Shack man can advise you on electronics, state of downtown
Eric Henley occupies an executive seat as the downtown Radio Shack's lead wireless associate. He's also a keen observer of downtown. (Bob Seidenberg\Staff Writer)
Updated: December 16, 2012 6:36AM
Evanston economic development officials have devoted hours of discussion over the years on the state of downtown and what might be done to improve the area. We have found a way to short circuit the process: drop in at Radio Shack downtown when Sir Eric Henley is holding court.
Henley, 42, a 1989 graduate of Evanston Township High School, is the go to guy for the stream of students, business people and hopelessly technically inept reporters who stream into the store, at 716 Church Street, located close to the downtown’s center point.
He’s also a keen observer of downtown (he’s pretty good on sports too) and has seen many changes in the years since he started.
Q. You have a new title, lead wireless associate, what does that denote?
A. We actually have wireless specialists. So I now I get to sit in this executive chair (see accompanying photo) and help customers and sell phones.
Q. What question do you get most often?
A. You sell phones? We sell more phones than anybody in the country, But our main problem was we didn’t back it up with advertising for the past maybe five years. Now we’re starting to get the advertising out there.
Q. You have to troubleshoot a lot?
A. We do a lot of troubleshooting. Most of the time it’s just simple stuff. ‘My phone doesn’t turn on or I get that exclamation point inside of a triangle.’ (We might advise) doing a soft reset, taking the battery out, let it sit for a minute, putting it back in. Just that type of stuff.
Q. As someone downtown most of the week, how do you think the area is doing? What could be done to improve it?
A. The climate is really geared to Evanston being this restaurant metropolis. People do more than eat.
Q. What do you mean?
A. You have all these restaurants; you kind of have to diversify, kind of like you diversify your stock. You’ve got to diversify what you offer people downtown. If you want them to spend their money, they’re not just going to spend their money on restaurants and movies.”
You look at CVS (1711 Sherman). They can charge whatever they want because, guess what, they’re the only place down here. Are you going to walk six blocks to Osco (Jewel-Osco at 1128 Chicago Avenue) or are you going to walk two blocks to CVS?
I’d like to buy some clothes in downtown Evanston and the only place I can buy them is at Joseph Banks (1616 Sherman). The only other place you have is The Gap (1706 Sherman) and who does the Gap sell to. The only clothing stores we have here are resale shops. You ever been to a resale shop? They’re not cheap.
I like downtown restaurants. But you’ve got to offer more than restaurants.
Q. What about World of Beers? That’s a restaurant, which is going to specialize in selling beers from all over the world?
A. Parking. After 7 p.m. he might be okay. But if they come in around lunchtime, not too much outside traffic can come in. You ever been at this garage (Sherman Self Park, 1600 block of Sherman) at 8 a.m. I got here at 10:30 a.m. today. I parked on the 9th floor.