About Souvenirs of Chicago
Where do you think the best place to get Chicago souvenirs is?We want to bring you and the rest of the world high quality Chicago related products that are actually made in Chicago.
If someone was to ask the crew here we'd all immediately say Chicago.
We think that you'd be hard pressed to come up with a better answer to that question.
That's where we come in.
SouvenirsofChicago.com was created with one simple mission:
We believe that no one should ever bring home a memory of our city only to find a sticker stating it was made in a completely different country.
That's why we make almost everything we sell in house, here in the Windy City itself.
We have a mantra here at Souvenirs of Chicago and that is this simple phrase: Shop Local.
To us, that means that whenever you can you should support local businesses and put your hard earned money back into your community or the community that you are supporting.
You have probably spotted at least one of those banners around our online shop.
Click it and find out more about what how we are trying to help this important movement grow.
About The Owner
Mark Thomas is an artist, an activist, an entrepreneur, a businessman, an innovator, a "doer", a husband and a father. He is a board member of Local First Chicago, an advocate for local businesses and a business advocate against crime and violence and pro-transparency in government. Mark believes that we must support our local business' and local artists. In order to make a difference in this world, we must all start in our own backyards.
Mark Thomas OWNS the Alley
Michelle C. Burton, Yahoo! Contributor Network
Dec 17, 2010
Chicago, IL 60657
United States of America
The Alley is probably the most well-known shopping complex in Lakeview. Newcomers to the neighborhood might slow down and stare for a few seconds as they make their way to the Starbucks across the street, while other seasoned 'Lakeviewers' simply walk right in, because they know exactly what to expect. Sure, the wild window displays and questionable, um, undergarments might make some a little squeamish, but for the most part, The Alley complex is just a unique alternative shopping complex that sells trendy clothes, shoes, odd stuff for your first apartment, incense, jewelry, and stuff for Goth types and adventurous couples.
The Alley is the birthplace of alternative shopping, so owner Mark Thomas has seen it all. What most Lakeview residents don't realize is The Alley began in, of all places, Woodfield Mall. When Thomas took over The Alley way back in 1974 (yes, 1974), he decided that the Woodfield location just wasn't right for this kind of store. So what did he do? He moved it to the corner of Surf and Broadway—just a few doors down from the largest gay club in the city at the time. The Alley rubbed elbows with The Phoenix for more than a decade. Thomas says the location offered ample foot traffic and business was good. But once the AIDS epidemic hit, around the mid-80s, Thomas was forced to move the store to its current location at 3228 N. Clark—right on the corner of Clark and Belmont.
Back then, The Alley had no windows so you couldn't really tell where or what The Alley was from the street. Customers in the know had to make their way down a cobblestone alley to find the entrance to the store. To drum up business at his new location, Thomas printed several stacks of flyers at a local copy shop and asked a bunch of kids to hand them out on street corners. Well, it worked. The first year at the Clark and Belmont location, The Alley took in $1 million in sales.
Today folks who lived in Lakeview during the 70s, 80s, and 90s still remember The Alley, but today, others call Thomas's catchy collection of stores, "The Alternative Complex." Thomas now owns Taboo Tabou and Architectural Revolution. The three stores make up The Alternative Complex.
Thomas believes that "it's the kids who force society to look at itself, and we are the ones who dress the kids." He mentions that in order to stay on top, you have to change with the times, "taxes rise, times change, it's a challenge," he said. So what's in store for Thomas and his Alternative Complex? He will just keep changing with the times - and no one can predict where that's going. He says, "back in the day, the business was very heavy metal, male-dominated, then I opened Taboo Tabou. Women's Clothing outdoes men's 10 to one."
Although Thomas says The Alternative Complex "is not so much a neighborhood store as a destination business—only 35-40 percent of the business comes from the neighborhood," his top priority is to satisfy the core customer. Maybe Thomas feels obligated to the punk kids and metal heads that started it all. But the way The Alternative Complex looks and feels today is proof that the mainstream and the extreme can certainly coexist in harmony.
The Alley/The Alternative Complex is located at 3228 N. Clark Street, Chicago, IL 60657. The Alley is open 365 days a year. Hours are Monday-Thursday 12 p.m.-9 p.m., Friday-Saturday 12 p.m.-10 p.m., and Sunday 12 p.m.-8 p.m. Phone: 773-883-1800 ext. 222. Website: http://www.thealley.com/
Source: Michelle Burton: Interview with Mark Thomas, Owner of The Alley (The Alternative Complex)