Retailers say business as usual during NATO, but precautions popular, too
BY SANDRA GUY Business Reporteremail@example.com May 14, 2012 7:14PM
Gary Hollingshead of Lee Lumber unloads 2x4s and plywood with workers from the Riverview Condos to protect windows in case of trouble during the NATO Summit. | Brian Jackson~Chicago Sun-Times
Updated: June 16, 2012 8:04AM
Downtown Chicago retailers say it will be business-as-usual during the coming NATO summit. Yet plywood, nails, two-by-fours and other board-up materials are being delivered daily to downtown buildings for those preparing for the worst.
“We are making deliveries every day” in areas from the South Loop into the Gold Coast, said Randy Baumgarten, partner and chief operating officer of Lee Lumber, 633 W. Pershing.
The 60-year-old family-run lumberyard has delivered materials to some 50 condo and commercial buildings, including retailers.
With protests before and during the summit, the potential for damage to businesses is real, but with so many visitors to Chicago, the potential for drawing customers is real, too.
The big retailers in the Loop and on the Magnificent Mile, including Macy’s, Target and Nordstrom, say they intend to operate as usual and have no board-up plans. In fact, Macy’s is featuring a Brazilian fashion, culture and culinary campaign this weekend, “Brasil: A Magical Journey,” featuring dresses, handbags, jewelry, food, dance and other aspects of the South American country.
“We expect to see an increase in visitors shopping, [but] probably a few less local shoppers,” said Macy’s spokeswoman Andrea Schwartz.
Retailers generally don’t disclose when they hire extra security guards, but a Macy’s spokeswoman said the department store has no plans to try to charge the city for any extra security expenses.
Two retailers — Starbucks and Jewel-Osco — are putting protective film over windows of their stores closest to the NATO summit event as a precaution so that the glass won’t shatter if hit by rocks or other objects. Starbucks has installed the window coatings at 22 stores, while Jewel-Osco is stepping up window protection at its South Loop store at 1224 S. Wabash Ave., spokeswomen said Monday.
Target will boost its security measures and Jewel-Osco will add store managers.
Spokesmen for the Chicago Loop Alliance and the Greater North Michigan Avenue Association said they know of no closings by their member stores.
Though the Art Institute of Chicago will close during the summit, two nearby retailers, the souvenir shop Bye Bye Chicago and Central Camera Co., said they will operate as normal.
“We have security gates that we’ve pulled across the entrance for 45 years,” said owner Albert D. Flesch, whose late grandfather, also named Albert, started the company in 1899 at 31 E. Adams.
“We are hoping for everyone to be happy and non-violent,” Flesch said.
Baumgarten said he, too, hopes nothing happens. In fact, Lee Lumber has set up a return policy so building owners and other customers can bring back their lumber if they don’t use it, and pay only a service fee.
A risk management specialist said businesses may be waiting too late if they haven’t boarded up by now.
“Accordion screens that many businesses use aren’t going to stop a rock going through a window,” said Jay Taylor, with Chubb Group of Insurance Companies, Warren, N.J.
For building and business owners who decide they do need to board up, Lee Lumber has given customers a phone number where a foreman can be reached at any time in case an emergency delivery is needed during the summit. Baumgarten said: “Even in the middle of the night, we can get a truck loaded and get it out as fast as we can.”