AVONDALE — An Uncle Fun-inspired novelty and gag gift shop is coming to Diversey and Milwaukee avenues at the Logan Square/Avondale border.
The shop, called The Extraordinarium, is taking over the old Payless shoe store at 2800 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Behind the shop is a longtime comedy show promoter and radio and TV host who goes by the name Flabby Hoffman.
Hoffman said he’s looking to capture the spirit of the uber popular Lakeview shop Uncle Fun, which closed in 2014 after 25 years of business.
Hoffman was both a big fan of Uncle Fun and a longtime customer. Uncle Fun is where Hoffman got all of the gag gifts he’d give away on his CAN TV program. Hoffman was also friends with one of the managers there.
“I’m just grateful for what [the owner of Uncle Fun] did and looking to build something wonderful and beautiful that’s an expression of me,” Hoffman said.
The front half of The Extraordinarium will function as a retail shop. The shelves will be lined with gag gifts and novelty items not found in your typical store like ranch dressing flavored pop, a giant flask, a racing babies game, the shiny hat from Back to the Future II and much more.
The shop will also sell collectibles like vintage cards and metallic signs with funny slogans on them.
Hoffman plans to put on a range of performances in the back half of the shop – everything from weekly comedy shows to theatrical productions.
“The idea for the back half of the store is to try and inspire people and mentor people in the community,” Hoffman said, adding that he plans to launch an incubator program for emerging talent.
When it isn’t being used for productions for events, the back half of the shop will be where an 18-hole mini golf course called Party Par Par lives. Hoffman said he’s even installing some artificial turf back there.
Hoffman said he wants The Extraordinarium to be a place of child-like joy, just like Uncle Fun was.
“What was great about Uncle Fun was that it inspired people to dream and imagine a world in which everyone was entitled to finding their own joy in life. I feel the same way,” Hoffman said.
Many were devastated when Ted Frankel, the owner of Uncle Fun, decided to pack up his beloved shop and move to Baltimore.
Hoffman said Frankel inspired him to “dream big, have fun in life and embrace what you love.”
“I’m not trying to live up to what [Frankel] did. I’m trying to emulate the wonderful message that he gave to me and so many others,” he said.
Hoffman is aiming to open his shop sometime in January, but he hasn’t pinned down an exact date yet.
Luckily for last-minute Christmas shoppers, Hoffman is planning to open the unfinished shop the two days before Christmas. The “sneak preview” shop will be open 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Dec. 23 and 24. It’ll be cash only.
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