Popular women’s fashion boutique Ikram is set to relocate, on July 27, to 15 East Huron Street from their current location at 873 North Rush Street. The building, which will house high-end designer clothing, a café and a gallery, can not be missed. Draped in a lacquer-like nail polish red finish, the building is a stunning addition to East Huron Street. It is the latest in a long line of businesses to occupy this address.
Years ago, I remember going to a swank place called the Gaslight Club, which was where Ikram is opening their new store. It looked very different back then, as did the Cathedral District neighborhood. The entrance was lined in gaslights, dimly lit; it looked like a 1920s speakeasy. Once inside, the rooms were filled with beautiful Vegas showgirl-like women, all scantily clad in corsets and stiletto heels and serving martinis in tin cups.
The Gaslight Club was founded in October 1953 by an eccentric and successful entrepreneur and an advertising agency owner, Burton Browne. It was “the” place for businessmen to hang out after 5pm, where they sipped on shaken martinis and watched the girls perform on stage. My father was one of the members and was very proud of it. So was Hugh Hefner, who patterned his Playboy Clubs after the Gaslight Clubs, which operated in Chicago, Beverly Hills, New York, Paris and Washington D.C. Word is that Elizabeth Taylor frequented the Gaslight Club in New York.
The Gaslight Club on Huron Street closed its doors by the mid-’80s. By 1987, Suntory, a high-end Japanese restaurant, opened to great reviews. Owned by Japan’s largest distiller at the time, the restaurant was 9,500 square feet on two levels. It had a lounge, sushi bar, shabby-shabu room, teppan-yaki rooms and tatami rooms, overlooking the landscaped Japanese gardens. It remained in vogue for a number of years, until it lost its celebrity status.
The Huron building remained empty for a few years, until luxury residential real estate developer, Chris Carley, CEO of the now defunct Fordham Co., took over the Huron building and turned it into its sales center for the high-rise buildings he developed in the area; the Fordham and the Pinnacle. He reinvented the Huron building, once again, changing the building into a place to attract investors, potential buyers and retail operators to invest and move into his properties.
I had the opportunity to work with Mr. Carley in 2002-2006 on his many projects, including defining the Cathedral District, which is part of the River North neighborhood. We created the Cathedral District Association, which sponsored children’s juried art fair where 20 Chicago private and public schools attendees displayed their art work with ages ranging from kindergarten through high school.
The 15 East Huron building has had many addresses, including 11 and 13 East Huron, yet all the businesses in that location were bigger than life and contributed to the ambiance of the neighborhood. The opening of Ikram in this location is fitting for the colorful past of this real estate. It will add another chapter to Chicago history that we will read about, someday. Ikram, welcome to the neighborhood and may you carry on the tradition of being “something special” for all those that visit!