From the Chicago Architecture Blog:
(Thursday 22 September 2005 @ 17:24) - TV reporters, newspaper writers, and the rapidly decomposing Studs Terkel were all aghast this week as Federated Department Stores announced it is going to abandon the Marshall Field's name at its 62 Midwest stores, including the former flagship store on State Street. To seven million people in the Midwest, the news was received as if it was the end of the world. To the other 290 million people in America, it was worth little more than a shrug of the shoulder. Why? Because the people living outside of Chicago know something that the people living inside Chicago don't realize: Chicago is already Anytown, USA.
Chicagoans have a great sense of community. They love their city the way Texans love Texas. They will defend her (and often her mayor) through thick and thin. They see it as a shining beacon of civilization marking the transition from the vast expanses of the Great Lakes to the vast prairies of the Great Plains. In many ways, they are right. Chicago was the birthplace of both the skyscraper and mass meat processing. But the innovations of the past have lost their luster to anyone but the jingoistic hometown fans of the Windy City.
Take a walk down the Magnificent Mile, the city's premier shopping corridor and tourist attraction. How many of the shops that line North Michigan Avenue are from Chicago? You can count them on one finger. Every store you see is an outpost of a national or global chain. The same is true for most of the rest of the city. It is more than a little ironic that the same reporters standing in front of Marshall Field's State Street store bemoaning its demise are holding microphone flags bearing the logos "ABC7," "NBC5," and "CBS2." WLS, WMAQ, and WBBM were once powerhouse identities known for a thousand miles. Today they are nothing more than icons of the homogenization of the city they're licensed to represent. The same can be said of the city's other local icons. Sears? Owned by Kmart in Michigan. Sears Tower? Owned by an out-of-state investment group. The John Hancock Center? Boston. Oprah? California via Mississippi. There are no Chicagoans on any of the major professional sports teams. In fact, even the beloved Cubs were once the Cincinnati Cubs.
So, what's left of Chicago that's actually from Chicago? Not much. I was recently in a room with 15 native Chicagoans and posed that question. The only answers they could muster were Vienna Beef and Garrett's popcorn. I asked the same people if the name change from Marshall Field's to Macy's would make them shop less at the chain. All around there were enthusiastic "yes"es. But when I pressed them to see if any had actually shopped in Marshall Field's, all eyes were sheepishly pointed at the floor.
That's the root of how Chicago got to the place it is today. The city is full of people who fervently claim to love and support their hometown, but then turn around and buy coffee at Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts. Chicago brought this upon itself. You can't blame the mayor for this one. My prediction, now that the State Street landmark will be run by Macy's North out of Minneapolis, is that it will be empty in less than three years. Federated dumped the Field's name because of money. It will close the State Street store for the same reason. An article in Crain's Chicago Business just two weeks ago revealed that the flagship Sears store across the street is doing so poorly that Kmart is trying to figure a way to get out of its lease and tax obligations. A short-sighted member of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce was on WLS television spinning the news as a good thing for Chicago because Federated will pass the savings on to its customers. When has that EVER happened with ANY company? Companies are in the business of making money, not giving it away. The only people who will make any money off this deal are Federated shareholders who will see short term profits. The people of Chicago will be poorer for it. But, again, it's their own fault. They didn't root for the local team. Now they're getting what they deserve.