ALBANY PARK — A couple who opened a shop selling crystals and skateboards plan to add a cafe when they come back with a new Albany Park location this summer.
Gemz and Boardz owners Leslie Garcia and Alberto Abarca opened their business in May 2021 but had to close it in December after business slowed, Garcia said.
“We hadn’t heard of a shop … with crystals and skateboards, but we were like, ‘It’s COVID. The world has changed. Let’s just do it,’” Garcia said.
After the shop closed, they reevaluated their business plan and sold their wares at pop-ups, the Buyer’s Flea Market in Humboldt Park and through an online store.
Now, they’re ready to open a brick-and-mortar shop again, and are adding a cafe to the mix. The two signed a lease at 3101 W. Montrose Ave. this month and are building out the interior, which is larger than their first location. They plan to open in August, Garcia said.
“Looking back, maybe this was meant to happen this way because now I know what works and what doesn’t work for our store,” Garcia said.
Garcia and Abarca hope the new coffee shop will give neighbors a place to meet up and work on projects.
“If you happen to work from home or are a student that needs to do homework, we want you to be able to be there and hang out,” Garcia said.
The cafe and shop will also now be able to host events; Garcia and Abarca are thinking of workshops where customers can learn how to customize their skateboard deck, reiki classes and monthly pop-ups where vendors can sell their products, Garcia said.
“We’ve also talked about having artists come by and they can help customize people’s skateboards,” she said.
The shop will also allow artists to use the store’s walls as a gallery to display and sell their work.
“We want to be a space for people to have opportunities,” Garcia said.
Before launching Gemz and Boards, Garcia worked as an accountant and launched an online clothing shop in her free time in 2018. But she got tired of her day job and decided she wanted to expand her online business into a brick-and-mortar with Abarca, she said.
The two workshopped ideas, taking stock of their interests: healing crystals, skateboarding and 1990s kitsch, like Pokemon trading cards.
The two researched businesses in Albany Park and realized there wasn’t anything catering to their eclectic taste, which led to them opening the first Gemz and Boardz location at 3566 W. Montrose Ave. in May 2021.
Listen to “It’s All Good: A Block Club Chicago Podcast”: