Chicago’s shuttered storefronts left in limbo as Trump refuses to concede election

The painted words “WE ARE OPEN” greet ZARA customers
Despite the plywood plastered along one of Chicago’s busiest streets, the words “WE ARE OPEN” greet ZARA (700 N. Michigan Ave.) customers as they walk the Magnificent Mile. (Grace Rodgers/MEDILL)

By Grace Rodgers & Marisa Sloan
Medill Reports

After nearly a week of counting ballots, Joe Biden was declared president-elect early Saturday morning.

Many storefronts along Chicago’s Michigan Avenue, also known as the Magnificent Mile thanks in part to its grand architecture and designer brands, boarded up their windows days in advance, anticipating election unrest. Instead, crowds gathered to dance, sing and occasionally pop bottles of champagne.

In spite of this initial celebration, cities across the country remain in limbo as President Donald Trump resists a peaceful transfer of power.

The souvenir shop Bye Bye Chicago was one of several that prepared for Election Day by boarding up their windows. Although the plywood has since been taken down, employee William Askew said the shop’s owner is keeping it in a safe place.

“Over the summer, our windows were busted and merchandise was stolen,” Askew said. “It was certainly an interruption of business.”

First in June and then again in August, dozens of storefronts along Michigan Avenue were looted during weeks of widespread civil unrest in response to the murder of George Floyd. After the first wave, plywood was taken down as soon as the damage was repaired.

Now, the boards — often covered with colorful designs to match designer brands — are becoming a more long term measure.

The Wrigley Building is boarded-up and patrolled around-the-clock by the Chicago Police Department
As an established architectural landmark along Michigan Avenue, the Wrigley Building (400-410 N. Michigan Ave.) is boarded up and patrolled around-the-clock by the Chicago Police Department. (Grace Rodgers/MEDILL)
A Walgreen's sign in front of a 7-foot-tall wooden barricade
A single sign is the only indication that a Walgreens (410 N. Michigan Ave.) can be found behind this 7-foot-tall wooden barricade. (Marisa Sloan/MEDILL)
A colorful handmade “Come On In” sign outside of Coach
Outside of the designer store Coach (625 N. Michigan Ave.), a colorful handmade “Come On In” sign greets customers as they window shop along the Magnificent Mile. (Grace Rodgers/MEDILL)
A sign that says 'We Are Open' in front of a wall of plywood
The faint scent of freshly cut plywood lingers in the air as retailers (600 N. Michigan Ave.) along Michigan Avenue board up storefront windows. (Grace Rodgers/MEDILL)
The painted words “WE ARE OPEN” greet ZARA customers
Sometimes, a small sign isn’t enough. ZARA’s (700 N. Michigan Ave.) boarded-up front doors provide plenty of space to let customers know it remains open for business. (Marisa Sloan/MEDILL)
An “I VOTED” sticker covers the word “TRUMP” written on one boarded-up storefront
An “I VOTED” sticker covers the word “TRUMP” written on one boarded-up storefront (520 N. Michigan Ave.) along the Magnificent Mile. (Grace Rodgers/MEDILL)
A sign picturing the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg, along with one of the Supreme Court justice’s most iconic quotes, “Women belong in all places where decisions are being made.”
Sephora (605 N. Michigan Ave.) pays tribute to the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg, along with one of the Supreme Court justice’s most iconic quotes, “Women belong in all places where decisions are being made.” (Grace Rodgers/MEDILL)
A security guard enters the wooden cave of an Ulta Beauty
A security guard enters the wooden cave of an Ulta Beauty (430 N. Michigan Ave.). In anticipation of election unrest, many businesses along Michigan Avenue have gone beyond boarding up just windows. (Marisa Sloan/MEDILL)
Two musicians use the boards covering an Under Armour as the backdrop for an impromptu concert.
Two musicians use the boards covering an Under Armour (600 N. Michigan Ave.) as the backdrop for an impromptu concert. (Marisa Sloan/MEDILL)
A passersby dwarfed by plywood at Tiffany & Co.
Passersby, dwarfed by plywood at Tiffany & Co. (730 N. Michigan Ave.), must journey inside if they want a look at the jewelry being sold. (Marisa Sloan/MEDILL)
A boarded-up AT&T store
Combating a global pandemic on one hand and potential political unrest on the other, businesses like AT&T (600 N. Michigan Ave.) try their best to stay open and protected. (Marisa Sloan/MEDILL)
A Chicago Police Department vehicle parked along Michigan Avenue medians
Chicago Police Department vehicles park along Michigan Avenue medians (717 N. Michigan Ave.) to patrol one of the city’s most heavily trafficked streets. (Grace Rodgers/MEDILL)
A police officer stands outside a boarded-up Wrigley Building
A police officer stands outside the Wrigley Building (400-410 N. Michigan Ave.) as the first full day following the election comes to a close. Just blocks away, a protest will draw greater police presence later in the evening. (Marisa Sloan/MEDILL)

Grace Rodgers and Marisa Sloan are health, environment and science reporters at Medill. You can follow them on Twitter at @gracelizrodgers and @sloan_marisa.

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