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July 04, 2006

Liberal "Sizists" Block Opening of Lane Bryant Shop

Okay, I have no proof that they're liberals. But I've got a feeling.

Last year, a national real estate Web site named Oak Park one of America's "sexiest" suburbs.

Some now wonder whether a desire to foster that image was a factor in the village board blocking a women's plus-sized clothing store from moving into a new retail building in the heart of its downtown shopping district.

The near west suburb is the target of a recent lawsuit, filed after officials decided Lane Bryant doesn't fit the "kind and quality" of shops desired for the building.

In a downtown known for its trendy shops and clothing stores, Village President David Pope said officials want "a more broad-based retailer" to fill the building rather than one with "a niche market."

Lane Bryant specializes in clothing for women sizes 14 to 28.

Ahem. A retailer specializing in clothing plus-sized women is a "niche market" if one defines a "niche market" as serving "15 to 20 percent of the population."

Mexican restaurants are more of a niche market than that.

"We want to expand the market of people who are going to come downtown and spend dollars at other retailers in that district," Pope said, adding the village is "very interested" in having Lane Bryant come to Oak Park -- just in "a different location."

But RSC & Associates, which has spent millions on the new retail building, says it's curious that the village would allow some women's clothing stores to come downtown, but not others.

Village Trustee Martha Brock, a Lane Bryant shopper, said village leaders "need to have a broader perspective on the type of clientele" desired downtown and to be less concerned about "image."

She said the village's denial "does raise some concerns [because] the clientele of this particular store are mostly on the heavy side," Brock said. "But for the amount of money all women spend on apparel, it would be a disservice to the community to have such a myopic view on things."

Pope said it's "ridiculous" to suggest the denial has anything to do with plus-sized shoppers -- but developer Rich Curto said he's been given no explanation for why Lane Bryant isn't welcome, opening the door for speculation.

Most clothing stores are specialized and serve "niche markets." Are they any vintage clothing stores allowed? Those are niche. So are Victoria's Secrets.

I don't know what the politics are here, exactly, but I'm generally against small clacques of zoning-committee-busybodies who shut out legal, nonpornagraphic sellers in hopes of establishing an "image" than no one really ever voted on.

Zoning committees are necessary, but they seem very vindictive and dictatorial at times. It's like the saying you'd never want to vote for a man for President who actually wanted to be President. Same deal with zoning committees. A bunch of Napoleons with dreams of imposing their idiosyncratic aesthetics on a town, and getting a little payback against anyone who's ever wronged them.

Related, But With Content Warning: Are You About A Size 14?, from SILENCE! Silence of the Lambs: The Musical.

Seriously-- the songs are based on the nastiest bits of dialogue from that movie, so have caution in clicking.

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posted by Ace at 02:01 PM

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