Sportif bike shop in Jeff Park for sale; city wanted land 10 years ago
by BRIAN NADIG
Don Zordani is looking to retire after operating the Sportif Importer Ltd. bike shop in Jefferson Park for 50 years.
A “for sale” sign recently was posted on the facade of the 66-year-old building at 5225 W. Lawrence Ave., where Sportif has been located for all but its first couple of years. The original store opened at 4711 W. Lawrence Ave.
Zordani said that his desire to operate a bike shop stems from his days as a bike racer. “I was competing at the track and started out selling bike and speed skate equipment from out of my trunk,” he said.
The 7,500-square-foot store features rows of bicycles hanging from the ceiling and sitting on the showroom floor. Zordani said that he has 850 bicycles in the store and thousands more in storage.
Over the years Zordani has noticed a change in the type of bicycles preferred by his customers. “People used to get out and ride 20 miles,” he said. “It was road bikes, with a thin wheel. Now it’s comfort bikes, city bikes, with a wider wheel that is more comfortable.” he said.
Zordani said that like any business, his store has always been for sale if someone were to offer a price too high to refuse, but he has now enlisted a real estate company, NelsonHill, to help market the business and the property. Before Sportif opened, a Jewel food store operated inside the building, which includes a basement.
One potential buyer in the early 2000s was the City of Chicago, which at the time was helping a local developer, the Mega Group, to acquire properties for a seven-story project, which was later revised to 10 stories, that never materialized. “They offered one-third of market value for the building only.” Zordani said. “Nothing for the inventory.”
Eventually the city filed an eminent domain lawsuit to take Zordani’s property, creating a controversy that received national attention.
Zordani said that he feels the city agreed to drop the lawsuit and pay his legal expenses when it became apparent that city and project officials would have to give depositions and be subject to questioning if the lawsuit were to continue.
At the time Zordani was not the only owner on Lawrence to be sued by the city, which paid $1.46 million for vacant parcels at 5161 and 5201 W. Lawrence Ave. The city is selling sell that land for $1 to Mega for a new four-story, mixed-used project, which does not include Zordani’s property.
Zordani thanked residents for their support during the city’s attempt to take his property. “The community was tremendous,” he said. “They didn’t want the project.”
Zordani said that he has not finalized his retirement plans but that the prospect of living outside of Illinois and playing cards appeals to him. He said that he is fed up with political corruption in the city and state and hopes to live outside of Illinois.