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Lincoln Square, North Center, Irving Park

Chicago Joe’s Auctioning Restaurant’s Memorabilia — And Even Its Marquee Will Be For Sale

“We’re going to sell it to the bones. Everything is for sale,” an auctioneer said.

The interior of Chicago Joe's on April 4, 2022.
Alex V. Hernandez/Block Club Chicago
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NORTH CENTER — Fans of Chicago Joe’s can take home a piece of the restaurant during an auction this month before the building is torn down.

Chicago Joe’s founders Chuck Kowalski and Al Rompza opened the North Center fixture in 1988 to celebrate the idea of a “regular Joe.” They used vintage advertisements for the Chicago Daily News, seats from Comiskey Park and boxing gloves in the restaurant’s decor. 

The owners closed the restaurant last year due to the pandemic.

Credit: Alex V. Hernandez/Block Club Chicago
The interior of Chicago Joe’s on April 4, 2022.

Landrosh Development bought the property from Chicago Joe’s owners last year. The developers plan to built a five-story apartment building it its place with ground-floor space for a restaurant.  

Ahead of the demolition, the restaurant’s owners contracted Donley Auctions to oversee an April 30 in-person auction to sell Chicago Joe’s equipment and eclectic memorabilia — including the iconic Chicago Joe’s marquee hanging over Irving Park Road.

The auction starts 10 a.m. April 30 at the restaurant, 2250 W. Irving Park Road. No online or phone bids will be accepted, Donley said.

“We’re going to sell it to the bones. Everything is for sale,” Donley said. “The family only took five pieces out for themselves.” 

Credit: Alex V. Hernandez/Block Club Chicago
The interior of Chicago Joe’s on April 4, 2022.

Donley said most of the old signs, posters and photos are vintage, not modern reproductions. Many of the restaurant’s light fixtures and leaded glass installations appear to have been recovered from older Chicago buildings and installed at the restaurant to add to its eclectic decor celebrating local history, he said.

For example, a stone lion hanging on the wall near the bar is actually made out of stone, which is unusual, Donley said. Typically, modern interior designers will use fiberglass to approximate this type of item, but the one mounted on the wall at Chicago Joe’s is made of real “glazed terra cotta” and was likely recovered from some other building in the city, Donley said.

Another interesting item is a framed vintage poster announcing a performance by Billie Holiday at Colosimo’s Saloon, 2126 S. Wabash Ave., which was owned by notorious Chicago gangster Big Jim Colosimo. 

“This is a very historic poster. It’s original,” Donley said.

Credit: Alex V. Hernandez/Block Club Chicago
The interior of Chicago Joe’s on April 4, 2022.

Donley will also have Jeff Johnson from Johnson Construction at the auction to give quotes on how much it’ll cost to remove items from the building and transport them, he said.

“What I really like and respect about the family is the fact they were so sincere about wanting people to be able to have a part of Chicago Joe’s,” Donley said. “Keeping it for sale in the neighborhood. It just says something about the values of the family that ran it all these years.”

Plans are moving forward to overhaul the property, which includes the closed restaurant, six apartments and a parking lot across four city lots. 

Landrosh Development needs a zoning change for its plans for the parking lot. Ald. Matt Martin (47th) refused to back an initial plan to build luxury condos at the site, but he endorsed the project in October after developers swapped out that plan for more affordable apartments and a restaurant.

Landrosh President Patrick Landrosh declined to comment on when construction will begin. 

Credit: Alex V. Hernandez/Block Club Chicago
The interior of Chicago Joe’s on April 4, 2022.
Credit: Alex V. Hernandez/Block Club Chicago
The interior of Chicago Joe’s on April 4, 2022.
Credit: Alex V. Hernandez/Block Club Chicago
The interior of Chicago Joe’s on April 4, 2022.
Credit: Alex V. Hernandez/Block Club Chicago
The interior of Chicago Joe’s on April 4, 2022.
Credit: Alex V. Hernandez/Block Club Chicago
Chicago Joe’s, 2250 W. Irving Park Road, on April 4, 2022.

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