Terra Incognito Studio & Gallery has closed its downtown La Grange facility.
Owner David Toan last week said he expected to have the storefront at 35 S La Grange Rd cleaned out by today. A second studio and gallery in Oak Park remains open.
Toan said the La Grange facility—which opened in Spring 2007, offering classes in clay modeling, tile making, mosaics and raku—"just never caught on."
A soured economy also hurt attempts to grow the business, Toan said.
"When the economy went bad [in late 2008], we felt it first in Oak Park, then in La Grange," he said. But while business has rebounded in Oak Park, the downturn has lingered in La Grange.
"Nothing was trending upwards in La Grange," Toan said. "People there are very careful with their money."
Toan said he also was disappointed with the lack of pedestrian retail traffic on La Grange Rd, noting that he selected a high-profile location in hopes of generating sales for the studio's retail gallery.
"We were paying good money to be on La Grange Rd, but it's become a food court that isn’t a healthy for retail business," he said, referring to the growing number of restaurants that have opened in the village's central business district, heralding its emergence as a premiere dining destination in the western suburbs.
The Oak Park facility, by contrast, is located in a small neighborhood retail strip, four blocks north of that city's downtown Lake St corridor.
Terra Incognito's closing also will create another, larger void in the community that may be harder to fill than a vacant storefront.
Toan and his studio spearheaded two Empty Bowls fundraisers. This year's event, held in April, raised $25,o00 for local food pantries.
Another success story for Terra Incognito in La Grange was the formation of the Village Potters, a group of some 20 students who met while taking clay classes at the studio. For the past two years, the group has sold their wares on Thursdays at the Farmers Market next to Village Hall.
One the potters, Curt Hansman, of La Grange, said she was saddened by the closing of Terra Incognito. The group is hoping to find an alternative venue in the community where they can continue to meet and create with clay, she said.