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Wicker Park, Bucktown, West Town

Blast From The Past As Sign For Long-Shuttered Suit Shop Reappears At Polish Triangle

Starsiak Clothing opened in 1916 and closed in 1981, according to newspaper archives.

A vintage sign for Starsiak Clothing.
Alisa Hauser/Block Club Chicago
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NOBLE SQUARE —  Starsiak Clothing is not a new business coming to the Polish Triangle  —  but the sign for the clothing and suit shop shuttered since 1981 looks fresh to passersby. 

The Art Deco building at 1205 N. Milwaukee Ave., across from the Polish Triangle, was most recently home to Espace Running & Trail, an athletic shoe store had been open since 2005.

A modern metal sign for Espace that had hung over the Starsiak Clothing sign was recently removed when the shoe store closed, causing some observant folks to do a double take. 

According to newspaper archives, Starsiak Clothing opened in 1916 and was a popular store in the height of the “Polish Broadway” era, when for a large part of the past century the neighborhood was inhabited by a strong contingent of Polish residents and Polish-owned businesses.

“Everyone got their suits made there,” said Drew Ee, whose uncle Jin Lee, owns the Starsiak Clothing building.

Ee lived in an apartment above the storefront in the early aughts and ran into men in the neighborhood who told him they had suits made at Starsiak Clothing.

Ee said he has been admiring the Starsiak sign font.

“It’s nice, in an Art Nouveau style,” Ee said. 

Starsiak Clothing closed when its second-generation owner retired, according to a June 10, 1981 story published in The Stevens Point Journal and written by a writer for the New York Times News Service.

Headlined “‘Polish Broadway’ Changed,” the story chronicles the influx of Hispanic, Puerto Rican and African-American residents and the departure of some longtime Polish-owned businesses along Milwaukee Avenue, including Starsiak Clothing.

“It’s time for a change, to give the neighborhood to somebody else. We took it from somebody else, so give it to somebody else,” Starsiak Clothing’s owner Alexander Starsiak told a reporter in 1981. 

Starsiak, who’d worked at his family’s company for 45 years and lived in an apartment above the store before moving to Sauganash, died in December 1994, according to his Tribune obituary and a 1978 Tribune story featuring his mother.

The building has been owned by Lee since 2001, county records show. Lee could not be reached for comment. Ee said he’s not sure yet what his uncle, who also owns the building for the neighboring City Sports, plans to do next with the former Starsiak Clothing storefront. The 2,880-square-foot storefront is currently for rent, according to a listing. 

Credit: Google Maps
The Espace sign had previously covered up the Starsiak Clothing sign.

Credit: Alisa Hauser/Block Club Chicago
Starsiak Clothing at 1205 N. Milwaukee Ave.