A restaurateur is reducing staff at a wine and sake shop in Lincoln Square
It’s been three months since Chicagoans learned that Entente, the Michelin-starred restaurant run by chef Brian Fisher, would not be reopening in River North. The lively new American spot will soon be supplanted by Obélix, a future French restaurant from chefs and brothers Oliver and Nicolas Poilevey, whose parents founded La Sardine and Le Bouchon. But Ty Fujimura – the restaurateur behind Entente, sushi favorite Arami and neighborhood pub SmallBar – has had time to get used to the new situation.
In February, Fujimura unveiled its latest venture: Rockwell Bottle Shop & Coffee, an outlet offering wine, beer and sake, as well as filter coffee and packaged snacks at 4634 N. Rockwell Street, near the CTA’s Rockwell Brown Line L stop.
“I’ve always wanted to do something to take what we’ve learned — like Arami’s sake, wine at the Entente — and channel it to the retail level,” he says. “I thought about how we translate hospitality into a retail experience. It is an interesting exercise.
While he hopes the bottle shop will become a destination for wine and spirits lovers across the city, Fujimura’s primary focus is catering to those in his immediate sphere – the residents of Lincoln Square, as well than passengers on the Brown Line who fill up on caffeine for the day. or relax with a glass of wine on the way back. Although it’s not a bar or cafe, Rockwell allows customers to take a seat at the long counter and sample most of its selections before purchasing.
At just under 1,500 square feet, the simply designed space strays from the ultra-hip aesthetic seen at Entente and Arami. Long and narrow with natural bamboo floors and a light wood bar running the length of the space, it currently seats four in the front retail section (more may be added later) and offers tables and lounge seats aft. Fujimura also hid a few treasures everywhere, including relics of past projects that he dug out of storage like a vintage “banger” cash register he swapped two decades ago. “We resurfaced some of the scenery from the Entente and my family’s farm,” he says. “Found my first mixtape, fun little kitschy shit like that.”
Pleased with the positive response he’s received from neighbors, Fujimura sees Rockwell as a welcome relief from the typical trial runs of opening a restaurant. “Some of the struggles we’ve had to face with other concepts — labor, food costs — we don’t have to worry about,” he says. “Now that he’s come to life, I’m really proud of him. It’s a model that could be put in other neighborhoods, but I’m just glad it’s great.
Rockwell Bottle Shop and Cafe4634 N. Rockwell Street, open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.