Saturday, December 11, 2010

Magic Johnson Bows Out Of Uptown (But Leaves His Mark)

Back in late December 1999, Starbucks opened at Magnolia and Wilson.  It was a joint venture between Starbucks and (Magic) Johnson Development Corporation, an experiment that began in 1998.  Uptown's was the very first of such collaborations in Chicago, whose number eventually grew to eight locally, and over 125 nationwide.

MJ's goal:  to "create economic activity in historically underserved ethnic communities," to create jobs for local residents, and to attract other businesses to the area.  (All this according to the company's executive vice president at the time.)

But the Magic Johnson era in Uptown is over.  Magic Johnson Enterprises recently sold all of the shares in its stores back to Starbucks, according to Crain's.

We remember Wilson Avenue pre-1999, and it was a very different place.  The Tribune described it as "the Uptown thoroughfare so notorious for its prostitutes and homeless drunks and scared foreign students dashing into Truman College for English classes."  No Magnolia Cafe.  No Jimmy John's.  No Aardvark Insurance, or 7-11, or mom-n-pop entrepreneurs putting their life savings into a business and their kids working after school and on weekends to help support the family.

So it looks like Magic Johnson's experiment, to see if a Starbucks could jump-start the retail in an underserved area, worked.  He's no longer a stakeholder, but he left his stamp on our neighborhood.  For that, we are grateful to him.


  1. ..all of that change in ten years...and in Helen Shiller's 46th ward....

  2. 10 years ago I had my little flower shop on Wilson. I remember letting the police use my front room to do reverse prostitution stings. I remember chasing armed robbers down the street after robbing the corner liquor store.

    Ah, those were the days.

  3. You had a flower shop Craig?

    Sounds like you had fun.

  4. What? Uptown was worse than now? I got the impression over the last 3 years that Uptown has never been worse than it currently is. Has Uptown Update been skewing the history of Uptown all of this time?

  5. Otto,

    your mind works like your name. It's the same old thing reading from the left or the right.

    Sarcasm takes talent. It takes years of practice and intelligence. Now on occasion a prodigy, such as myself, is born and can step into the fray from a youthful age.

    You don't have it. None of the JPUSA neighborhood warriors for Jesus have it. You take yourselves far too seriously which is a common affliction among the religiously righteous of any stripe.

    What you do have is a sense of scorn for your neighbors and an overwhelmingly sense of righteousness. Tie that into an obsessive need to exploit the welfare system for direct and indirect benefit and I think I've just described a good portion of the reality of your little boatload of damaged souls floating on Ocean Uptown.

    Instead of the futility of trying to make sarcastic comments try "turning the other cheek".

    Oops, I shouldn't have typed that. I know the history of JPUSA adult spankings might get a Pavlovian response from that image.

    Oh wait, what's that sound I just heard? Could it be gunshots? I guess we should ignore that. After all Uptown is inarguably better now that it was ten years ago, so we have no reason to worry about gunshot victims or bullets flying on our streets.

    Thank you, Otto. I now see the light. Praise Trott and pass the welfare benefits.


  6. Otto has a good point. Craig as well.

    The question is:

    Is Wison Ave. better now then 10 years ago?

    Welfare, Tifs, Shiller, SRO's, Condo owners and blah blah blah it better or isn't it?

    I would like to just give all of the credit to Magic Johnson and call it a day.

    But c'mon folks...get over your pet issues, life is more complicated then Magic Johnson and one coffee shop.

    Be proud of the fact it has improved and just leave it at that.

    Cheers and GO BEARS!


  7. It might be an immediately gratifying New Year's resolution for the multitude if people could tone down all the great, mediocre and bad sarcasm here. For many, it's predictable and tiring.

    We all know there are serious problems; it's clear that TIFs and Schiller have been abusive; we are keenly aware that gang problems are out of hand. We also can predict the squabbles that will play out here post after post, equally as relentless as the problems the 46th faces.

    It's worth remembering that petty debate yields petty resolution. As we approach a new year, it sure would be nice to not watch personal squabbles play out on these posts and instead raise the level of discourse in hopes that it might provoke more productive discussion.

  8. ruyz said...

    It might be an immediately gratifying New Year's resolution for the multitude if people could tone down all the great, mediocre and bad sarcasm here. For many, it's predictable and tiring.

    It might be, but it ain't gonna happen.


    Happy Holidays!

  9. IrishPirate,

    I am sorry that I make the neighborhood worse and drive gangbangers to shoot each other. I pray that someday the mantle of sarcastic anointing will pass from you to me with a double portion and I will be like you in all ways. Thank you for keeping the discussion focused on the topic instead of your own pet agendas. We are gifted to have a free thinker like you in our midst.


  10. Otto,

    I'll be satisfied when you and the rest of the JPUSA community decide to be good neighbors and start paying for your own health care.

    I'm not holding my breath.

    Your community owns and operates businesses raking in millions of dollars a year, yet your members have to go to County Hospital or similar sources for health care.

    Taking services away from people who are truly more needy.

    I wonder what Christ would say about that?

  11. Thanks for your enlightening perspective and your ability to keep this all on topic. I agree with you that Starbucks is the best thing to ever happen to Uptown, but the automatic machines are the worst thing to ever happen to Starbucks.

    I know I will never live up to your expectations for me Dad.

  12. Testosterone overload! Okay, boys, you've both represented your team well. Time out.