Crain's Chicago Business reports that five of the six Ethel's Chocolates stores in Chicago are going to close.
According to the paper, only the Ethel's in Skokie will survive the sweet, delicious carnage.
Back when L'Artisan Parfumeur skipped town, leaving a big black gap and cartoon swoosh marks on the ground floor of 900 North Michigan , we heard rumblings from other stores in the mall that Ethel's was on its way out. But at the time we assumed they meant the 900 location, not all the Chicago locations.
Ethel's was a nice change of pace from Starbucks, Argo, and Caribou. The drinks were pretty good, but not spectacular. But sometimes you crave something different, and Ethels was it. The chocolate was from New Jersey (it's owned by the company formerly known as M&M Mars), but it was good enough to fix the nagging in your brain.
In fact, we were Ethel's regulars at the 520 North Michigan Avenue ("Nordstrom Mall") location, probably stopping in there three or four times a week for a cup of hot chocolaty goodness. Untill the wifi went away. That was what killed it for us. Starbucks, Argo, Caribou, Seattle's Best, etc... all have wifi. So we went there. Ethel's didn't have wifi, so we stopped going there.
Moonstruck Chocolates on Michigan Avenue didn't have wifi, either. Now it's gone.
Do you see a pattern here, café owners? We're talking to you, Café Descartes with the expensive Michigan Avenue storefront and minimal foot traffic! You, too Lavazza across from City Hall!
Sure, at the Ethel's at 900 North Michigan you can wheeze off the mall's wifi. But 900's wifi is so unstable that it's not worth the effort of even stopping in when there's there's three nice, reliable Starbucks connections within two blocks.
In the end, the café business is tough. If you don't give the people everything they want, they'll go elsewhere. It's easy enough to do now that coffee shops are on every third or fourth corner. Ethel's didn't distinguish itself enough with the chocolate concept to overcome its shortcomings. Again, it will be missed.
Interestingly, the 900 location isn't even mentioned on Ethel's web site. It may already be gone.
Locations going out of business (or already gone):
The Shops at 900 North Michigan (900 North Michigan Avenue, Chicago)
The Shops at North Bridge (520 North Michigan Avenue, Chicago)
8 West Lake Street, Chicago
819 West Armitage Street, Chicago
28 West Jefferson Street, Naperville
527 Davis Street, Evanston