Chicago’s Greektown Showing Signs of Life

A late-night, four-alarm blaze in Chicago’s Greektown, on January 31, 2010 destroyed Costa’s Greek Dining & Bar, Greektown Music and Athens Grocery, plus caused considerable damage to the Pan Hellenic Pastry Shop. The remnants of Costa’s and Greektown Music have long since been demolished, and the fate of Athens Grocery  is yet unknown, however, the legendary Greektown enclave is slowly coming back to life.

Earlier this year, construction began on the much-anticipated new National Hellenic Museum, at the southeast corner of Van Buren and Halsted Streets; all 24 caissons for the new structure were installed by mid-March. According to the museum’s website, in May, the basement of the new building was framed and the foundation was poured. Water, electric, and other systems were tied into the new site. There’s been considerable progress to date on the  three-story, 40,000 square foot facility which is slated to open in fall 2011.

In April, Greektown Music relocated down the street, a few stores north of their former site, in a shared space with cell phone store Kappa Communications.

The Pan Hellenic Pastry Shop, a Greektown fixture since 1974, reopened the first week of June. The bakery had sustained substantial smoke damage. Cosmetic clean up was necessary in the front of the store. On their Facebook page, they cited the long process of getting an inspection by the City of Chicago, which was required to reopen. It finally came together, and they are back in business.

“Lots of people have been coming back. It’s great,” James Manolakos, the second generation owner, told Chicago’s The Greek Star newspaper. He and his sister Athena run the shop. “We’re up and running, almost to full capacity,” he added. He’d recently spoken to the Chicago Tribune about the importance of small, family-owned ethnic businesses. “Small shops are going the way of the dodo, but they are worthwhile. They provide a window into the culture.”

Though Chicagoans are eagerly awaiting the redevelopment of the southwest corner of Van Buren and Halsted Streets, which remains vacant since the fire, they celebrate the rejuvenation of their beloved Greektown.


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