Boutique owners say smells from barbecue joint are smoking them out
By Jane Michaels Sun-Times Media firstname.lastname@example.org February 9, 2012 5:02PM
Urban Sole, a downtown LaGrange clothing store is closing. The owners don't like the odor from Q BBQ restaurant next door. | Rich Hein~Sun-Times
Updated: March 11, 2012 8:49AM
The sweet smell of slow-smoked barbecue can get mouths watering, send appetites into overdrive and derail even the most determined dieter.
But for Honor Lorenzini and Mary Kral it’s enough to make them close their Urban Sole boutique in La Grange.
They say the constant odors coming from the Q BBQ restaurant next door are forcing them to close the shop, which sells shoes, clothes and accessories.
“Everything smells like smoke or barbecue. We can’t dry clean clothes before we sell them,” she said.
Some customers have event returned items because of the smell, said Lorenzini, who tried masking the odors with air fresheners, but that made the problem worse.
And after a year of trying to work with the building owner and restaurant owner, she and Kral are giving up.
“I know there were solutions; they didn’t want to spend the money,” she said.
That rubs Q BBQ owner Michael LaPidus the wrong way.
“We have gone above and beyond in putting in a $6,000 exhaust system that gets the smoke up into the air faster, and it’s just unfortunate that they’re closing,” LaPidus said. “It’s unfortunate they’re going out of business, and they’re desperate and trying to lay the blame on everyone else but themselves. I wish them well.”
Lorenzini and Kral had another location in Hinsdale before closing it in 2008.
“We did OK with the recession by consolidating to one store to survive,” Lorenzini said.
About a year later, LaPidus turned his Roly Poly sandwich shop into a barbecue joint.
After two years of dealing with the odors from the restaurant, grease began streaming down the boutique’s back wall from the ventilation system, Lorenzini said.
“That we are forced to close our doors due to these issues is unfair to us and the shoppers that have supported us with their business over the past seven years,” she said.
LaPidus said he’s not interested to taking over the boutique’s space to expand his restaurant, but will be opening another Q BBQ in another community, which he will announce in the next two weeks.
“I’ve been open for 2½ years. In all honesty, if smoke was the only reason for the business shutting down, why aren’t they moving to another location?” he said.
Plus, he said, his restaurant isn’t the only place on the block that emits odors. There’s an ice cream shop and a theater among other nearby businesses.
“In this building you have the smell of waffle cones and popcorn and burgers.”
Lorenzini said relocating is expensive.
“It takes a lot of money to relocate and build out, and I’m a little afraid this could happen again,” she said. “Mary and I have worked too long and too hard on this store. We need a break and a breather.
“We should have stayed in Hinsdale.”
Lorenzini, who has been active in promoting the summer outdoor art program and other events of the La Grange Business Association, worked closely with LaPidus in the past while he was president of the La Grange Business Association. Urban Sole has won awards as an outstanding business and for being of service to the business community, she said.
Patrick Benjamin, community development director for La Grange, said the grease problem is more of a maintenance issue between landlord and tenant than a public health concern.
The village attempted to resolve the smoke issue as well, but the solution appeared to be expensive, Benjamin said.
He said Urban Sole and its owners will be sorely missed.
“It was a wonderful store, and they’ve given so much to the community,” Benjamin said. “Honor has been outstanding and Mary as well.
“She’s phenomenal in her field with a product people like, and she knows how to market and discount it.”