Rousing 2013 for retail

By JEFFREY BISHKU-AYKUL
Staff Writer

Hyde Park’s retail environment saw many changes this year, with the completion of the multi-story Harper Court building and Hyatt Hotel. But a slew of notable newcomers — and exits — has made its mark on the neighborhood, including on its two major commercial corridors, 53rd and 55th streets.

55th Street
This year’s changes to the 55th Street retail landscape were defined by the westbound move of The Nile Restaurant, once located at 1611 E. 55th St., and the loss of a major tenant to the Art Deco Building, on the southwestern corner of 55th Street and Lake Park Avenue.

On June 14, after many years at its previous location, The Nile Restaurant moved in two doors west of the Woodlawn Tap, at 1162 E. 55th St. The relocation offered the restaurant a chance to reimagine a larger, 2,600-square-foot interior, which seats 85 in addition to another 35 on its seasonal outdoor patio. Owner Rashad Moughrabi called the new restaurant “a pretty big upgrade.”

Thai 55 owner Vince Srisak is preparing to open a Vietnamese restaurant, Pho55, in the Nile’s previous location. Srisak said last month that he expects the casual-dining restaurant to open by mid-January. When it opens, the restaurant will join the street’s five other restaurants serving Asian cuisine east of the Metra train tracks.

It was also revealed earlier this year that directly to the Nile’s east, Bergstein’s NY Deli will set up shop. Owner Bill Davis told the Herald last summer that the Chicago Heights-based deli’s second location — which he had aimed to open up by Labor Day — would include two counters for patrons to order at, one for hot meats and another for cold dishes.

Tomorrow, BankFinancial’s e-branch at the corner — a tellerless bank unveiled in spring 2012 — will be closed, bringing to an end the Burr Ridge, Ill.-based company’s experiment with the concept and leaving it with only one branch in Hyde Park, at 1354 E. 55th St. The concept was a response to the rise of Internet banking, according to Gregg Adams, the bank’s executive vice president of marketing and sales. Adams cited a lack of use as the primary reason for the e-branch’s closing.

53rd Street
Fifty-Third Street’s existing retail spaces also experienced great change this year, marked by the arrival of a gourmet dining establishment and the exit, arrival and relocation of several small-business tenants.

Chicago chef Matthias Merges — who also operates the Logan Square spot Billy Sunday — opened his fusion Northern Italian and Southern French dining concept, A10, at 1462 E. 53rd St., in early November to much fanfare. Upstairs, the University of Chicago unveiled plans just weeks earlier for its Chicago Innovation Exchange (CIE), an upstart business incubator slated for completion next fall. The CIE — a collaboration between Argonne National Laboratory and various university institutions — will also inhabit the second floor of the Shuster building, directly across 53rd Street.

Several tenants left the Shuster building, including Lake Beauty Supply, Hyde Park Cigars, 1465 E. 53rd St. and Kimonti Salon, located on the second floor, leaving Rajun Cajun, 1459 E. 53rd St., as the building’s only remaining ground-floor tenant. Hyde Park Cigars relocated last summer to 5220 S. Harper Ave.

Farther to the west, Hyde Park Gyros, 1368 E. 53rd St., suddenly closed down in August. The space’s interior has since been redone, and a new fast food establishment, Wingers, was is slated to soon takes its place. Entrepreneur Mo Almatarneh told the Herald in late December that he was attracted to the neighborhood by the diverse population, and that the restaurant — the first of a planned chain — may expand to more locations, depending on its success.

Around the neighborhood
Fifty-Seventh Street now has a vacancy at 1448 E. 57th St., where one of the neighborhood’s best-known bookstores once stood: O’Gara and Wilson’s. The vintage bookseller, which has since relocated to owner Douglas Wilson’s hometown, Chesterton, Ind., had been a presence in Hyde Park for almost half a century, and in its final location since the 1990s.

On 51st Street, a new deli swooped in around the end of the summer on the ground floor of Madison Park Apartments, 1380 E. Hyde Park Blvd. Mohamed Ahmed, who also owned 7 Seas Food and Mart, located on the 6500 block of South Cottage Grove Avenue, opened up Hyde Park Deli and Grocery, a convenience store complete with a cold-cut sandwich deli counter.

Around 51st Street and the Metra train tracks, two longtime tenants left and a new one opened up. Glorious Confectionery, a popcorn shop located under the tracks at 1551 E. 51st St., closed April 30 after owner Gloria Henderson’s five-year lease ended. Her move out of the space put an end to years of repairs and leaks Henderson claimed Metra was responsible for and that led to her business’s demise. In late January, at the nearby Hyde Park Art Center, 5020 S. Cornell Ave., the last remaining location of Istria Cafe closed. The Hyde Park cafe specializing in gelato — once one of two, including another under the Metra tracks at 57th Street — made way to Bridgeport Coffee’s second Chicago store this August.

j.bishku@hpherald.com