UKRAINIAN VILLAGE — With a slew of businesses opening or slated to move into the two-block stretch that's now home to a Mariano's, a section of Chicago Avenue is seeing some new life.
After Mariano's opened at 2021 W. Chicago Ave. Tuesday, residents filled the store and compared it to the shuttered Dominick's it replaced.
Ukrainian Village resident Gloria Bartosik, 57, said she was happy that "there's a new fresh face" among the neighborhood's grocery stores.
"Our curiosity is up," Bartosik said of Mariano's, which she said seemed to have more hot meals and a better selection of sushi and wild game than her previous grocer.
Mexican food spot El Metro expects its much-delayed opening at Chicago and Damen avenues to be in late April or early May, co-owner Dan Andrews said. The restaurant plans to specialize in tacos, he said.
Andrews said the building at 1959 W. Chicago Ave., which used to be Lorraine's Diner, needed to be completely renovated, and it "kind of snowballed into a bigger project."
"We honestly feel kind of bad that we haven't been able to open," said Andrews, who partnered with Gaudi Cafe owners Betty Wilcox and Veronica Pineau. "It's going to be really soon, and we're really happy to be part of that neighborhood."
Adding to the area buzz was Crain's report earlier this month that a Champagne bar and hockey lounge from Blackhawks national anthem singer Jim Cornelison and his Grandtour partner Jesse Boyle could be headed to the decaying site of a former pizza parlor at 1952 W. Chicago Ave. by the end of the year.
East Village Association President Neal McKnight said the neighborhood group hadn't been approached by the bar partners, and he thought the opening of the new lounge could be fairly far off. But McKnight said he'd look forward to anyone fixing up that location.
"I think it’s great that Chicago Avenue is starting to get attention and development," McKnight said. "It’s sort of getting to a critical mass of retailing."
Just across the street from Mariano's is Tarnish, a motorcycle boutique that quietly opened at 2024 N. Chicago Ave. Thursday. Shops such as Study Hall at 2016 W. Chicago Ave. and Gari Sushi & Bistro at 2020 W. Chicago Ave. also opened within the last 10 months.
But Dan Murphy, the owner of local standby Atomix Cafe at 1957 W. Chicago Ave., said he's seen businesses come and go in the five years he's owned the coffee shop and characterized the developments as "more of the same."
Murphy said that when new shops take up empty storefronts and do manage to stick around, it's better for his business and for maintaining general upkeep of the area, adding that "all of it's good for foot traffic."
"It's a busy corner," Andrews said. "It was a good corner before Mariano's moved in and I think it's going to be even better now."