March 9, 2015

Wicker Park cultural hub The Silver Room relocates to Hyde Park

With a “renewed sense of energy,” retailer and arts enthusiast Eric Williams will relocate The Silver Room, his primary arts and apparel store, to Hyde Park. The move is also personal, locating him closer to his sister and 100-year-old grandmother who live on the South Side together.

Williams, a Chicago native, owns The Silver Room in Wicker Park, which he calls a “cultural hub.” The store consists not only of imported jewelry and clothing, but also an art gallery, a DJ booth, and a separately owned juice bar toward the back of the store. It also hosts film screenings and book readings. “For people who do art, they can come express themselves, whatever their art is, in the store,” Williams said. “It became a hybrid of retail/cultural center.”

The Silver Room will be relocating to 1506 East 53rd Street in Hyde Park at the end of this month.

Williams began his professional career as a stockbroker for six months before deciding to take his life on a different path. “I had a friend who had a store down the street, it was called LitX. It was a kind of place that a lot of poets and artists hung out, but it was a retail shop,” Williams said, emphasizing this experience as his debut into retail. While traveling in 1995, he met a woman from Africa who sold silver and told Williams that if he ever came to New York, he should give her a call and she could show him where to get silver, wholesale. Williams turned a profit with imported silver jewelry, T-shirts, and sunglasses, then opened The Silver Room in 1997.

“I moved to Wicker Park in ’92 and you could tell it was [a] very artsy, rural kind of hip, grungy, grimy kind of neighborhood and I really liked it,” Williams said. However, despite stable sales rates, he said that less than 15 percent of his original customer base still lives in the neighborhood.

“It’s changed drastically. [Wicker Park] was non-commercial, which was the big thing about the neighborhood at the time. You could be free. There was no corporate,” Williams said. “When they first opened a Starbucks at the corner, the [neighborhood residents] probably threw bricks through that window ten times.... That was 2002.”

Williams credits the University’s push to encourage retail as well as campus energy as big motivators for relocating his store to Hyde Park. “I love the idea of being in an area where people are learning,” he said. “Students’ energy of seeking knowledge, I just really enjoy that.”

The Silver Room will open April 2, with the official grand opening planned for April 11. A closing celebration for the current store will be held on March 28 from noon until midnight, packed with DJs and performances.