Latest evidence of the Plaza's meltdown: Pantera Bread Co. , purveyors of bland soups and bread bowls named after a four-man Texas headbangin' lineup of 1980s metal gods -- no, wait, there's no T in the store's name. Scratch that. We don't know what the place is named after, but it hardly matters.
It's not that we're virulently anti-chain. We shop at the Gap. We were excited when Anthropologie moved in. And, yes, the Pitch itself is part of a chain. However, with the rampant Starbucks-ing of America, can't the Plaza keep itself from turning into Anymall, U.S.A.? The Plaza's Web site describes the area as "one of this country's architectural and cultural treasures" and "a virtual outdoor museum with over $1 million in art work." But Plaza bigwigs don't seem to understand that art and architecture don't mean squat when you're letting Thomas Kinkade and Cheesecake Factory into the neighborhood. Can The Icing, As Seen on TV and Nothing Over a Dollar be far behind?
According to Beth Book, market supervisor for Beauty Brands, the behemoth one-stop shopping experience is slated to open around Thanksgiving. "There's a great need on the Plaza for what we have to offer," she told the Pitch.
A great need? Really? We decided we needed a second opinion on that and called Salon Latifa, the chi-chi house o' curl on the Plaza that, incidentally, isn't named for Queen Latifah. We asked stylist Myra Simmons if she thought Plaza shoppers were really dying to get a perm at a place like Beauty Brands. "I myself don't have a problem, but some people might think it's not appropriate putting it down there," she said. "I think that, for the most part, they do good work and are on the higher end of chains," she said diplomatically, though she agreed that the Plaza was turning into Strip Mall Central.
Then we called similarly chic Mario Tricoci and got put on hold for five and a half minutes. When the manager referred us to corporate offices in Chicago, we asked why it had taken her so long to pick up the freakin' phone just to blow us off. Well, we were slightly more polite than that; it was Miss Manager who got snippy: "You were actually waiting to talk to me, and I was on the line with someone else," she snapped, then abruptly hung up.
Undaunted, we called back the next day and asked to talk to a stylist. Again, we were put on hold for six minutes, after which Miss Manager once again gave us an earful. "I felt you were short with me yesterday," she bitched. After berating us for not following directions by calling the salon's corporate spokesperson, she hung up on us again. Rehhrrr!
Thus chastised by a day spa manager, we felt like throwing ourselves into a vat of hair-perm solution. Oh, wait -- did we say "ourselves"? We meant "her."