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Lincoln Square, North Center, Irving Park

Finom Coffee Closed, But Building Not Sold After All: ‘COVID Has Hit Everybody Hard’

The historic building that housed the coffee shop is for sale, but its landlord has yet to find a buyer.

Finom Coffee
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Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Finom’s closure was related to the sale of the building. The story has been updated.

IRVING PARK — After just two years, Finom Coffee has closed its doors for good. 

Finom, which means “delicious” in Hungarian, was opened on the first floor of a 131-year-old building at 4200 W. Irving Park Rd. in 2018 by co-owners Rafael Esparza and Daniel Speer. 

Vahap Sarac, the owner of the historic building, said he offered to extend Finom’s lease but that the owners declined to renew it due to the coffee shop struggling during the coronavirus pandemic.

In a Friday Instagram post Esparza and Speer shared an Eater story published last week that claimed the critically acclaimed business had closed due to the historic building being sold, but Sarac said the report was inaccurate.

Sarac has owned the building for the past six years and put it on the market earlier this summer. He’s yet to find a buyer, he said, but showed the building to someone August 20.

“That same day [Speer] sent me a text message saying he wasn’t going to be able to renew the lease. His message said ‘We’re struggling hard with all this going on,’” Sarac said. “I wanted them to stay and was willing to work with them to keep them here but unfortunately times are tough, so I don’t blame them for leaving.” 

The person who viewed the property had concerns about its historic landmark status, so didn’t move forward with a purchase.

“That person wanted more answers from the historical society but because of COVID they kept getting delays on those answers so they just kind of faded away and the purchase didn’t go anywhere,” Sarac said. 

“So the cat got out of the bag before I could make this post,” Esparza said in the Instagram post. “It’s been the best time of my life, met some of the best people I’ve ever known in the last two years and I wouldn’t change it for the world. We knew this was gonna happen and tried all we could to prevent it or at least delay it but in the end it is what it is.”

Speer declined to answer Block Club’s questions about the decision to close, but Esparza said goodbye to staff and neighbors on Instagram.

The business featured coffee beans from Counter Culture Coffee, tea from Rare Tea Cellar Inc. and pastries from Spilt Milk in Oak Park, alongside small Hungarian dishes that were an homage to Speer’s Hungarian wife, the owners previously told Block Club.

Speer previously told Block Club he wanted Finom to follow in the tradition of older style, European coffee shops where writers and artists would congregate and people can meet and enjoy coffee and conversation at a slower pace.

“I get why they closed it, I went there and it was just, well because of COVID nobody could sit and they were cutting the hours they were open,” Sarac said. “We worked together really well and they were nice guys, but the COVID has hit everybody hard.” 

The building Finom was housed in is the oldest “mercantile structure” in the Irving Park community, according to the report submitted to the city’s landmark commission in 1989.

Originally built in 1889 by Henry E. Nichols, it first operated as the Nichols & Son Grocery and had second-floor living quarters which were typically occupied by the store’s owner.

Sarac hopes Finom could some day return. For now, however, he’s looking for a new tenant.

“I don’t have anyone yet but do want to say that I’m looking for independent small businesses to come in and bring their flavor to the neighborhood,” Sarac said. “I’ll be honest, I’m not interested in big, mega chains like Starbucks. My intentions are to find a creative small business owner who wants to come in and do something different for the neighborhood.”

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