Broadway Antique Market (BAM) is famous for many things: The quality of their dealers. Their spectacular merchandise. An attention to display and detail. However, beyond the kudos of National media, BAM is famous for it’s $ales. Hosting only two major events per year (their Holiday Sale and gastronomic spread unparalleled), BAM is unlike any other vintage retailer. Every event is special and their latest “Vintage Department Store Sale” is no exception. Starting Friday, May 18th and running for only 10 days, BAM spreads it vintage wings and offers significant discounts to its preferred customers.
Unlike big box retailers who stalk customers with repetitively pesky emails, BAM sets a higher bar. From it’s very beginning BAM was out to reinvent the fussy, dusty antique business. The results can be visited daily at 6130 N. Broadway or at BAMchicago.com.
Owners Jeffrey Nelson & Danny Alias began as dealers in various antique malls in the 1980's. However by 1990 the duo were ready to launch their first store, Wrigleyville Antique Mall (WAM) on Clark Street in Chicago.
“We only had space for about a dozen dealers” remembers Alias. “I picked up the phone and called the very best dealers in the city— Within a few hours I’d rented every booth. People took a huge leap of faith with us. In some ways, these first dealers believed in us more than we believed in ourselves.”
Over the next eight years WAM would expand into two adjoining stores (and a lower level), eventually morphing into a 50 dealer store. Soon they were propping projects for Oprah, major films, tv and print advertising.
"Oliver Stone called one day" recalls Alias. "He wanted to rent our two-headed cow for "Natural Born Killers." We'd received dozens of calls to rent the cow and at the time I didn't believe Oliver Stone was actually calling us. I said 'no' and hung up the phone. The next day Stone's assistant called and said 'You hung up on Oliver Stone yesterday.' Yup, I confessed, that was me! The next day Oliver Stone had his cow and I ate crow. However that first film opened the door and hundreds of films and television shows would follow over the years."
“WAM quickly become a retail anchor in the neighborhood” says Nelson. “But the rent was killing us. Also being near the ballpark was a mixed blessing. When the Cubs were in town, customer parking was a nightmare. The writing was on the wall. In order to grow, we had to move.”
After a year’s search the business partners found the perfect venue: Originally built by the Pakan family in 1939 to run their furniture business, this building would bounce from purpose to purpose— An auto dealership, a wig manufacturer (“One Touch of Glamour” :), an art gallery and finally, an upholsterer.
Because of it’s spectacular terra cotta façade and stunning Art Deco features, the building was on the city’s endangered list, but did not have landmark status. Slated to be demolished and replaced by a Blockbuster Video (remember them?) the former owner was heartbroken by the deal.
Enter Jeff & Danny. Promising to bring the structure back to its former glory, they matched the offer on the table and the owner rejected Blockbuster’s plans. An architectural tragedy had been averted and a vintage rebirth was about to take it’s place.
Alias recalls: “When we first saw the space we were completely overwhelmed. Not only could this become the largest antique store in Chicago, this was an opportunity to create something based on great bones and an amazing history. The exterior structure itself was stunning; but the interior required major repairs. In fact, the original second floor display rooms had been shuttered for over 20 years. It was like opening Tut’s tomb… if Tut collected old sewing machines and drapery swatches!”
“Speaking of Egypt” Nelson adds, “relocating WAM to BAM was like moving the pyramids. We had three moving companies working non-stop for almost a week. Within the first few days one of the companies quit, which is why we had hired three to begin with—someone was going to collapse. Not everyone was as crazy as we were.”
After six weeks of remodeling, BAM opened on a Friday evening in November of 1998. In three short hours over 1,000 customers shopped the new space and were dazzled by the vintage merchandise of the now 75 dealers. WAM had reinvented itself into BAM.
Just six months later BAM would reopen the second floor showrooms to the public.
Alias remembers: “When I was kid, my favorite thing in the world was visiting the furniture showrooms at the State Street Marshall Field’s store. Something about those room settings—like you were stepping inside someone’s home, but you were doing it in a department store. Here is this 10 year old wanting to buy a room full of furniture. I’m certain my mother thought I was insane!
Today the Showrooms of BAM are exactly that... complete room settings, except we merchandise with vintage furnishings. This makes us rather unique. Others have done this before, but not on this scale and not in an antique setting. It’s a refreshing way to shop vintage.”
BAM continues to reinvent itself. Last year’s SPACE ALIEN VINTAGE SHOPPING INVASION and VINTAGE INTERVENTION were mini-hits on YouTube… a medium not known for embracing the antique business. Clearly this is not your mother's antique store.
“The bottom line is, we’re here for our clients” says Nelson. “We’re not going to pester you with endless emails. Follow us on Facebook, sign up for our select sales and experience our incredible merchandise. We consider ourselves an excellent resource for the very best.”
Added Alias: “We’ve gotten this far without being aggressive or pushy; that just isn’t who we are. I like to think that when you need us, we’re here. It’s really pretty simple. You only have to find BAM once. After that, it’s either “like or love”— and we’re happy with either!”
BAM’s “Vintage Department Store Sale” runs May 18th thru 28th, 2012. To receive info on future sales & events contact BAM at: Antiques@bamchicago.com.
Broadway Antique Market, 6130 N. Broadway/Chicago. 773-743-5444. BAMchicago.com.
Copyright 2012. WDMS