Rising Rent in Lincoln Square Drives Out Fine Wine Brokers

  • Fine Wine Brokers co-owner Louise Rohr (Rebecca Palmore / Chicago Tonight)

    Fine Wine Brokers co-owner Louise Rohr (Rebecca Palmore / Chicago Tonight)

  • Sign advertising Fine Wine Brokers' cork castle window display (Rebecca Palmore / Chicago Tonight)

    Sign advertising Fine Wine Brokers' cork castle window display (Rebecca Palmore / Chicago Tonight)

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  • Front window at Fine Wine Brokers (Rebecca Palmore / Chicago Tonight)

    Front window at Fine Wine Brokers (Rebecca Palmore / Chicago Tonight)

  • Rock N Roll Vintage in Lincoln Square (Rebecca Palmore / Chicago Tonight)

    Rock N Roll Vintage in Lincoln Square (Rebecca Palmore / Chicago Tonight)

  • Rock N Roll Vintage in Lincoln Square (Rebecca Palmore / Chicago Tonight)

    Rock N Roll Vintage in Lincoln Square (Rebecca Palmore / Chicago Tonight)

Lincoln Square's Fine Wine Brokers will close at the end of August, according to the shop’s co-owner Louise Rohr, who cited rising rent as the deciding factor in the store’s closure.

New York-based Pioneer Acquisitions LLC bought the building which houses Fine Wine Brokers last March. Following the change in ownership, Rohr, who previously paid just over $46,000 annually for the space, said her rent more than doubled in May. After attempting to negotiate costs, Rohr ultimately decided to close the wine shop, which has occupied its Lincoln Square storefront for over 20 years.

Pioneer Acquisitions did not return requests for comment.

Rohr, who also co-owns The Artisan Cellar in the Merchandise Mart, said the rent increase she faced in Lincoln Square would have pushed her costs higher than those at her business downtown.

“We’ve been a fixture for so long, our customers absolutely love us. They’ve been coming in recently and they’re absolutely shocked by what happened,” said Rohr, who officially took over ownership of the store in 2008 after the death of her husband Gerhard Rohr, one of the shop’s original owners.

Fine Wine Brokers isn’t the only retail business to recently lose its spot along Lincoln Avenue. Gift shop Eclecticity, 4752 N. Lincoln Ave., closed its doors in June after slumping sales. Ditto Ravenswood Used Books, which moved last year to 2005 W. Montrose Ave. after operating on a month-to-month lease for years, according to reporting from DNAinfo Chicago.

More recently, after 11 years in the neighborhood, used guitar shop Rock N Roll Vintage announced plans to move to 4727 N. Damen Ave. Co-owner Jeff Sadler said the move was also driven by a change in the building’s ownership, coupled with the shop’s need for more space.

Sadler said he’s also noticed a shift in the neighborhood’s demographics – a change he said doesn’t necessarily fit well with the guitar shop.

“The whole neighborhood is changing, it’s kind of moving upscale,” he said. “For our business, we don’t need high-end retail. The soccer moms and so on aren’t exactly playing guitar a lot.”

Both Lincoln and Western avenues have seen shifts towards the trendy in the past year. Baker Miller, the bakery and millhouse from former Bang Bang Pie co-owners Megan and Dave Miller, opened its doors in September at 4610 N. Western Ave., while The Budlong Pickle and Chicken Shop – from Rub's Backcountry Smokehouse owner Jared Leonard  – tentatively opens Oct. 1 just across the street from Baker Miller at 4619 N. Western Ave. Higher-end outdoor gear shop Uncle Dan's is also in the process of converting three separate storefronts along Lincoln Avenue, at 4724 N. Lincoln Ave. 

Fine Wine Brokers will close Aug. 31. It's no longer selling wine – the remaining stock was recently boxed up and sent to Rohr's Merchandise Mart location – but many of the shop's fixtures are for sale. The recognizable cork castle recently sold for $35, Rohr said. 

In light of her own rent increase, Rohr said she foresees rapid gentrification for the neighborhood. 

“I think we’re going to see a big, big change in Lincoln Square where they drive the small business out and you’ll see the big chain companies going in. Otherwise who can afford it? Small businesses can’t,” she said.

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