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Higher Rent in Wicker Park Snuffs Out Smoke Shop, Adds to Rash of Closings

By Alisa Hauser | July 30, 2013 11:06am | Updated on July 30, 2013 11:52am
 Several shops and restaurants have closed or announced final sales in recent days as large vacant spaces remain unrented.
July/August Closings in Wicker Park
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WICKER PARK —  Wicker Park has seen abrupt or impending closures of several small shops and restaurants, a development some blame on higher rents.

Tobaccosville, a smoke shop at 1439 N. Milwaukee Ave. which opened two years ago, is scheduled to close in August, according to its manager, Azhar Uddin.

Monthly rent on the space had jumped by $1,000 or 25 percent, Uddin said, adding that all items in the shop are 50 percent off, including hookahs and small pipes.

Mid-America Real Estate's marketing brochure for the 2,000-square-foot space describes the property as being in "Chicago's most hip shopping and dining neighborhood."

Across the street from Tobaccosville, Tiara Love, 1452 N. Milwaukee Ave., is having a closing sale, too.

 Children's apparel shop Psychobaby closed in July and relocated to Division Street. The space at 1630 N. Damen Ave. is for rent.
Children's apparel shop Psychobaby closed in July and relocated to Division Street. The space at 1630 N. Damen Ave. is for rent.
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DNAinfo/Alisa Hauser

An accessories store offering purses, hats, jewelry and scarves, Tiara Love opened in October 2011, and plans to close in early August, or until inventory clears out, a clerk said Saturday.

Tiara Love's Facebook page features a photo of Miss Illinois Stacie Juris decked out in jewelry from the Wicker Park shop.

An online listing for the storefront highlights retail neighbors Aldo, Levi and Carhartt, among others.

Elsewhere in the neighborhood, a popular strip of Damen Avenue in Wicker Park, just south of the CTA Damen Blue Line "L" station appears to have lost two restaurants in the last week.

On Damen Avenue, Italian eatery Gratto at 1341 N. Damen Ave. has closed, according to the Wicker Park Insider's Guide.

A friendly and cozy spot known for its pizza and Italian beef sandwiches, Gratto went dark about a week ago, with the equipment being cleared out over the weekend, according to the Gratto's neighbor, a dry cleaners.

Cipollina, an Italian-style deli and restaurant just north of Big Star which opened in 2008, has closed as well, according to Eater.com.

The closures add to empty spaces and "for rent" signs, such as the one hanging in the former Lenny and Me/Caza space at 1459 N. Milwaukee Ave.

In April, broke Joe Padorr from Seneca Real Estate Advisors said, "Outside of furniture stores that have been around for a long time, it's one of the largest storefronts on Milwaukee. There's no other available space that big, and a lot of retailers want to get on the street."

In recent days, another "for rent" sign went up, this one at 1630 N. Damen Ave., formerly home of children's apparel shop Psychobaby, which closed in July and relocated to Division Street.

In other vacancies, a large storefront at 2151 W. Armitage Avenue, on the southeast corner of Armitage and Leavitt, has been empty for several months since Italian grocer and deli Sacco Bruno and adjacent bar Moon Times closed. 

Reflecting on the wave of closures, Don Glisovich, who leases out commercial storefronts in the neighborhood, said, "There's no rhyme or reason" for the rash of closures.

"Certain businesses make it, certain fail. The economy is good, and that's my two cents," he said. "Everything is fine." 

Glisovich said he's been focused on securing a tenant for 2025 and 2027 W. North Ave. in Wicker Park.

Long ago home to Asian Essence, an import furniture and home goods shop, the triangular storefront is located under the "L" tracks, just west of the Milwaukee, Damen and North avenues intersection.

Glisovich said at one point he was close to having a deal with a big restaurant group but it didn't work out.

"It's a great location, when the Chicago Chop Shop opens [2033-25 W. North Ave.] and the health club [2040 W. North Ave.] up the street, it will be even better," Glisovich said.