By Sean Redmond
In October 1988, Robby Glick opened a humble little record shop in Hoffman Estates, a northwestern suburb with a population of about 50,000. With it, he found success; the shop grew, and grew once more. Glick even made the effort to book bands to come play in the space, moving CDs and T-shirts to create room for the shows. And, in the face of any trends to the contrary, Glick and his store, Record Breakers, continued to thrive.
In all likelihood, the story probably could’ve ended there: Glick continuing his store’s operations, bringing in bands and servicing suburban kids with merchandise and music until he felt ready to retire, at which point Record Breakers would either pass into someone else’s hands or maybe just close its doors amidst nostalgic reflections on a good run. But Glick wasn’t ready to let the water carry him ashore under the setting sun of his previous accomplishments. Rather, he had his eyes set on a still bigger wave: the wave of urban life, and the prospect of relocating to the larger cultural ocean that is Chicago. “To get the bands we wanted to have, we needed to be in the city,” Glick iterates. So on October 20, 2006, he closed Record Breakers and initiated the great migration south. And about a month and a half ago, Reggies opened its doors.
Reggies, for those still unfamiliar with Glick’s latest creation, is an entirely different kind of beast than fans of the old location may be accustomed to. Granted, Record Breakers, name and all, still lives on in an expansive second-floor space of a colorful brick building on State and 21st. But while Record Breakers is a draw in itself—a new record store stocked with CDs and vinyl to replace one of the countless others that have bitten the proverbial dust as of late—the most exciting part of the new Reggies establishment lies on the floor below. There, one can find Reggies Rock Club, a low-lit brick-walled and cement-floored garage-turned-concert hall, and Reggies Music Joint, a 21+ tavern with a well-stocked bar, neon-lit restrooms, long wooden tables mixed with traditional restaurant seating and booths, and a small stage tucked off in a corner in back. Together, Glick hopes the three institutions will help “rejuvenate the South Side [rock scene]” and become a “landmark music venue” for the city in years to come.
The main draw of Reggies is, of course, the music, and considering the dearth of all-ages venues across the city (and the lack of rock venues on the South Side as a whole), Reggies Rock Club looks to fill a sorely felt hole in the city’s underground scene. While Glick didn’t set out to conquer the South Side in particular—“it was a good real estate investment, we looked at sixty buildings over the year and this was cheapest”—he’s still excited by his venue’s unique position. “We have, what, the third biggest concentration of college kids in the nation?” he asks, referring to the abundance of universities in the South Loop. And if he’s worried about North Side fans being too lazy to make the short trek down—it’s literally three blocks from the Red Line Chinatown stop and two blocks from the old Chess Records—well, he sure doesn’t show it. “They won’t be lazy much longer,” friend and wine-provider Flavio Gentile pipes in eagerly. “This place is going to be a mecca.”
But, location aside, Reggies has more than enough going for it to differentiate it from the pack. Glick believes that “it’s the little things” that will keep people coming back—a claim that risks overuse to the point of meaningless cliché, but in this instance might actually hold some weight. The tables in the Music Joint, for instance, are laminated with the inner designs of old LPs, while the room is adorned with old posters and pictures of bands, running the gamut from Pavement to Sonic Youth to King Crimson, The Jesus Lizard, even AC/DC. Meanwhile, the Rock Club, with its dim lighting, wide-open floorspace, overhead balcony with benches and tables, and even the stage, cut into the wall and adorned with decorative graffiti tagging, achieves a perfect blend of low-key minimalism and subtle detail. Of course, all would be for naught if the music wasn’t worth listening to, but with the veterans of MP Productions bringing acts like Murder by Death, The Avengers and Pansy Division, as well as future shows from the likes of Juliette and the Licks and Suicide File (whose tickets have already sold out), it seems that Glick should have no problem keeping fans in attendance.
So what does Glick hope to achieve in the next few months, short of getting word out and becoming a Chicago concert staple? “Make enough money to stay open,” he jokes. Gentile chimes in with another, more serious goal—to book Iggy Pop. “We’ve got the Bob Hope impersonator,” he quips. A quizzical glance elicits the necessary link—“it’s on his rider,” Glick explains. “So if you see Iggy Pop, tell him we’ve got one.”
Reggies, 2105 South State, (312)949-0120