LOGAN SQUARE — Since opening Bric-A-Brac Records at Diversey and Kedzie avenues eight years ago, husband-and-wife owners Nick Mayor and Jen Lemasters have had to work other jobs to keep the record and collectibles shop afloat — Mayor at a restaurant and Lemasters selling merch at big venues.
But with both industries hit hard during the coronavirus pandemic, the couple has decided to focus solely on Bric-A-Brac in hopes of growing the small business into even more of a community hub. The couple is moving the shop to a bigger space in Avondale, and they’re teaming up with a friend to open an adjoining coffee shop.
“Obviously [the restaurant and live music industries] are very, very different, if even viable at all anymore … . Knowing that we won’t be able to go back those previous sources of income, we just decided to go all in on the old entrepreneur thing,” Mayor said.
The couple has signed a lease on a storefront at 2843 N. Milwaukee Ave. The space is about 20 percent larger than their vibrant current home at 3156 W. Diversey Ave., Mayor said, which is overflowing with records, cassettes, books, collectibles and more.
Mayor and Lemasters are teaming up with their friend, Jason Deuchler — a longtime DJ and a big horror fan — on the coffee shop, which will be called The Brewed, a play on David Cronenberg’s horror flick “The Brood.” The coffee shop will be horror-themed with horror movie posters on the walls and collectibles and horror merch on display and for sale — an extension of Bric-A-Brac, which “already skews in that direction,” Mayor said.
“Chicago has a really big horror community and a lot of history in the genre, most notably ‘Candyman,’ but lots of other lesser-known entries into the genre. There’s really not a place in the horror community can go year-round to celebrate their interests,” Mayor said.
The Brewed will carry locally made Halfwit coffee, as well as grab-and-go treats. Mayor said the goal isn’t to take the local coffee scene by storm, but to open a unique shop people enjoy.
“Very similarly to when we started Bric-A-Brac, it wasn’t necessarily that we thought we had something unique to offer as far as being able to source really cool records … . We had an idea of a space and an aesthetic that wasn’t in the city. So with this, we’re not necessarily opening a coffee shop because we think we have a superior brew or can really change the coffee landscape as it is we have this idea for a cool space,” he said.
Though the coffee shop will be separate from Bric-A-Brac, patrons will be able to easily pass through both. The new Bric-A-Brac will have the same look and feel as the current shop — minus the “Robocop” mural, Mayor said. Once they’ve deemed it safe, Mayor and Lemasters plan to bring back in-store performances, which were a staple of the shop before the pandemic.
Bric-A-Brac has been closed since October and focused only on online sales. The couple plans to reopen the Diversey shop for Record Store Days in June and July as a last hurrah and to celebrate its eighth anniversary.
From there, Mayor and Lemasters will pack up all of their records and collectibles and move them into the Milwaukee Avenue storefront, which was most recently used for an art installation, and build out the coffee shop with Deuchler. Mayor said they aim for an early to mid-fall opening.
“It’s going to be sad, for sure. Lots of good times there. It’s going to feel weird to go somewhere different,” Mayor said of the current shop. “We’ve definitely just outgrown it.”
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