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In A Sign Of The Times, Suburban Mask And PPE Stores Closing As State Enters Full Reopening

CHICAGO (CBS) -- On Friday, the State of Illinois and the City of Chicago are entering a full reopening – with full capacity for sports games, businesses, and restaurants.

As CBS 2's Marissa Parra reported Thursday night, entering this phase means a bittersweet farewell for some.

In August 2020, Parra talked with Anisa Ali, who was trailblazing with her new store, Masks & More Outlet. She called it a pop-up store for masks.

"Obviously, the world has changed," Ali said back then. "Who would have thought we'd see a store called Masks & More?"

The first store was tucked in a strip mall in Orland Park, and the items flying off the shelves at the time gave a peek into a world we wouldn't have recognized a year before that. Thermometers, hand wipes, industrial disinfectant made in Illinois, and hand sanitizer produced in nearby Tinley Park were among the items for sale.

Stores also later opened in Tinley Park and Frankfort.

Now, the world has changed again. There were no approved COVID-19 vaccines in August 2020, but now, the current bestseller at Masks & More is a vaccination card holder.

Meanwhile, Ali doesn't even need to wear a mask inside anymore.

"We sold thousands of them," she said. "Now, you know, maybe we'll sell, you know, 10 a week."

And that hand sanitizer that was once flying off the shelves? Remember that early in the pandemic, hand sanitizer was scarce. Not so anymore.

"Now it's not really selling, because you can find it in the stores now," Ali said.

And in a sign of the times, Ali's stores selling PPE – a direct consequence of the pandemic – are closing.

The Orland Park store already closed last month. The Tinley Park and Frankfort locations will close by the end of this month.

"It's bittersweet," Ali said. "I mean, we're actually very happy. It's a celebration, because the times are changing. It's getting better. It's getting back to normal."

Once again, Ali will pivot – this time to the business she was doing before with PulseTV. It is that same kind of adaptability that became a hallmark of the pandemic.

"We were closed for a minute, but we did reopen pretty quickly after for delivery only," said Eric Bryda, manager of The Smith Restaurant. 400 N. Clark St.

Restaurants like The Smith were unable to seat inside for so long that they moved outside – rain or shine, hot or cold.

"We just adapted with tents. We got heaters out here," Bryda said.

The city program that shut down stretches of streets to open more business, however, was a big hit – and has returned.

And even though full reopening will once again mean full capacity, Bryda said he hopes some pandemic changes stick around – including that patio option.

"We'll keep doing it until the city tells us that we're not allowed to have it anymore," Bryda said. "I hope it continues for a long time. We'll see. We're crossing our fingers."

As part of Chicago's recovery roadmap, the city also said it would close stretches of Michigan Avenue, State Street, and LaSalle Street this summer.

"Sundays on State" is set to launch on July 11 and will make State Street from Madison Street to Lake Street an open street every Sunday. There is a wide range of music and cultural performances, as well as outdoor dining and on-street retail. You can sign up for updates at

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Illustrative view of upcoming street activation. Rendering by HDR, courtesy of the city

With the help of major civic organizations, the city will also activate "Meet Me On The Mile" on the Magnificent Mile stretch of Michigan Avenue, which will feature art installations on top of other family activities.

"Lunch on LaSalle" will turn parts of LaSalle Street on various Tuesdays into a dining boulevard.

Illustrative view of upcoming street activation, image courtesy of the city
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