The Silver Room is finally saying goodbye to Wicker Park, its home for the past seventeen years.
With The Silver Room’s lease up for renewal and a pending doubling of the rent, owner Eric Williams is moving his iconic store and community spot south to Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood.
“People here that think Wicker Park is cool,” Williams told 5 Magazine. “It’s all these corporate people and they want to be a part of that and pay whatever amount to be here now. That space across the street? Eight years ago the rent there was $1200-1300 a month. Now it’s $8000.”
Hyde Park’s gain is Wicker Park’s loss. The Silver Room was more than just a clothing store that sold one-of-a-kind silver jewelry, accessories, clothing and music. It was a bastion of culture, cool and ethnic identity. Every summer, Eric along with DJ/Producer Ron Trent would hold the Silver Room Block Party, bringing in some of the biggest acts in House, Hip-Hop and Soul. Artists would paint along the walls, people would dance to three stages of music and a strong sense of community was fostered amongst everybody.
“In Hyde Park, I can now do more art stuff, more cultural events, book readings and signings, poetry events,” Williams says, “and I think that Hyde Park will get it even more so. People would tell me that they only come to Wicker Park for The Silver Room.
“Hyde Park is a neighborhood that I’ll feel more a part of and more comfortable with. It’s university people, it’s a little more of a diverse mix, it’s older people so I’m really excited about our moving there.”
The Silver Room Block Party is No More
What about the fate of the Silver Room Block Party?
“I’m not going to do it!” Williams says. “That block party became a big burden. The first year, me and Ron took extension cords out the window, made a makeshift stage in the alley and Ron played, Jesse de la Pena, Peven Everett, Eric Roberson, Jojo Flores was in town and they all played. We had a lot of fun! The next year Cool Herc played. We’ve had so many people perform since: Amp Fiddler, Monique Bingham, Lady Alma, Timmy Regisford, Joe Claussell, Danny Krivit, Joi Cardwell…”
As the block party grew from a few hundred to several thousand people, “it became a huge burden because it was never intended to be that big. I can make this thing for the community, but I also wanted a bigger sound system, you need gates, porta potties. It cost a lot of money!
“For the first ten years it was completely free. I mean I lost thousands of dollars. I came out of pocket around $5000 to $7000. A big reason it was so much fun was because there was no big banner with a Coca-Cola logo on it. I was being naive thinking we could actually finance it ourselves.
“My thought process was if we have 5,000 people, and everybody chips in $5, I can throw a good party. But nobody wanted to pay! But then they’ll go down to 7-11 and buy 20 cases of liquor. So we went to 7-11 and said, ‘Look, you guys are making tons of money off of this. Can you sponsor, can you give us $500, something?’ Same thing with Native Foods. Nothing! The people around the neighborhood are making money but I’m doing all the work.
“This thing takes months to plan. I mean it seems very chill and organic but that was intentional. We just kept losing money. No one can pay $5?
“I tried to get some sponsors but they wanted to change what I was doing. I said no, I don’t want corny music, this is the music that I want. I’d just rather not do it.”
One thing he is doing new is starting what is called the Silver Room Community Card. For $17 you get 17% off any purchase for the entire year. If he can sell a lot of these cards, these can help in funding different projects throughout the year.
Eric will be opening up a small men’s store at the 1410 N. Milwaukee location at the end of April, and the newly relocated Silver Room will be at 1506 E. 53rd Street in Hyde Park, opening Thursday April 2nd 2015. In the meantime, The Silver Room will be having its final going away event at its Wicker Park store on Friday and Saturday, March 27 & 28th; you can find out more information at the Facebook event page.