Key Dempster Street projects now open for business
Walgreens is one of several major redevelopment projects on Dempster Street that opened in the last couple of months. | Mike Isaacs~Sun-Times Media
THE DEMPSTER THREE
• Oberweis Ice Cream and Dairy/That Burger Joint
4811 Dempster St.
• Kaufman’s Deli
4905 Dempster St.
4101 Dempster St.
Updated: January 7, 2013 6:13AM
SKOKIE — Three major economic development projects for Dempster Street opened recently and are now drawing customers to an area village officials are hoping to revitalize.
Two of the businesses, the Oberweis Dairy and Ice Cream store and Kaufman’s delicatessen are located on the west end of Dempster, which has been a redevelopment target of the village’s for years. A Walgreens store to the west of this area also opened at the major intersection of Dempster and Crawford Avenue.
The three projects were controversial in their own ways after being defined by Skokie officials as ripe for key economic development.
The Oberweis Dairy store, which includes the store’s first restaurant, That Burger Joint, came about after Skokie’s longest eminent domain case in its history. Another controversy was the location of the restaurant, which includes a drive-through. The alley in the back of the drive-through abuts a residential rental building where residents raised concerns about noise and safety due to traffic.
Steven Butelier who works in Skokie has visited the restaurant several times since it opened this fall.
“It’s great to have this here,” he said while munching last week on a burger at lunchtime. “My biggest worry now is not getting too fat. You’ve got good burgers on one side and then ice cream on the other, and this place is only blocks away from where I work every day.”
Kaufman’s has been one of Skokie’s most popular eating venues for years. A fire closed the restaurant down for about a year before it reopened earlier this month.
But it nearly didn’t.
The cost to rebuild was a big concern, and the Kaufman’s owners looked at other locations, including Morton Grove, before staying put.
“There was much trepidation and community fears that Kaufman’s might be leaving Skokie after decades of operating here and developing an extremely loyal customer following,” Economic Development Director Tom Thompson said.
Village Trustees approved a $150,000 matching grant for the Kaufman’s project as part of its facade rebate assistance program.
“It would have been terrible had Kaufman’s not been here,” said Gerald Frye of Arlington Heights, waiting in a line last week at the eatery. “I would have gone some place nearby if it had moved there, but it belongs in Skokie.”
When customers this month came back to Kaufman’s, they saw a new layout and expansion of its restaurant. The most noticeable difference is that the sit-down area and deli are now in the same room, a larger attractive space.
There have been plenty of new Walgreens that have opened in the area in recent years, but the one at Dempster and Crawford Avenue is more significant.
The Walgreens is a prototype, one of the first of its kind in terms of design and layout.
Replacing a small, under-achieving strip shopping center with the pharmacy/store created some rancor with nearby residents who live on Harding Avenue, but the store was built anyway.
An older Walgreens a few blocks to the west closed after the new store was built.
Rachel Grodin, who lives in the area, used to go to the older Walgreens down the street.
“This is a lot nicer,” she said. “I do a lot more shopping here than I did at the other place.”
In addition to the three businesses, a new Dempster Street Merchants Association formed in the last year. The village also bought properties containing dilapidated strip shopping centers on the west end of Dempster near the Skokie Swift station in the hope of future redevelopment.