Much More than a Store
By: Betty Mayian
As a rule, most residential communities don’t exactly welcome the presence of a small liquor store with open arms. “Demon rum,” potentially unsavory clientèle, etc., etc.
Bell Liquors in Edgewater is a wonderful exception to that rule. Of course, what other liquor store do you know that also sports a French bakery and a charming cafe?
The structure at 6122 N. Broadway, probably built around 1910, was a mattress factory in 1970 when Chuck Yacullo rented it and gutted the insides. The business was formally established as Bell Liquors in 1971.
Chuck, the proud proprietor, grew up a stone’s throw away from Edgewater in Rogers Park. His family built their home at 6419 N. Magnolia. Chuck attended St. Ignatius Elementary School and then St. George’s High School in Evanston, graduating in 1956. (St. George’s was a Christian Brothers school that was torn down in the early 1970s.) He had a special fondness for the time he spent there and for the people he met. In fact a drawing of St. George’s is hung on one wall of Chuck’s establishment.
After St. George, Chuck went to the Christian Brothers College (where he may have learned a bit about brandy), and later to the University of Chicago, where he majored in business. Chuck and his family now live in a northern suburb, but he still feels close to this area. Many of his old classmates and friends drop by his store to talk - and have brunch on a Saturday or Sunday.
So how did Bell Liquors turn into a cafe and a wonderful place to meet and eat? In 1983, as a service to the community, Chuck saw the need for a French bakery. He decided to install ovens and make room for a bakery display case. This was a welcome addition indeed, but Chuck still was not satisfied.
The competitive nature of the liquor business in this area contributed to the reason for his next expansion. In 1987, out went more liquor shelves, and in came a cafe. A kitchen was installed; tables and chairs were added; flowers, music, atmosphere and, in June, Zinfandeli’s was born!
The Zinfandeli head chef, Kirk Sherman, is also a St. George alumnus, class of ‘67. Kirk considers the country lasagne and specialty salads his best works. Personally, I adore the French onion soup.
In the summer, Chuck expands the cafe’s service to the outdoors - with latticework trellis and a perimeter of flowers surrounding the tables. It is a very nice place to hold a committee meeting or two when the weather is right.
Small businesses aren’t easy to keep going nowadays, according to Chuck. He believes that the independent person is slowly being driven out of business by the chain stores. “How do you compete when the chains have more resources? It is difficult to keep independent and stay in business under these conditions,” Chuck says, “but so far it’s been worth it. Support and encouragement from the community you are trying to serve means a lot.”
Chuck Yacullo firmly believes he is offering the public something unique in the Edgewater community…and he’s right. A store that’s more than a store, and never less than a pleasant and neighborly place to gather with friends.