Former Michigan Avenue sales associate battled construction accidents, COVID-19 pandemic to solidify his vintage men’s suit business in Humboldt Park – Chicago Tribune

A surprise identical twin, Richard Biasi, 52, has always fought for his own identity. He often jokes that he has the “yolk” of the egg if you ask him if he is his brother’s doppelganger.

After working more than a decade building his brand as a top seller at retail stores such as Neiman-Marcus and Bloomingdale’s, Biasi grew tired of grueling sales expectations and decided to open Richard’s Fabulous Finds, a store specializing in vintage men’s suits, appropriately enough. in a century-old building.

Her most recent revival of occasional chic saw Blasi transition to second-hand clothes after a career selling Ralph Lauren, Donna Karan and other top designers. He fought hard to bring his other talent to life, bringing a modern twist to vintage costumes.

“After racking up over $40,000 in sales at one of Bloomingdale’s pre-sale events, I was tired of living off coupon sales and deals,” Biasi said. “Guess I’m proving you don’t have to give away the store to make money.”

He found the hole in the retail market and started filling it, he said.

“When you start something, you have to invest in it,” Biasi said. “You have to find what is not offered.”

And he did – vintage suits.

Initially, Biasi frequented estate sales and collected items from people he had known over the years. Not only was he looking for costumes, but he was also keeping an eye out for other great pieces.

“Items must be wearable and in good condition. My store doesn’t smell like the dead,” he laughed, noting that everything is professionally cleaned before being placed on a sales display.

“I show my customers that vintage clothing has value,” he said.

His business, located at 2545 W. North Ave., has been in the Humboldt Park neighborhood for eight years. He recently underwent drug rehab.

And, like other Chicago business owners, Biasi had to quickly figure out how to survive the strain of the COVID-19 pandemic. He’s used his company’s patio, which offers views of the downtown skyline, renting it out to host micro-weddings, birthday parties and baby showers.

Even though things seemed to be going financially, there were several issues with the structure of the building, according to Blasi. After the 78th water leak at his store, Biasi said he decided to quit the pity party he was hosting for himself.

“I was like, ‘You’ve got to get there,'” he recounted while resurrecting mounds of frustration with the former owners of the building that houses his business.

As they attempted to make repairs to fix the problems, “they put a band-aid on everything,” he said. Once the ground began to sink, it motivated Blasi to seek funds to help restore the structure he had come to love.

He quickly sprang into action, finding help in the SBIF grant, a small business improvement fund created to help small business owners. At least $100,000 was paid to the new owner of the building, making possible a rehab, Biasi said.

The Small Business Improvement Fund (SBIF) provides funds for the permanent improvement and repair of buildings throughout the city. Offered by the city’s Department of Planning and Development (DPD) to tenants and owners of industrial and commercial properties, SBIF grants are funded from tax increment funding revenue in designated TIF districts across the city. city.

According to the SBIF website, program participants can receive grants covering between 30% and 90% of the cost of renovations, with a maximum grant of $150,000 for commercial properties and $250,000 for residential properties. industrial. The grant, administered by SomerCor on behalf of the city, does not have to be repaid.

“Whether you’re an entrepreneur chasing your dreams in a startup space or a long-time employer looking to revitalize your business, the SBIF program could be the key to your future,” reads a statement from Mayor Lori Lightfoot on the website. from the city.

SBIF has provided $105 million to more than 1,400 small businesses across Chicago since its inception in 1999, according to the website.

Before the grant was approved for Richard’s Fabulous Finds, Biasi did her homework on the property. The building’s foundations were repaired, an old water heater was replaced and repointing work was completed on the structure thanks to the grant, he said.

He also used this time to become an intimate member of the community where he does business and lives. During his research, he discovered a property on his block where an Italian restaurant once operated, and another property where the Three Stooges fruit stand operated, he said. Another Humboldt Park resident gave Blasi an old martini shaker he found on the Italian restaurants site.

In his life as a business owner, Biasi has not forgotten what he learned during his time on the Magnificent Mile. He embraces ideas about building a strong clientele and knows the power of being honest to help find the best fit and style to compliment the client, he said.

His beliefs also allowed him to be involved in the big screen. Biasi provided wardrobe pieces for the “Lovecraft Country” and “Fargo” television shows.

Richard’s Fabulous Finds, which has a 5.0 rating on Yelp, is a one-man show, where he spends his time finding the perfect men’s suit.

“When you wear vintage, you get a unique piece,” he said.

Costumes range from around $125 for pieces from the 70s, 80s, and 90s. Older costumes from the 30s, 40s, 50s, and early 60s can cost between $250 and $600. Most ties cost between $15 and $25, unless they are designs or unused pieces (unused and in their original packaging).

Sometimes it’s hard for Biasi to part with a suit, something he calls “salesman’s remorse.”

“If I love him, I know someone else will love him and he must live again.”

Editor’s note: The journalist knew the subject thanks to a working relationship during a previous job in the retail trade.

[email protected]