Friday, January 27, 2012

Empty Borders Building to House Akira Apparel


posted by chicago pop


From Crain's Chicago Business: Hyde Park's empty Borders building will soon host the flagship store of Chicago fashion boutique Akira. Asked why he chose to open a location in Hyde Park - the flagship store, no less - owner Eric Hsueh said this about the local market:

"Our core customer is in their mid-20s, recently out of school, who are working,” he said. And a good number of those customers live in Hyde Park and currently drive to the North Side to shop at other Akiras."

Now they won't have to, which is exactly what Hyde Park's retail renaissance should be about. Local business meets local market.
More:

Akira, a rapidly expanding Chicago-based clothing boutique, will open its 19th location, I've learned, in a vacated Border's bookstore in Hyde Park this fall.

(An 18th store—and the first outside of Illinois—will open next month in Merrillville's Westfield Southlake Mall. Read more about the chain, which was started a decade ago by three University of Illinois grads, here.)

The 8,000-square-foot Hyde Park store at 1539 E. 53rd St. will become the flagship location for Akira, which also has stores in Bucktown, Lincoln Park, Andersonville, Water Tower Place, Block 37 and three suburban malls.

Hyde Park “is a good market in that it's under-served and has a captive audience,” Akira co-owner Eric Hsueh told me. 
53rd Street continues to fill in and, for the first time in as long as many of us can remember, with a clothing store. That's a significant diversification of the neighborhood's retail landscape.

20 comments:

tayiah said...

Wowwwwww! They were in the article in chicago mag titled whats wrong with hyde park and they said they weren't interested.I'm glad they changed their minds. Its a big mistake by retailers and restaurants to ignore this growing vibrant area.

The akira executive said something very interesteing in the article about how the 15,000 students is what attracted them. I find this disturbing and telling and I'm thinking what about the middle class residents, aren't they what should have attracted you more?I find this disturbing if this is a trend among retailers to just consider the prefernces of university students while ignoring the non-studentmiddle class (which is predominately black population). I hope this isn't the deceiding factor of where to put a store. I really don't see the students of hyde park dressing fashionable, they dress slouchy and comfortable. The majority of sales I believe will come from non-students, students aren't very interested in fashion unless they are going out or a date night.

Mona said...

As much as sequined hotpants aren't my thing, I think that Akira is onto something by establishing their flagship store here. The UChicago student body is leaning towards being more pre-professional (yeah, I know...) as are many universities these days. Have you seen some of those college students lately? Whether we like it or not, that transient population is and always will be a part of Hyde Park. It's us older middle-class residents -- and of course graduate students who are what we used to be -- who dress slouchy and comfortable (to speak to Tayiah's point) and how often do we really go clothes-shopping? Not as often as we did when we were in college, I suspect. I'm ok with taking the #6 to TJMaxx, Nordstrom Rack, etc. every few months. Or driving out to an outlet store every year or two. Anyway, having never stepped into an Akira store, I'm not ready to write them off. The other day I actually bought something from Zara, much to my own surprise.

David Farley said...

I was hoping the Borders building could be turned into a mini-mall of branch banks and cell phone stores.

susan said...

The majority of the B-School and law school students (who more likely to dress like Akira that certain other departments) live downtown and commute to Hyde Park for the school. Can't see them shopping at Akira in Hyde Park instead of Akira downtown, nestled as it is among other like stores.

chicago pop said...

Folks, go back and look at what Eric Hsueh said. His market is mid-20 somethings, just out of school and working. He doesn't say they are U of C students (though he thinks it will do well with them), he doesn't say they are Booth or Law schools students (and neither of them can by and large be said to dress like the models in the above photograph - fashionable/hipster doesn't necessarily translate to pre-professional), and he doesn't say if they are black or white. And of course they aren't middle aged white women who shop once every two years. But it's a big wide wonderful world, and this population exists in Hyde Park. Love thy neighbor! If this store takes off, better the chances that another one will open up nearby that DOES cater to any one of these niches

Mona said...

Chicago Pop, you weren't inferring from my comment above that I was white, were you?! :-) BTW, last night we had friends over for dinner and I mentioned this news about Akira to one of them and she nearly fell out of her chair with excitement. She's in her late-30's, lecturer at UChicago, a Hyde Park resident, an immigrant like me (but much more recent) and has been shopping regularly at Akira for years. Never knew. Never knew I knew anyone who shopped there either. She was SOooo happy! Esp. that she would no longer have to go all the way up north somewhere to shop.

tayiah said...

This is exciting news!!! Why are there only 5 comments! There should be dozens of comments by now. C'on hpers lets hear what you have to say. A clothing retailer is finaaly opening up in our nabe.

Frances said...

Great news, and thoroughly shocking that they found someone to take such a large retail space in the current business climate. Even in good economic times that kind of space would be a white elephant at best. Kudos to Akira for taking a chance on Hyde Park. There is a lot of consumer money in HP going elsewhere and hopefully that will start to change. Now if I could convince American Science and Surplus to open a local store...

David Farley said...

I'm worried that trendy people will take our parking spaces.

nate said...

Wow, that seems really quick to have filled a space that size. Feels like the 53rd corridor (or maybe it's the Lake Park corridor) is at a tipping point, with Harper Court, the theater, Clarke's, etc.

To wit, I saw on Curbed that Jeanne Gang is doing a presentation on "City Hyde Park" - the Village Center redevelopment - on Wednesday evening at the HPAC:

http://chicago.curbed.com/archives/categories/hyde_park.php

nate said...

Just noticed at the end of the U of C press release that Akira isn't using the whole building:

"Akira will occupy 8,000 square feet on the first floor of the building. Additional businesses are in talks for the remaining 5,000 square feet on the first floor and the 12,000 square feet on the second floor."

Greg said...

David, I'm worried that drunken shoppers will spill out into the street and disturb the neighbors. Let's get Hairston to shut it down.

Nando said...

As a recent transplant from NYC,I'm happy to hear this news. I also hope that Hyde Park start courting truly upscale dining/bars. It really chaps me that I have to go spend my money up north than in my neighborhood. I love Hyde Park but some of the nimby-ism here is pathological

David Farley said...

Hyde Park already has The Cove and Woodlawn Tap. How many more upscale bars does it need? And whatever happened to the "barcade" that was supposed to open in the Borders building?

Nando said...

David Farley:You're hilarious! I especially loved your post about the drunken shoppers spilling into the streets

Mona said...

That was Greg, not David Farley, but I've been laughing away at David's posts too. The Cove and Jimmy's...!

Chason said...

The barcade was done in at the word go. If I recall correctly, Laura Green ran into issues with Chicago's liquor license laws and met resistance when business leaders (from Futons n More and Valois) told her "no one drinks in Hyde Park" and "no one likes the idea of a bar in a college neighborhood." This was also before Borders closed. She was in the market for real estate when she ran into these issues.

Greg said...

Everyone knows the Falcon Inn is HPs "upscale" bar.

Greg said...

In other news, I did get a nice chuckle from the letter in the Herald entitled "U. of C. Hurting Harper Business", while just a few pages before the Herald has an article about the U of C successfully leasing a large portion of a vacant space to Akira, a local Chicago business. I guess Akira doesn't fit the mold of a shop that should do business in a "nice, old-fashioned Chicago neighborhood".

Chason said...

Greg, I'm glad you mentioned this. I have forgotten to read the Herald of late. It is such an easy way to get a cheap laugh.