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Wicker Bed & Breakfast Almost Doubles In Size, Thanks To The Competition

By Alisa Hauser | September 12, 2017 5:37am
 Wicker Park Inn, 1329 N. Wicker Park Ave.
Wicker Park Inn, an Urban Bed & Breakfast
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WICKER PARK — Four years ago, Laura Yepez — owner of the Wicker Park Inn— and Ray Reiss, owner of Ray's Bucktown Bed & Breakfast, worried that a pair of new hotels underway at the neighborhood's main intersection could run them out of business.

Today, both Yepez and Reiss said their fears over The Robey, and The Robey Hall, which opened in November at 2018-2022 W. North Ave. and offer a combined 89 rooms, were unfounded.

Yepez has even expanded, upping her bed and breakfast's offerings from 5 to 9 rooms.

"It was either pull out or double down. I chose the latter," Yepez said during a recent tour of the new "wing" inside a neighboring single-family row house that she bought last year and combined into her existing bed and breakfast.

Reiss, who rents out 11 rooms at his bed and breakfast (11 is the legal limit for a bed and breakfast in Chicago) said revenue-wise he's doing "a hair better this year over last."

"We are totally booked the next few nights. The Robey has not hurt us; it has raised the profile of Wicker Park and Bucktown as an overnight destination," Reiss said.

The extra rooms in Wicker Park Inn — named for local streets like Hoyne, Damen and Wabansia, as well as a fourth room named Division in the back of the inn's original building at 1329 N. Wicker Park Ave. — opened a few weeks ago.

"The Robey helped to put Wicker Park on the map in terms of people wanting to stay here overnight. Competition increased the attractiveness of our neighborhood," Yepez said.

The new luxury rooms at Wicker Park Inn rent for a little more than $200 per night and offer high-speed Internet, plasma TVs, queen- and king-sized beds and designer furnishings acquired locally like desk lamps from Stitch in Bucktown.

Wicker Park Inn opened in 2001; Yepez and a former partner bought the bed and breakfast from its original owners in 2004. 

Later this fall Yepez plans to knock out a wall dividing the neighboring buildings through an upstairs hallway, so visitors do not need to go outside to get between the buildings, plus add a common rooftop deck for guests to the century-old brick building.

Though The Robey ended up not hurting the businesses, Reiss is still cautious about how more competition will impact his bed and breakfast at 2144 N. Leavitt St. which opened in March 2005.

"It's a competitive market. There are hotels springing up all around me. Midtown Athletic Club is finishing up their [55] rooms and the Congress Theater is being revamped with rooms, and the gas station at North [Avenue] and the Kennedy [Expressway] is planning to be torn down for" a 99-room] hotel, Reiss said.

As an added boon, the fast pace of Airbnb rooms "has come to a screeching halt," Reiss said, crediting a slow down caused by new regulations on homeowners who use home-sharing platforms. Those include an extra tax on hosts, limiting the number of units in buildings that can be rented out and requiring hosts to keep records on guests.

"Airbnbs are not like bed and breakfasts or a hotel like The Robey with a website: It's like the whack-a-mole game, they sprout up, you don't know where they are," Reiss said. 

Reiss, who often refers guests to Yepez's inn and vice versa, said, "Laura is a smart businesswoman. She would not have expanded if she didn't think the market could handle it."

Wicker Park Inn, with red door at right, added the neighboring home to its rentals. [DNAinfo/Alisa Hauser]

The Hoyne, a new room in the Wicker Park Inn [DNAinfo/Alisa Hauser]

Sitting area and desk in the "Wabansia" room

The "Damen" room  [Courtesy of Wicker Park Inn]