Open-and-Shut Case

World Tattoo Gallery has closed its doors once again. After reopening two months ago with plans to turn the gallery system on its head, the gallery was evicted from its space at 1255 S. Wabash when a rent check written by gallery manager Jonathan Stein bounced.

Stein, a former employee of the Carl Hammer Gallery, was brought on board by Tony Fitzpatrick, who founded World Tattoo five years ago. When he relaunched the gallery last fall with a show of works by himself, Ed Paschke, and Wesley Kimler, Fitzpatrick planned for World Tattoo to take no commissions on sales. Under a revised “collective management” plan, whenever a painting was sold payment would be made directly to the artist, who in turn would pay Stein a commission. According to Stein, his commissions averaged between 15 and 20 percent.

Fitzpatrick says he chose Stein to run the gallery because he was impressed by his previous efforts at Carl Hammer and because Stein promised to bring considerable financial backing to the business, including $16,000 that was needed to pay the gallery’s rent for 1995. In order to secure a low monthly rate, World Tattoo had agreed to pay the rent in one annual chunk, due before the end of 1994.

Fitzpatrick first began to have doubts about Stein’s management of the facility several weeks ago when he learned that Stein had booked a rave party in the gallery. Although it would have brought in only a small amount of additional revenue, Stein says, the party would have raised the gallery’s visibility. Fitzpatrick canceled the event. “You don’t do that in a space where you have Paschke paintings hanging,” he says.

About two weeks ago, Fitzpatrick says, he started asking Stein harder questions about his financial backing and other matters related to his management of the gallery. “Trying to get the truth out of Jonathan was not easy,” says Fitzpatrick. Stein admits that he lied about his ability to pay the $16,000. “When demands were put on me for financial resources, I dropped the ball,” he says.

Though the South Wabash site is history, Fitzpatrick says World Tattoo will reopen, perhaps in a space on the near west side.

More Casualties

As part of the chain’s uncertain attempts to adjust to the city’s ongoing bookstore wars, Kroch’s & Brentano’s recently dismissed ten employees, including the company’s entire four-person staff of new-book buyers and one manager, along with stockroom personnel and cashiers. According to Kroch’s president William Rickman, the firings are a result of continued corporate downsizing and reorganization. In the past couple of years the number of stores in the chain has shrunk from more than 20 to only 7. The ten people let go represent an 8.3 percent reduction in Kroch’s work force. Explains Rickman: “We looked at our business plan for 1995, and we simply couldn’t justify the expense of keeping these people on staff.”

Rickman says he will take over the job of buying new trade books, while managers at each store will decide what other books to stock. “That goes along with trying to tailor each of our stores to the community it is in and make it location driven.” It’s also how Waterstone’s Booksellers operates its U.S. locations.

Rickman does not expect the bookselling competition to ease up in 1995. Later this month Border’s Books & Music will open a flagship store on North Michigan Avenue, and late this year the company expects to open a store at the corner of Clark and Broadway on the site of the Great Ace, which will be relocating to the Lincoln and Ashland area.

On the Move

The Joseph Holmes Chicago Dance Theatre left the Pilsen East Center for the Arts, its home of more than six years, last week and moved into new offices and studios in the Fine Arts Building at 410 S. Michigan, where it now shares a studio with Rosemary Doolas and the Dancespace. The Holmes company left behind an angry landlord, John Podmajersky, who claims that contrary to the terms of its lease the company informed him it was leaving on the day it moved out and did not provide 30 days written notice. “I never pressed them when they were behind in the rent as much as seven or eight months at one time, and I don’t think they have dealt with me in an honest and open way.”

According to Joseph Holmes managing director Diane Shober, the company had been exploring alternative locations since last summer, when its lease expired and it began renting on a month-to-month basis. She says the company moved because Podmajersky’s building was inaccessible by public transportation and too cold for dancers. “I talked to him continually about the need for heat and had told him all along we were interested in staying only if we could have a warm environment.” Podmajersky said he had just completed installing a new roof with special insulation at a cost of $50,000.

“I plan to litigate and vigorously enforce my rights,” says Podmajersky, who described the Joseph Holmes troupe as “the pride and joy of my real estate portfolio.”

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Armando Villa.