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Boulevard Bikes Leaving Longtime Home To Make Way For Auditorium Elevator

By Mina Bloom | April 6, 2017 6:00pm | Updated on April 11, 2017 10:55am
 Kevin Womac, owner of Boulevard Bikes, is being forced to move his business after 14 years.
Kevin Womac, owner of Boulevard Bikes, is being forced to move his business after 14 years.
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DNAinfo/Mina Bloom

LOGAN SQUARE — Boulevard Bikes, an independently-owned bike shop that has called the square home for 14 years, is being forced to leave its longtime storefront to make way for the construction of neighbor Logan Square Auditorium's new elevator.

Though the move doesn't mean the end for the shop at 2535 N. Kedzie Ave., it does mean less diversity of businesses in the historic building, which, like the neighborhood, has become increasingly more bar- and restaurant-focused. Boulevard Bikes owner Kevin Womac plans to move the shop to another storefront in the neighborhood, he said. 

"Part of me feels like I'm losing out to alcohol. Every other storefront in this building now sells alcohol except Ruby's Cleaners," Womac said. "It's the problem with planting your farmer's field with only soy beans. It's a mono culture of only alcohol."

Over the last decade or so, Lula Cafe, 2537 N. Kedzie Ave., took over the former home of Ruby's Cleaners; Johnny's Grill, 2545 N. Kedzie Ave., took over the former home of Fleur; and Billy Sunday, 3143 W. Logan Blvd., took over a doctor's office. Today, all of the establishments in the building — except Ruby's Cleaners and Boulevard Bikes — sell food or booze.

"This was my downtown," Womac, 43, said of the stretch of Kedzie near the monument.

"Lula used to be one storefront wide and they served peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches. They were this groovy little coffee shop. Now it's completely different," he said. 

Boulevard Bikes is being forced to leave its home of 14 years so Logan Square Auditorium (left) can build a new elevator. [DNAinfo/Mina Bloom]

Saul Osacky, who has owned the building since 1987, has been talking about adding an elevator to the Logan Square Auditorium for more than a year. The elevator would make the historic ballroom more accessible for disabled and elderly visitors. 

"Saul loses out on a lot of potential business. A lot of people want to have a wedding there, but grandma can't get up the stairs," Womac said.

The shop could stay open while the elevator is under construction, but Osacky plans to use the current bike shop as a lobby to the theater once the elevator is complete, which could take 1½ years, according to Womac and Osacky. Womac's lease is up in September.

"The elevator is still in the planning stage," Osacky said. "It's very important to be [Americans With Disabilities Act] compliant in this day and age."

Osacky has yet to secure city permits, which could take several months, but Womac is already eyeing new storefronts in the neighborhood. Womac said he's especially interested in moving to Milwaukee Avenue, or the "Hipster Highway" as it's sometimes called, which sees a lot of bike traffic.

Womac, who said he's worried he will lose business in the move, admitted it'll be hard to beat his storefront of 14 years, which is situated on a stretch across from the Illinois Centennial Monument that sees a lot of foot traffic. 

But he doesn't exactly blame Osacky for wanting to make more money.

"It's a wise decision on his part. He can charge my monthly rent for a night upstairs. If he gets 12 more gigs because he's got an elevator, this place can sit vacant," he said.

Still, Womac griped about Osascky's decision to move a good neighborhood business.

Osacky "could also value what we do for the neighborhood more than an extra ability to sell more booze upstairs," he said.

Osacky called Womac an "excellent tenant," and emphasized that "nothing is set in concrete."

"This can take a long time. We are not going to get rid of him. He's got a lease. Because we're in negotiations on the lease. For the time he remains here, we will honor the lease and then we will have an agreement on a month-to-month basis," he said.