Lakeview Punk And Goth Mainstay The Alley Is Hosting Its Own Funeral

By Mae Rice in News on Jan 6, 2016 7:51PM

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Facebook.com/TheAlleyStores

The Alley, a Lakeview clothing store that owner Mark Thomas calls “a counterculture superstore,” will close on Tuesday, Jan. 19—but not without hosting a "funeral" party first.

The so-called funeral is set for Saturday, Jan. 16, starting at 9 p.m. The event will be a chance for long-time fans of the store, which has been around for almost 40 years, to say goodbye.

Thomas tells Chicagoist the event will feature some memorabilia giveaways—including 100 memorial Alley t-shirts, which will go to the first 100 people to arrive—and, probably a keg.

It will also include some truly funereal elements: a casket and a hearse. The casket will have the state and city budgets inside, because “the budgets are dead,” as Thomas said; at the end of the event, he’ll carry it out to the waiting hearse and “slowly drive away into the moonlight.”

Thomas has owned two hearses in his life, but currently owns none. However, “The guy who bought my 1961 hearse, about 10 years ago… we have a really nice relationship,” Thomas said. “I texted him and I said, ‘Hey man, can I borrow the hearse?’”

As the funereal touches suggest, Thomas is deeply sad to close the Alley. He hopes to reopen it, but negotiations on a new space in Logan Square fell through at midnight last night, he said.

“It’s the worst day of my life,” he said, of the closing. “It’s hard to look at my staff. I thought we’d be able to get a deal done… a lot of people I care about are not going to have a job in 13 days.”

He cites numerous reasons for the store’s closure. Chicago has changed; Lakeview has changed; American spending patterns have changed; Chicago taxes have risen and risen. However, Thomas says that construction on his stretch of Clark Street, where Target is building a “stupid nine-story building,” is what “really slaughtered” the Alley.

“Our foot traffic dropped dramatically,” he said. "The old Alley concept is dead."

However, he hopes to reopen the Alley in a slightly different form in 2016, as a place with food, liquor, entertainment—basically, as "a funky hub of the community," Thomas said, "so people have a lot more reasons to come in the store than to buy something.”