WEST TOWN — There was truly no place anywhere in the city like Mr. Flower and Mr. Ping Pong.
Ardy Taveerasert (who is both Mr. Flower & Mr. Ping Pong) said he closed down the ping pong club/U-Haul rental/flower shop at 1647 W. Chicago Ave. about three weeks ago after a rent hike he and his wife Ann couldn’t afford.
“The lease expired and they need too much money,” Taveerasert said. “I don’t make enough money [to stay]. It’s time to move on. Nothing lasts forever.”
Had he renewed his lease, Taveerasert said the rent would have been double what he was paying when he first opened his store in 2010.
The unique shop offered ping pong tables, rentable by the hour, along with flowers and gifts in the front of the store. U-Hauls were for rent too, since Taveerasert also sold gently-used foosball and ping pong tables and folks needed a way to get them home. The one-of-a-kind business was baffling to some passersby, leading the Chicago Reader to feature it in a piece titled “What the heck is this?”
The shop also served as a venue for bands like Chicago-based Meat Wave.
An avid ping pong player, instructor and founder of the Chicago Slam Table Tennis Club, which practiced and competed in the back of the store, Taveerasert said he’s scouting out new locations and could reopen somewhere else in the neighborhood.
The shop will soon be home to a new 24/7 Anytime Fitness location, Taveerasert said.
Calls to Taveerasert’s landlord were not returned. Brandon Aguilar, a general manager at Anytime Fitness’ Wicker Park location, confirmed the gym is moving into the storefront.
Aguilar did not have an opening timeline. “We are just starting the process,” he said.
Peter Panagakis, co-owner of Cafe Six06, an all day cafe and Greek restaurant a few doors east of Mr. Flower & Mr. Ping Pong, said he was “devastated” by the abrupt closure, which came without any warning on June 30.
“I had a winning streak of 33 straight games against my friend. We went there all the time. One day we went there and there was a sign in the window, that was it,” Panagakis said.
On Yelp, Mr. Flower & Mr. Ping Pong enjoyed almost all positive reviews.
“Everyone knows that table tennis, flowers, and rental trucks go together like gin and vermouth or Christmas and seasonal depression. It makes sense, then, that there would be a shop on Chicago Avenue that combines all three. Finally!” wrote one reviewer.