June 11th, 2019 2:58 PM
By BOB SKOLNIK
A new high-end used car showroom, with an automotive themed art gallery, could be coming to Lake and Austin in just a few months.
Eric Shropshire, a 61-year-old photographer and car nut who lives in Chicago's Uptown neighborhood is planning to transform the now closed Minit Car Wash, 7 Lake St., into a used car showroom featuring higher end, mostly German cars.
The proposed showroom will be just west of the One Lake brew pub that just opened. Both properties are owned by developer Greg Sorg, who is on a mission to transform the intersection of Lake and Austin into a destination.
"In my opinion it falls in line with what we're trying to do with that corridor, where it's a little bit edgy and hip but upscale and higher standard than what we've seen in the past few years over there," Sorg said.
Last year Shropshire started a business, Quadrant Motors, which helps people buy the cars that they want and also sell a few carefully selected cars. Shropshire wants to expand and have a showroom where he can display his company's cars for sale. He also plans on selling others' cars on consignment.
"We will probably continue to be brokers," Shropshire said. "We don't plan to ever have more than six to eight cars in stock. It's not like a traditional car lot where we just take in cars."
Shropshire and his two business partners are also German car enthusiasts. Most of the cars they will sell, at least at first, are likely to be brands like Porsche, Mercedes, BMW, and Audi. However, they are open to selling other unique and interesting cars that they come upon.
"We'll probably have more Porsches and German-inspired cars than Italians, because we're more Porsche people," said Shropshire, whose first car was a 1972 Ford Pinto station wagon and who now drives an Audi S3. "We're going to specialize more in emerging classics."
Sorg also happens to be a car enthusiast and owns a company, heritage JDM, that specializes in older classic Japanese cars. Shropshire said his business might partner with Sorg and sell some his higher-end Japanese cars as well.
Shropshire said that no cars would be parked outside overnight at the new space. He thinks being on busy Lake Street will also deter those who might be tempted to try and steal one of the cars.
"Because we're on a major street we're a little less likely to be targeted," Shropshire said.
If they acquire any exotic, very expensive cars they will likely be stored offsite.
Shropshire, who said he's also a photographer, also plans to hang high-quality fine automotive-themed art, which will be for sale, inside the showroom. This will serve as another revenue source and, perhaps more importantly, as a way to get people in the door and make them want to hang out there.
"We're trying to create this kind of community space for enthusiasts," Shropshire said.
Shropshire and Sorg will appear before the Oak Park Plan Commission this summer and are seeking a text amendment to the zoning code, because the land is zoned neighborhood commercial.
At first Shropshire thought he would open a showroom in Chicago, but one deal fell apart because of zoning issues and another because he had a bad feeling about the landlord.
One of his partners lives in Elgin, so Shropshire started looking at near western suburbs. He started calling around and cold called the Oak Park Economic Development Corporation, where Economic Development Director Viktor Shrader put him in touch with Sorg.
"If it wasn't for Viktor none of this would have happened," Shropshire said.
Shropshire's sister lives in Oak Park and he has two friends who own businesses in Oak Park, so the village was familiar to him.
"I just felt it was a good community for us to be in," Shropshire said. "I called a couple of communities and Oak Park was the only community who acted like they were interested."
That Sorg was into cars only made things easier.
"Greg has been really great," Shropshire said. "He's a good guy to deal with and he's into cars, so I think it's kind of right fit."
The village initially had concerns about curb cuts and garage doors, but it appears that those issues are being worked out. The village will apparently allow one curb cut so that cars can be moved in and out of the showroom and glass garage doors will be installed.
The shell of the car wash will remain with the waiting area serving as an office. The mansard awning will be replaced with brick.
Shropshire hopes to open the show room and start selling cars in September.
Sorg, who has his offices on Austin Boulevard, said that his vision for the intersection of Lake and Austin is finally coming together and will be a boon for east Oak Park.
"There's a whole bunch of amenities that people can get to without going too far," Sorg said. "I think it's all coming together."