AVONDALE — For the past few years, neighbors have stopped to get a peek of a Diversey Avenue storefront that’s been under construction, curious about what’s to come.
The mystery ended this month when the store’s shutters came up, revealing an intricately designed neighborhood bar packed with vintage trinkets and oddities, from old VHS tapes and postcards to mid-century modern glassware and dinosaur figurines.
Consignment Lounge, 3520 W. Diversey Ave., from husband-and-wife owners Mark Pallman and Katie Piepel, quietly opened Sept. 16 after three years of planning and construction.
Unlike a traditional tavern, the bar doubles as a vintage shop; patrons can have a beer as they shop for estate sale treasures in back or while sitting at the custom-built bar. Display cases filled with knickknacks are built into the bar top, and all of the retro art and decor around the bar is for sale.
“It looks like a jewel box — a little box of magic — from outside because it’s so warmly lit; it just kind of glows from the street,” Piepel said. “It’s like we appeared from out of thin air.”
Quite the opposite is true, Piepel and Pallman acknowledged.
Pallman, a filmmaker and photographer, and Piepel, a real estate transaction coordinator, have been working behind the scenes to bring Consignment Lounge to life since buying the Diversey Avenue building as an investment property in 2019.
Before the two bought the building, the storefront was used a live/work space. Prior to that, it was home to a salon called Magic Scissors.
Transforming an old salon into a bar and curiosity shop was a stressful endeavor drawn out by a lengthy city approval process, the owners said.
First, they had to appeal to Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th) to lift the liquor moratorium on the block. Then, they had to obtain a special-use permit from the Zoning Board of Appeals, which is required of taverns.
Key steps such as securing a liquor license and passing building inspections took months, Pallman said.
The pandemic made them question the project; but rather than retreat, they pressed ahead, enlisting architects and zoning lawyers to build out the space.
“If I was to go back in time, I would find a place that was already a bar, which I guess is why the licenses are so valuable — you’re buying three years of time,” Pallman said.
Now open 6 p.m.-midnight Tuesday-Sunday, Consignment Lounge offers a no-frills menu of classic cocktails, beer, wine and non-alcoholic drinks, including coffee, in an intimate setting. Everywhere you look there are colorful vintage trinkets up for sale.
Wander in back and you’ll find yourself in a consignment shop lined with curiosities, including an old viewfinder and an oddly bleak safety patrolmen book from the ’50s.
Pallman is an estate sale junkie drawn to mid-century modern wares with a story — “anything that’s in a basement or in a garage, cool-looking or makes me laugh,” he said.
“Mark has an excellent eye for design,” Piepel said. “He’s able to zoom in on that little gem in a crowded basement where it’s stacked to the ceiling with every item you can possibly imagine. He can point to one and be like, ‘That one — it’s going to look awesome in the bar.'”
Consignment Lounge is built around Pallman’s love of weird old stuff, but it’s also been an opportunity for Pallman and Piepel to do something they love: renovate an old building. The live down the block in another building they revived.
Pallman said he drew from his more than decade-long career in filmmaking, and specifically making commercials for advertisement agencies, to curate the Consignment Lounge space, which he jokingly referred to as “80 percent art project and 20 percent questionable decisions.”
Old TVs with distorted coloration fit snugly in the built-in behind the bar, making it feel like an establishment from another era.
“Making commercials is so expensive, and there are so many moving pieces, and they’re so impermanent,” Pallman said. “Part of the appeal of something like this is I’m using the same skillset to design something, or make something look a certain way, but it’s something that you can stand in and experience, as opposed to something you watch once, and be like, ‘Oh, that looks cool.’ And then that’s it.”
Still, Pallman said they want Consignment Lounge to be a bar with a vintage store attached, and not the other way around. They hope to host food pop-ups and events, like your typical bar, when they get adjusted. The bar’s hours of operation are also likely to expand in the coming months, they said.
“You can have a drink at home; you go to a bar because you like to drink in that space, because there’s an environment, a feeling attached to it. That’s what this was designed for. The added element is: There’s something on the wall you like, you can [buy] it,” Pallman said.
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