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One of the last vestiges of Fulton Market’s once bustling meatpacking district is moving out. Northwestern Cutlery (810 W. Lake St.), which has operated in the neighborhood for nearly 50 years, will move to a larger store in the northwest neighborhood of Norwood Park in September, after selling the property to developers.
Though the store opened in 1972, Jessica Ruhl, vice president and a third-generation co-owner of Northwestern Cutlery, says her family has been doing business in the neighborhood for even longer. Her grandfather, Henry Colonna, got his start by sharpening knives on the street for meat packers in the 1950s, before opening the brick and mortar location.
It might be easy to blame greedy landlords in the rapidly redeveloping area for pushing out a beloved family-owned business, but Ruhl says that’s not the case. “We owned the building and parking lot, so we’ve been able to stay here because we didn’t need to pay rent,” she says.
Instead, Ruhl explains that her uncle, Marty Petlicki, plans to retire soon, and they want to set it up so she can take over. “The business has evolved,” explains Ruhl.
What was once a neighborhood full of meatpacking plants that needed lots of sharp knives, has now been taken over by high-end restaurants and hotels. Northwestern Cutlery sends people to sharpen knives at the meatpacking plants that have moved out of Fulton Market, so a central location downtown isn’t necessary.
“The neighborhood has completely changed,” says Ruhl. “The pace, the density, and the construction has been amazing.”
She says that while she’s really happy for the neighborhood, the rapid development has provided some small issues for the company.
“You advertise that you have a parking lot, but the street is closed,” Ruhl says. “Every month there is a new construction project.”
The shop’s old building will soon succumb to developers, too. In the current plan by North Park Ventures, the building will be torn down, along with its immediate neighbors, to build a 21-story hotel.
Ruhl explains that it will be hard to leave Fulton Market. “We are one of the last old businesses left,” Ruhl says. While the meatpacking businesses have mostly left, the shop has a large customer base of home cooks and chefs.