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Central Furniture Leaving Wicker Park After 65 Years on 'Furniture Row'

By Alisa Hauser | June 26, 2014 9:23am
 After 65 years of business, Central Furniture Mart is leaving Wicker Park and headed to Humboldt Park.
Central Furniture Mart Leaves Wicker Park
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WICKER PARK — A family-owned furniture shop that has been in Wicker Park since 1949 along a strip of Milwaukee Avenue once called "Furniture Row" is moving to Humboldt Park.

After 65 years, the owners of Central Furniture Mart at 1348-50 N. Milwaukee Ave. in Wicker Park are in the process of selling their three-story, 40,000-square-foot adjacent buildings near Antique Taco and Emporium Arcade Bar.

Standing in front of a 75 percent off closing sign, Ricardo Dasilva, vice president of Central Furniture Mart, said it was "time to move on. "

Through July 31, furniture and appliances will be priced to move — literally — so Central Furniture Mart does not need to move the merchandise to its new location at 4141 W. North Ave. in Humboldt Park, Dasilva said.

 After 65 years, the owners of Central Furniture Mart at 1348-50 N. Milwaukee Ave. in Wicker Park sold their building and are headed to Humboldt Park.
After 65 years, the owners of Central Furniture Mart at 1348-50 N. Milwaukee Ave. in Wicker Park sold their building and are headed to Humboldt Park.
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DNAinfo/Alisa Hauser

Dasilva cited the number of competing furniture stores along the 1200 and 1300 block of North Milwaukee as one reason for the departure.

"Where we are going, we won't be by other stores," Dasilva said.

Another reason for the move is that Central's core African-American, Hispanic and Polish customers do not come to the rapidly changing Wicker Park area as much to shop, Dasilva said, so the store is moving to a new location "closer to where [customers] live."

Central Furniture Mart's new location in Humboldt Park was once home to a Salvation Army Thrift Store.

When Central Furniture Mart opens in Humboldt Park, Dasilva — who has been with the company for 20 years — will take the reins. Owner Michael Jacobson, 74, plans to take a step back from day-to-day operations and work as more of a consultant.

Jacobson's father-in-law, Charlie Berg, who founded Central Furniture Mart, died in 1976 and left the business to him.

Jacobson echoed Dasilva's comments about the changing neighborhood, and said his customers didn't make the trip to Milwaukee Avenue unless they advertise to bring them there.

Jacobson told DNAinfo Chicago that he was in the final process of selling his buildings to a local developer, who planned to build out a two-story retail storefront.

Declining to reveal the developer's name until the pending sale was officially closed, Jacobson said "something like a Gap" would be a good fit for Milwaukee Avenue.

Meanwhile, the news of Central Furniture Mart's closure has been spreading rapidly through the area's tight knit furniture store community.

"I am surprised they are leaving. ...  Central Furniture has always been a mainstay, like the anchor store on Milwaukee Ave. It's going to be a loss," said Ken Lubinski, owner of Lubinski Furniture and Movers at 1550 N. Milwaukee Ave.

Ken Lubinski's father, John, now deceased, moved his family's furniture shop to Milwaukee Avenue in 1966.

Lubinski said Milwaukee Avenue was once called "Furniture Row" because "all the ethnic people were coming to the Wicker Park area to live and needed affordable furniture."

While Lubinski Furniture is the last remaining furniture store in Milwaukee's 1500 block — surrounded by national brands like Levi's and American Apparel —  there are still several other furniture stores along the 1200 and 1300 blocks of North Milwaukee Avenue.

Jacobson said that during his shop's heyday, he had 67 employees who spoke several languages including Polish.

Central Furniture Mart now has 15 employees, including Jacobson and his wife, Kay, who is a co-owner and helps with store operations.

Jacobson has high hopes for Dasilva and the new Humboldt Park location.

"Maybe he can bring us back up to 67 employees again," Jacobson said, adding that though a consultant, he still planned to visit the new location.

"I need somewhere to go everyday," he said.