Small stores offer free parking, sales

November 30, 2009 (CHICAGO) "It's been a challenge, it's not like it used to be," said Tricia Tunstall, who owns P45, a woman's clothing store in Bucktown. "We've been open 12 years, seen the economy go up and down, this is the worst year."

Tunstall said one of the keys to keeping her store open is focusing on promotions.

"Even in a down economy people like events. We have found doing events personalizing customer service is very helpful," said Tunstall.

In Lincoln Park, the once thriving Armitage Avenue has more than 20 vacancies. Tabula Tua is surrounded by 'for rent' signs.

"With all these vacancies on the street, street traffic has gone away. So we are dependent really on loyal customers," said Grace Tsao-Wu, business owner.

High-end specialty stores have adjusted their prices to attract customers. But store owners said their sky high rents have not followed suite.

"They are not lowering rents. Not at all," said Lauren Amerine, Isabella's Fine Lingerie.

In Andersonville, store owners said there has been a big push to keep shoppers local. Terry Ledford is the owner of White Attic, a vintage furniture store.

"The key has been value… and really giving customer what they want," said Ledford.

The Andersonville Chamber of Commerce said shoppers want free parking, so the chamber is offering to pay for it.

"If customers spend more than $20 in Andersonville, they can mail their receipt from their parking meter or mail us their receipt from the CTA and we'll reimburse it," said Ellen Shepard, Andersonville Chamber of Commerce.

The Andersonville Chamber Of Commerce has learned that parking is the one issue that keeps people from shopping in local neighborhoods.

Store owners in Bucktown, Lincoln Park and Andersonville say the best way for residents to support small businesses is to shop local this holiday season. To stay competitive, small boutique stores are offering sales and special deals.

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