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Chatham beauty supply store changes rooftop decoration to deflate complaints

A South Side beauty supply store removed a giant purple inflatable gorilla from its roof Monday after several people complained the balloon — which was erected earlier this month to promote the store’s grand opening — was offensive.

The purple gorilla was removed and replaced with a hot air balloon that reads ” Now Open” on Monday. The store is in a strip mall just west of the Dan Ryan Expressway at 89th Street. The spacious store, which opened Dec. 19, occupies a space that previously housed a Best Buy.

Eddie McCann, chief of staff to Ald. Howard Brookins (21st), said three people had called the alderman’s office to complain about the gorilla. McCann, despite not understanding what “all the hoopla was about,” called the store’s owner, Sam Woo, to relay the complaints.

“Mr. Woo apologized and said it was poor judgment on the part of his manager and that he would remove it immediately,” McCann said. “He said, ‘I’m very sorry. There was no intent to offend anyone.’”

McCann stressed his befuddlement.

“I’ll be honest with you, I’m trying to figure out what’s offensive,” he said.

McCann said Brookins’ position was: “If it’s offensive to my voters, it’s offensive to me.”

Brookins wasn’t available to chat Tuesday afternoon, and the store owner also could not be reached for comment.

Concerned Citizens for Chatham, a neighborhood organization, posted a note about the gorilla to its Facebook page on Dec. 27, referring to it as the “grape ape.” Messages sent to the group were not


The protest did not resonate with everyone.

“I think it’s ignorant. I’m African American and I don’t associate myself with any animal,” a female employee of the store said Tuesday afternoon. “The whole thing is silly,” added the employee, who asked not to be identified.

It cost $300 to swap out the gorilla balloon atop the roof, according to Marie Daraska, a secretary at Big Sky Balloons in Plainfield, which rented the gorilla at a cost of $895 a week.

“Two people came in last week and complained the gorilla was offensive to black people. There were literally only two people,” said Jeff Parker, who is African-American and manages security at the store. “It didn’t bother me at all. It was just a gorilla with a grand opening sign on it. … Nobody else paid attention to it.”