Tales of Chicago Bars as Fischman's Announces Reopening

Tales of Chicago Bars as Fischman's Announces Reopening
This craft beer mainstay will be reopening soon in Portage Park

I have a rather old piece of news here, but I did want to continue to get it out, since I had contacted people involved who were kind enough to reply. And even my late articles tend to get some look-see's, so there are people for whom this will be news.

Just one week after their final TAPPED OUT event, and after closing its doors, Fischman Liquors & Tavern announced that they have secured a new location less than a mile away. The move takes the package liquor store and bar from 4780 N. Milwaukee to three storefronts at 4050 N. Milwaukee Ave., by the Portage Theatre. The new location is scheduled to open in early 2017.

Fischman Liquors & Tavern has operated at the same spot for nearly 80 years, but was forced to move due to a rent dispute in their Jefferson Park building. Within the past few years, owners Gus and Shanna Karamaniolas turned their tavern and package store into a craft beer mecca, hosting variously themed "TAP THIS!" events, accompanied by live music and food trucks. Fischman's has also served a locus for the Chicago Fringe Festival, and has sponsored a "Kegs for Kidneys" fundraiser in support of a niece with kidney problems, and for the National Kidney Foundation of Illinois. The 2016 "KfK" was cancelled due to Fischman's impending closing, but might be able to return once the new location is settled.

According to Gus, the Fischman's name originated with Jonas Fischman, who opened a grocery and produce store and Milwaukee and Diversey in 1915. Later Fischman added liquor to his offerings, and he eventually operated five stores in the North Side with his daughter and four sons. "He did have one daughter that was born in Chicago, and her name was Irene. At the time when she had gotten married, she didn't believe in the family business, and her husband and her opened up an electronic shop across the street from the Milwaukee & Diversey location, which is Abt Electronics" (The history on Abt's web page says the wife was named Jewel, but she did in fact give her husband David $800 to start a radio store rather than go into the grocery business).

The Fischman stores eventually passed to another owner, who sold the Milwaukee Ave. location to Gus' father in 1996. The elder Karamaniolas focused on the store side of the business while maintaining the bar as a shot-and-beer place for older neighborhood residents. "We had a jukebox that played records which were 45's and all you listened to was Glenn Miller Band, Rat Pack, Elvis Presley, etc," Gus said. "Also we had a phone booth that looked like the old Superman booth. So the phone rang all day! I will tell you why, there was a guy working name George who worked for "other people," we will say, and his job was bartender and bookie. Another guy named "Old Man Floyd" would sit on the corner in the back smoking Pall Malls and drinking beer with a shot of Ten High, answering the phone and taking the bets for George. On Tuesday a car would pull up and George take a break! This was all happening at 700AM till 300PM. There were bets on everything including the Big Wheel spin on "The Price is Right," the contestants on "Jeopardy!" and even "Wheel of Fortune." It was crazy but honestly even being so young I decided to embrace it and actually enjoyed every minute of it and every story I heard from the elders. Lots of history and great times!"

Gus and Shanna bought the place in 2009 when he father retired, and he was interested in adding craft beer to the taps. "So about 9 years ago I really started my interest in craft beer and started doing more research and reaching out to breweries. At one time my wife Shanna (who I happened to meet at Fischman's) and I sent letters to over 50 breweries introducing ourselves and Fischman's. We wanted to put a face with our name, we wanted them to know we are a small family owned business and we want to work with them more. Along with the letter was a small bag of beer nuts which had a sticker on them saying 'Fischman customers are NUTS for ______ Brewery.' Before this we really never meet brand reps from breweries this opened the door to many relationships.

"Our 1st craft beers on draft were Firestone Walker Double Jack, Great Lakes Lake Erie Monster, Allagash Curieux & Goose Island Matilda. I remember my customer base at the time, which were all Miller Lite drinkers, asking "Who in the hell is gonna drink that garbage?'"

With this long-standing Chicago establishment updating its offering for new customers, and finding a new spot to stay in business, Fischman's expects to continue welcoming old customers and new friends again soon.

Filed under: Beer Business, Beer News

Tags: Fischmans

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