UPTOWN — Ace Furniture Store is closing this summer after 28 years in Uptown, and could be replaced by a "family-oriented" apartment complex.
At age 75, Ace owner Hyo Nam said he's ready to retire. The proliferation of online shopping has hurt his business, located at 4027 N. Broadway in the Buena Park community near the southeast border of Uptown, he said.
"Now, I can't make it survive," he said of Ace, adding that it's been tough to keep up with his property taxes.
Bristling at times, Nam stood in his store Tuesday and told several stories about would-be customers who complained that items similar to what he offered were being sold online for 10 to 15 percent less, even pulling out their iPhones to prove it.
What they didn't see, Nam said, were the hours of labor he put toward assembling items they would otherwise have had to assemble themselves if they bought the pieces through the Internet and had them delivered.
He's offered discounts to compete, but such cuts hurt his bottom line, and there's also big box retailers and chain stores for the small business to contend with, he said.
Nam said he's looking to close the shop and sell the one-story building this summer, but wouldn't discuss potential buyers. He's sad to leave the neighborhood but said, "things have to change, and sometimes they change for the better."
A developer is proposing a complex that would include 20 units, mostly apartments with 2, 3 and 4 bedrooms plus "a couple studios," according to Tressa Feher, chief of staff to Ald. James Cappleman (46th).
Feher said the project will cost about $5 million, and that the developer, Mike Breheny of Urban Form Developers, would be seeking a zoning change for the higher-density, five-floor residential development that would also include retail space on the ground level and on-site parking.
Breheny didn't return calls for comment.
Buena Park Neighbors Association President William Petty said some neighbors have worried how the apartment building would add to congestion and traffic. But he doesn't have any significant gripes about the proposal and noted on-site parking would be included.
Ultimately, the building would attract more families to the area, a positive for Uptown, Petty said.
"It brings more families to the neighborhood who can go to restaurants, help out local businesses," Petty said.
The Buena Park Neighbors Association is scheduled to hold a meeting Monday to review the apartment proposal, and the developer will be there to answer questions.
The closing of Ace follows news of another long-time neighborhood business being shut by its elderly owner.
Harvey Abrams, 72, has announced he is planning to close his Z Wallis Army and Navy Store this summer. The military surplus shop at 4647 N. Broadway has been operating in Uptown since 1969 and was also a victim of online shopping competition, Abrams said.
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