CHICAGO (CBS) — Broadway is undergoing a continuing transformation with an assortment of new businesses in the East Lakeview neighborhood, but meanwhile, an old, familiar establishment now is set to close after almost 70 years in operation.
The Inside-Booster & News-Star reported Thursday morning that Rahmig’s House of Fine Chocolates, 3109 N. Broadway, will be closing its doors on Sunday, Sept. 30. The bakery and chocolate shop has been in operation since 1945.
The House of Fine Chocolates has been run by the same family from the beginning. Its founder, Willy Rahmig, was a celebrity chef on the French Riviera who opened the bakery after leaving his job as executive chef at the Bismarck Hotel – now known as the Hotel Allegro, the Inside-Booster & News-Star reported.
Currently, the bakery is operated by Rahmig’s son-in-law, Fred Paillon, and granddaughter, Karen Paillon. In a 1973 essay, Chicago author Norbert Blei once described Fred Paillon as “a kind of Willy Wonka, Chicago-style,” and described his house of “really fine, dark continental chocolates,” with a walk-in freezer full of “towering shelves of pastel goodies, gobs of butter cream, sheets of chocolate-topped cakes, soft pounds of passionate pastry damned near winking at a man, whispering, ‘Try me, try me.’”
In more recent years, neighborhood residents likely see groups from around the area lined up outside the shop, led by a guide for Chicago Chocolate Tours.
But Fred Paillon tells the Inside-Booster & News-Star that times have changed, with storefront shopping at local establishments having given way to one-stop shopping at strip malls. And in East Lakeview, single residents long ago began predominating over families, and few of those singles remain in the neighborhood for more than five years, the newspaper reported.
Raw materials costs have also posed a problem, the newspaper added.
The announcement from the House of Fine Chocolates comes on the heels of the closure of another old standby on Broadway. Chili Mac’s 5-Way Chili, 3152 N. Broadway, closed on Aug. 31 after 21 years in business.
The restaurant was known for its chili offerings that aren’t especially common in Chicago – particularly the Cincinnati-style five-way chili with layers of chili, thin spaghetti, cheese, beans and onions.
But on the same stretch of Broadway between Belmont Avenue and Diversey Parkway, new businesses are booming.
Across the street from Chili Mac’s this fall, entrepreneur Greg Shuff is set to open his Dryhop microbrewerly and restaurant. It will occupy the space at 155 N. Broadway, in a space that had been vacant since the Pleasure Chest adult store moved out in 2006.
The upscale neighborhood restaurant will feature “moderately priced and locally sourced cuisine inspired by the culinary techniques of Western Europe.”
A couple of blocks south, the popular Pastoral cheese shop at 2945 N. Broadway is set this fall to open the 40-seat bistro Bar Pastoral one storefront to the north at 2947 N. Broadway.
The owners of Pastoral say the new bistro will feature with hot and cold plates and other light menu items inspired by the cheese and charcuterie options at the adjoining store. There will also be creative cocktails with seasonal ingredients, and a selection of limited-distribution wines and craft beers.
Meanwhile, another new restaurant, Frog N Snail, opened earlier this year at 3124 N. Broadway. The location had been occupied by Sura, a Thai bistro with spherical swings suspended from the ceiling, which closed last year.
Down the street in a space once occupied by a liquor store at 2934 N. Broadway, entrepreneur Philip Tadros has opened the new Bow Truss specialty coffee roasting house at 2934 N. Broadway. The roastery curates and roasts its coffee in-house, and on demand.
And in the same multi-storefront building as Bow Truss, one of the few establishments that preserved a the neighborhood’s once seedy atmosphere sits vacant with its overhead sign dark and turned inside out. Adult Fantasy at 2928 N. Broadway, an old-fashioned adult bookstore with private video viewing booths, had operated under various names since the 1970s until it closed just over a year ago.
Anchoring the Broadway strip at Belmont Avenue is the new Chicago outpost of the Los Angeles-based Laugh Factory comedy club, which opened earlier this year at 3175 N. Broadway, in the space vacated by the Lakeshore Theater in 2010.
And at the other end of the strip just north of Diversey Parkway, construction has begun for a new and controversial Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market. The store, which will focus primarily on groceries, is set to open early next year in a space that will combine the three storefronts once occupied by a Wolf Camera, a PetSmart, and the Cost Plus World Market that closed in June.