Skokie grant helps Kaufman’s deli reopen after fire
A rendering of the reconstructed Kaufman's Deli, which is tentatively scheduled to open in September.
KAUFMAN’S DELICATESSEN & BAKERY
Location: 4905 W. Dempster St.
Reopening: Tentatively scheduled for September
Reconstruction cost: More than $1 million
Village grants: $150,000
Additional space: 150,000 square feet
Updated: July 22, 2012 6:15AM
Customers who have been waiting to gobble down their next corned beef sandwich from popular Kaufman’s Deli in the West Dempster Street area will do so in a newly renovated and expanded eatery.
Kaufman’s has been closed since November because of a fire, and plans for its reopening were long in question. There was some discussion that the iconic deli would move from Skokie after decades in town, but village officials worked with the owner, Bette Dworkin, on a reopening plan.
Tom Thompson, Skokie’s economic development director, reported that Dworkin looked at other locations in and outside Skokie before a plan was reached.
“This led to much trepidation and community fears that Kaufman’s might be leaving Skokie after decades of operating here and developing an extremely loyal customer following,” Thompson said.
Village Trustees Monday approved a $150,000 matching grant for the Kaufman’s project as part of the village’s facade rebate assistance program. The funds will be drawn from the village’s West Dempster tax increment financing fund.
Under the program, the village reimburses 50 percent of the cost of a project up to $50,000 for improvements to facades, side walls when clearly visible from the street, parking lots and site improvements.
But additional matching funds up to $50,000 can be granted for water and sewer connections, refurbishing parking lots, landscaping, pole signs and other improvements.
Village officials said Kaufman’s qualified for three grants under the program. Dworkin will be spending much more than twice the amount for the newly approved deli. The entire project is estimated to cost more than $1 million.
Kaufman’s has been in business for about 50 years, the last 28 under ownership of the Dworkin family. The Dworkin’s say they are hoping for a September reopening.
Thompson said the village and Dworkin were already discussing improvements to the building when the “catastrophic fire” occurred.
Dworkin did not own the property prior to the fire and wanted to buy it, which led to a delay in moving forward. The deal closed last month.
“It became clear from the start that the store required more ground space, larger and more efficient cooking and baking areas, improved site access and parking, and a new fresher appearance that could also accommodate additional on-site dining,” Thompson said.
The new Kaufman’s will have 1,500 square feet of additional ground floor space “in a much more visible, functional and aesthetically pleasing building.”
Major elements of the work, which has been ongoing, include excavation, concrete repairs, structural steel for new stairs and railings, new equipment for heating, cooling, venting, plumbing and electrical systems, as well as fire protection upgrades with a new sprinkler system, glazing, roofing, ceramic tile flooring and interior finishes.
“I think this is one of the examples where the community and our leadership really pulled together all the way around,” said Trustee Michael Lorge, who spent much time working on the project. “It’s shocking to think that it’s been seven months since the fire. We responded. We were there to encourage her. This is what economic development and holding our community together is about.”