LOGAN SQUARE — A family run thrift store held it’s grand opening over the weekend with the blessing of the shop's 85-year-old namesake: Carlos Pena, or, as he is known to loved ones, "Grandpa."
Grandpa’s Attic Chicago, 3526 W. Armitage, opened Saturday with the help of at least three generations of the Pena family who spent more than two months preparing the storefront.
Grandsons Christian Pena, 29, and Giorgio, 22, renovated the store from its former days as a storefront church. Christian, having learned carpentry from his father-in-law, built the merchandise racks by hand from solid oak pews left from the church while Giorgio directed the business end of opening the shop.
But the prime inspiration came from Carlos Pena, an “old-school” original Maxwell Street merchant who “taught us the trade and the hustle of Chicago,” Christian said.
“That’s part of our philosophy,” Christian said. “This business was founded off of our lives in a sense.”
The family patriarch immigrated to Chicago from Puerto Rico around the mid-1900s. The Pena brothers were born Chicago, though they were raised in Puerto Rico before returning to Logan Square in 2003.
The two have had jobs since they were in their early teens, Christian said. He and Giorgio worked odd jobs and flea markets, learning how to make deals with their grandpa. Christian later became a tattoo artist, working at Humboldt Park’s True Blue Tattoo, and Giorgio had volunteered for nearly a decade at the Center on Halsted, a haven and advocacy resource for LGBTQ youth in Lakeview.
The brothers hope to boost awareness of upcycling in the city to reduce landfill — an example being Christian's conversion of the old church pews. They call it a “non-corporate business” model.
Based on Georgio's work at the Center on Halsted, they also hope to start a social service-type "help desk," as well, remembering how people helped them when they were growing up.
"We want to be that for other people,” Christian said. In his case, noting the many family members who helped open "Grandpa's Attic," he said, “As much as you want to say, ‘I can do it by myself,’ there’s always family there to help you.”
According to Christian, his grandfather saw the shop for the first time over the weekend and gave both brothers the thumbs up.
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