Matthew Walcott and Deirdre Austin opened DMApothecary in September 2022, but have since experienced multiple floods. Credit: Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago, Provided

EDGEWATER — A family-owned apothecary in Edgewater has to close during the busy holiday shopping season after yet another storefront flood that ownership said is caused by building mismanagement.

DMApothecary, 5230 N. Sheridan Road, first flooded in December 2022 when a pipe burst just a few months after Deirdre Austin opened the small business with her son, Matthew Walcott.

The shop shut down for about four months last winter while it was repaired. Austin and Walcott worked hard to have the business bounce back but recently suffered another setback due to building issues.

On Saturday, Austin walked into DMApothecary and saw the ceiling was leaking into her shop, soaking much of the shop in water and “bubbling white film” from Austin’s destroyed soap products, she said.

More than $600 worth of products were damaged in the recent flood, and the shop’s floor was severely damaged because the landlord refused to address the leak until Monday, Austin said. Part of the ceiling collapsed due to the leak, exposing asbestos that has been falling into the shop with the water, Austin said. 

The store will likely be closed for at least four weeks while it’s repaired, halting sales during the business’s busiest time of the year, Austin said. 

“They’re killing my dream, my son’s dream, my legacy,” Austin said. “It’s an old building, but they will just not pay the money to fix it. It seems they’re more interested in collecting rent.”

DMApothecary’s landlord, TLC Management Company, didn’t respond to request for comment. 

Austin launched a GoFundMe to raise money for legal fees and repairs. People can also support the apothecary by buying products online until the store reopens. 

Because the leaking pipe wasn’t immediately fixed, the water destroyed much of the store’s flooring. Credit: Provided/Deirdre Austin

Austin has dreamed of opening her family apothecary since she started making soaps with her grandmother’s recipes when she was a kid, she said. It took her more than 25 years to save up enough money to rent and build out the space.

The family finally achieved its dream of opening in September 2022, stocking the store with natural, plant-based products: bar soaps, shampoos, body butters, face masks, facial sprays, candles and wax melts and bath accessories.

After being in business for a little more than a year, DMApothecary has already had to close for four months due to flooding issues, she said. 

The pipe that started leaking over the weekend caused part of the ceiling to collapse. Credit: Provided/Deirdre Austin

The shop was closed from December 2022 through March for the first flooding incident. But since reopening, the store’s bathroom continued flooding every few weeks. TLC Management Company has not addressed the issue, Austin said.

“Since then, it’s been a struggle to gain back the momentum after being closed for about four months,” Austin said. “I had so much hope and eagerness and happiness. I was so thrilled to open the shop, but it’s just been one buzzkill after another.” 

Austin considered suing her landlord for the rent after the first flood, but she couldn’t afford to spend money and time on a court case, she said. 

Austin has been working with Sen. Mike Simmons’ and Rep. Kelly Cassidy’s offices about potentially relocating but hopes she can keep the shop where it is. Simmons said he is working to help connect the business with grants and other possible assistance.

“It seems a lot of our storefront mom and pops deal with these kinds of issues,” Simmons said. “I encourage everyone to lend a helping hand to these business owners and to shop small and shop local this holiday season.”

Right now, Austin hopes to finish out her lease, which still has about two years left, and pressure her landlord to repair the building, she said. 

“I don’t want to leave because I’ve invested my whole life’s savings into this place,” Austin said. “I’m not asking them to do anything above and beyond, I’m just asking them to honor terms in the lease they created.” 

Help Block Club Get
500 More Subscribers!

Subscribe to Block Club now and you’ll get a free 16-by-20-inch Chicago neighborhood print of your choice, helping us reach our goal of getting 500 more subscribers before 2024. Click here to subscribe or click here to gift a subscription.

Listen to the Block Club Chicago podcast: