to town, and Tom Ford will be coming next year. And of course the Esquire Theatre—which was vacant for so long and sort of served as this metaphorical gloomy question mark about the economy and the future of retail is now redone and home to Del Frisco's. You can argue as to whether the area needs another steakhouse or whether an out-of-town chain steakhouse really qualifies as a major victory for Oak Street, but hey: It's a huge, gorgeous space with pretty people paying a lot of money to eat and drink. If you're a retailer or a landlord nearby, you can't complain about that.
Two menswear labels, George Zaharoff and Bruno Cucinelli, also opened on Oak this year, plus the men's boutique Independence (which is owned by Oak Street Bootmakers, which I mention below). And if we can extend the "Oak Street" designation a bit, we can talk about YSL coming to Rush Street, plus the fancy new Rush Street Starbucks with wine and appetizers, and the Sprinkles cupcake ATM on Walton Street. Walton Street also got the relocated Sofia plus British retailer Eskandar and, at some point soon, Barbour.
All of this, combined with the beautiful new Burberry flagship on Michigan, indicate that Chicago's traditional corridors of power shopping are alive and well after the recession.