It’s not hard to walk the commercial streets of Chicago and find recently vacant storefronts, their former occupants victims of the Great Recession. The economy of the last few years has claimed several local and personal favorites. The little watch shop and jeweler that once operated out of the ground floor of this Lincoln Square flatiron, for example, disappeared in 2009.
Around the corner, the long-standing Meyer Delicatessen vanished in 2008, along with its two fantastic neon signs.
This story has a happy ending, though. The space has been completely remodeled by a boutique grocer, adding a second story and a handsome new facade.
And inside, the mounted sign has returned, now hanging proudly at the head of a new staircase. I nearly did a backflip when I saw it – it’s a wonderful repurposing of a wonderful bit of neon.
My only complaint is that the store’s deli is actually to the left. And downstairs.
Perhaps my favorite back-lit plastic sign disappeared with the closing of the Rogers Park outlet of the Dulcelandia Mexican candy store, a local chain.
The most architecturally alarming loss is Erickson Jewelers. This Andersonville storefront features a sleek black Vitrolite facade, elegantly engraved with the company’s name and signature product, combined with a delightful neon sign and clock advertising Omega Watches. Dating from the 1940s, the renovation that created this sleek commercial space is sufficiently obscure that not even the AIA Guide can identify an architect or exact date.
In business since at least 1924, Erickson Jeweler was still open in 2007, but closed by the end of 2009. Much to my regret, I never photographed the neon sign while it was in operation, and it would take an unusually enlightened and daring tenant to leave the business-specific facade intact.