Picture in your mind, 1971. 1971 was a crazy year. The Vietnam War was on everyone's mind. Kids were being drafted, others were protesting. Jim Morrison was found dead in his bathtub, and The New York Dolls were starting their career in New York City. The unmistakable sounds of legendary rock bands such as Black Sabbath, AC/DC, The Who, The Rolling Stones, Kiss, and Aerosmith piped through the airwaves. The seventies was the beginning of the Me Generation, and also the Sexual Revolution.
It was on a cold Thursday, December 16th to be exact, that a cocky 17 year old kid found his way into the posh Oak Trust & Savings Bank (located at Oak and Rush Street) and purchased a $1725 cashier check with money that was earmarked for his college education. He had the cashier's check made out to an Ed Johnson. This cocky kid (Mark Thomas) already had 1 failed business (which was a candle making business) 3 months earlier under his belt. He had big dreams for himself in the business world. With this cashier's check, he negotiated and purchased a jewelry casting business and this is where the story began...35 years later...it continues today. Mark started with a little business called Excalibur Products. And then it became Liberty Trading, Excaliber Studios, and Fashion Victim soon followed. He sold his wares to anyone who would buy them, sometimes even out of the trunk of his car! He believed that when one door closes, another one is always open. He never gave up. This cocky kid had huge dreams of conquering the business world, and while some of his outlandish dreams went unfulfilled, overall he has succeeded beyond everyone's expectations.
Mark Thomas has spent almost 30 years at the corner of Belmont and Clark where he met his wife and raised two daughters. He is the owner of: The Alley stores, The Art Colony, The Music Factory( 100 art and music studios, 270 tenants), a jewelry factory, and a screen-printing business. He has traveled almost 4,000,000 miles in his life; allowing him the opportunity to observe other forms of government, business strategies, cultures, and approaches to community development.
He is one of the founders and past president of Central Lakeview Merchants Association, Special Service Area #17, Executive Director of K.E.B.I.C, and board member of Local First Chicago. He has also spent time as a board member of Halsted Business Alliance (then NAMA), and serves as a current member of the Chicago Federal Reserve Banks Industry Leaders Reporting Group.
The Alley is celebrating its 39th birthday this Saturday, June 6th 2015. DJ Alex White, 100 Free Tshirts, 6 Free Leathers, and much more!