Too Close For Comfort, p.3 collection

“In a way, I saw this coming,” says Seok. “They (the city) allowed the same sort of proliferation to happen a few years ago with a number of car dealerships that have almost all gone out of business since then and left a bunch of vacant lots. You’d think they would begin to learn from past mistakes, but I guess that didn’t turn out to be true this time.”

Oak Park’s city planner, Craig Failor, attributes the failure of Madison’s auto dealerships to several other factors.

“Madison Street was auto row. It was the place you came to buy a car,” says Failor. “The number of dealers on the street were not detrimental to one another. They fed off each other because each offered a variety of makes and models, allowing [shoppers to] cruise the strip looking for the right car. The downfall of the car industry on Madison was not proliferation; it came down to factors like economics, car prices, land prices, limited space and close proximity to residential areas.”

Failor argues that officials have always acted quickly to stop the oversaturation of similar businesses.

“In the past, we [have had] to limit beauty salons to 500 feet apart on Madison Street, but that decision was never due to a salon owner seeking the restriction,” he adds. “In fact, as far as I can recall, there has never been a similar request by any other business attempting to restrict competition.”

A zoning petition like Seok’s—even in the beauty-supply industry—is a rare occurrence, says Brad Masterson, communications manager with the Professional Beauty Association.

“Honestly, this is the first time I’ve heard of something like this happening,” says Masterson. Without knowing the breadth of the situation, however, he declined to offer a formal opinion of the association on the issue.

Masterson did have one piece of advice to offer Seok, however, as well as others in the industry who may be struggling to stay competitive—focus on education.

“Every business should be offering excellent customer service and an exclusive line of products; but a key service component many independent owners forget about is to educate customers about their products,” states Masterson. “If you’re working to provide extra education to the beauty professionals and others in your community on how to use a product or address beauty trends in your area, you’ll have a better chance at distinguishing yourself from the rest in our industry.”

Looking forward, Seok says—albeit reluctantly—that he has no plans of dwelling on a decision he can’t change. “I can’t even begin to speculate on how this will affect us; it could either bring us a lot more business or it could ruin us,” says Seok as he laughs nervously. “Like any other competing businesses out there, let the pricing war begin.”

Kendall Septon is a freelance writer based in Denver.

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