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Crain’s Chicago Business | Modern furniture seller Blu Dot plans Lincoln Park shop

10.20.15

By Ryan Ori
Blu Dot, an online modern furniture seller, plans to open a store in an area of Lincoln Park already known for furniture stores and companies that do most of their business over the Internet.

Minneapolis-based Blu Dot leased 7,561 square feet in Lincoln Park Plaza, a 30,667-square-foot shopping center at 1941-53 N. Clybourn Ave., confirmed New York-based brokerage RKF. Brokers Steve Schwartz and Anthony Campagni of RKF represent the owner, a venture of Chicago investor Fred Latsko, in leasing.

The store is a rarity for Blu Dot, which was formed in 1997 and has stores in just seven cities, including its hometown, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Austin, Texas, according to its website. Blu Dot, which does most of its sales online, also has stores in Sydney, Australia, and Monterrey, Mexico.

The Chicago store, which RKF said is expected to open in the second quarter of 2016, is on a stretch of the Clybourn shopping corridor packed with furniture sellers, including Jayson Home, Arhaus Furniture and Walter E. Smithe Furniture & Design.

It’s just around the corner from Armitage Avenue, where Internet shopping brands such as Warby Parker, Bonobos and Tie Bar have set up shop. Also on Armitage, furniture startup Interior Define leases a space from Latsko.

“Not only does this place them squarely in the Clybourn Corridor, and near where these e-retailers continue to expand, but it positions them with access to Cortland (Avenue), which connects them to Bucktown” to the west, Schwartz said.

FILLS EX-ORIGINAL MITCHELL’S

Blu Dot was represented by Jason Trombley and Adam Cody of Chicago-based Jones Lang LaSalle. Through JLL, Blu Dot representatives did not respond to a request for comment.

The lease will fill the former Original Mitchell’s space, which has been vacant since the restaurant closed in 2011.

“I didn’t want to do another restaurant there,” Latsko said. “Blu Dot got a great deal. That lease wasn’t signed based on maximizing the value of that corner. It’s great for the rest of the center.”

Schwartz said the brokers heard from “every restaurant and their brother” about the space but wanted to shake up the tenant mix and avoid a parking-heavy restaurant. “We canvassed the country looking for quality retailers that weren’t in the Chicago market,” he said.

To make way for Blu Dot, the landlord is moving Athletico from 2,258 square feet next to the former Original Mitchell’s space to 2,337 farther south in the center.

VIRTUALLY FULL

Other newly signed tenants in the building include Las Vegas-based Nothing Bundt Cakes, with 1,737 square feet, and a UPS Store, with 1,206 square feet. Moe’s Southwest Grill, Floyd’s 99 Barbershop and Eye Mechanix have recently opened in the plaza, according to RKF.

The property, which once had more than 15,000 square feet of vacancy, now has one 644-square-foot space available, according to RKF.

Latsko bought the shopping center with another Chicago developer, Mark Hunt, for $15 million in 2007.

Latsko sued Hunt in 2013, saying he poached a prospective tenant, a Walgreens drug store, from that property to a new building on Armitage. Later that year, Latsko bought out Hunt’s 50 percent interest for more than $3.9 million in cash and an assumption of debt, according to Latsko and property records.

In 2014 the lawsuit was dismissed, according to Latsko and the Cook County Circuit docket. Hunt did not return a call.

“Once you buy someone out of the partnership, there’s not much interest in litigation,” Latsko said. “It’s all numbers, it’s not personal.”

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