This Week on The Street

by Harold Shumacher

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(A more or less regular compilation of news, factoids and observations.)

July  15, 2011

As we reported a few weeks back the mood at Recon 2011, the International Council of Shopping Center’s annual gabfest and networking extravaganza , was distinctly upbeat from the previous few years.  The momentum has seemingly changed to the positive and landlords, developers, tenants and brokers are all optimistic.

Another bit of optimistic news came late last  month  from Carlos Herrera, Coca Cola North America’s  senior manager of industry forecasting and analysis. Speaking at the annual meeting of the Georgia Restaurant Association, Herrera made his case for a positive turn in the economy citing such factors as rising employment, based on number of jobs created, an uptick in consumer spending and a stabilization in the housing market. He went on to note that the recession officially ended in February of 2010 (in case you were wondering)

Still there are problems looming, proposed health care legislation, the forthcoming political dance to raise the debt ceiling,  tax reforms, the Greek debt crisis-tied to a number of banks throughout the world- and a continuing likelihood of bank failures (as many as 800 this year alone.) Herrera remains optimistic, however, telling the crowd, if you’ve survived the past two years you’re doing something right so keep doing what you’re doing. “We’re all after share of  stomach and people will continue to need what we provide.”

Bloggers beware….a court in Taiwan sentenced a blogger to two years probation and a $7,000 fine for writing a negative on-line review.  His review, which cited a restaurant’s poorly seasoned food and bug infestation problems,   was declared libelous because it was based on only one visit to the restaurant according to a local judge. While it’s doubtful that a similar decision would be rendered in this country it is interesting to note that the internet is a virtually uncensored wild west of opinions, mis-stated facts and observations many from anonymous sources. As we all know, once it gets on the internet it stays there forever.

Great quote department…”The decor writes checks the food can’t cash.”


Twenty Four Hours in Chicago

= It’s hard to deny New York City’s energy level and excitement but Chicago also never ceases to intrigue us. What’s new in the windy city?  Food markets and sandwiches.  Fox and Obel (401 East Illinois Street, near Navy Pier), a long time mainstay European style market is about to get some competition.  Canadian based Richtree Market is about to join the fray with it’s first American location at Old Orchard mall, owned by the Westfield company,  in suburban Skokie.  Located  in the mall’ s former food court area,  the store is expected to open by year s end and will feature a wide variety of prepared food, natural ingredients, wine, flowers etc.
Chicago super star chefs Rick Bayless and Graham Elliott have both opened gourmet sandwich stops within blocks of each other.  Bayless’ Xoco (449 North Clark Street), slang Mexican for little sister, is around the corner from his ultra successful Frontera Grill  and features  empanadas, tortas (sandwiches) and hot from the fryer churros.  Go early the 40 seat restaurant draws a large crowd and stays busy throughout the day. If you’re short on patience the restaurant is also open for light breakfast starting at 8 a.m.

Grahamwich (615 N. State Street)  Elliot’s tribute to sandwiches  is located in the former Tree Studio, both a Chicago Landmark building and on the National Register of Historic Places. An understated space  with modern décor,  and a graffiti covered restroom,  the tightly focused menu features  such items as pork belly bbq, lamb gyro, Reuben and Waygu beef  sandwiches (all under $10.) .  If you go, and the weather is nice,  check out the secluded hidden garden at the rear of the store for additional seating.
No trip to Chicago would be complete without pizza.  This time we went old school at Maria s (4127 W. Lawrence)  in Albany Park.    Attached to a liquor store with a shared ownership and entrance, the 70- year old mainstay has changed little through the years.  Bright red booths line the long skinny main dining room and bar area. As a warm up,  try the St. Louis style fried ravioli before diving into one of their signature thin crust pies. Thursday through Saturday there’s live music, generally trios and quartets featuring music from the 40’s and 50’s.

A recent conversation with Co-star’s Atlanta maven  Frank Rizzo proved enlightening.  Since January 1, 2009 there have been 850 sales of land tracts of one to five acres completed in the metro Atlanta area. Of those approximately one third were bank foreclosures. On average,  the bank owned properties sold for one third less than their privately owned counterparts.

Midtown West continues to be a hotbed of new restaurant activity. Among the newcomers recently opened or about to open are Leroy’s Chicken; Muncheez, taking the former Northside Tavern, soon to open Georgia Fish Camp, from Chef Ford Fry (all on Howell Mill) and Swit Bakery and Café going into the brickworks on Marietta Street.

Another hotbed of activity is the intersection of Piedmont and Roswell Road where longtime mainstays Johnny’s Hideaway, Hal’s and the Landmark Diner have been joined by newcomers including Jerry Farber’s Side Door, Zoe’s, Flip, Tin Lizze and a soon-to-open Panera Bread.

Recent transactions completed by The Shumacher Group Inc. include the sale of City Tavern (Howell Mill); Bonz (Douglasville) and leasing of Vinny’s Pizza (Spire) and Carriage Cleaners (Town Center Brookhaven.)

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