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Architectural Artifacts to auction off most items, shrink Ravenswood shop

Architectural Artifacts owner Stuart Grannen shows off some of the antiques in his 30,000 square-foot showroom in Ravenswood. | Nader Issa/Sun-Times

Stuart Grannen had collected enough antique pieces and artifacts 31 years ago that he figured he might as well open a store to sell them.

Three decades later, Grannen, now a seasoned antiques dealer, is shaking things up at Architectural Artifacts, his well-known 30,000 square-foot Ravenswood showroom. He says he isn’t shutting down the store, but he’s downsizing in the hopes of following a new vision for the business.

Grannen, a New Jersey native, moved to Chicago in the 1980s and has been traveling the world buying oddities and eccentric pieces ever since. He never had plans to open a store, and that’s part of the reason he’s going smaller moving forward.

“I never was a retail kind of guy,” Grannen said Wednesday at his showroom. “It was just time for me to step back a little bit. I’ve got a lot of other projects going on all over the world.”

Video by Nader Issa

Grannen plans to partner with his store manager, Erik Retzer, to combine their tastes in a new but similar store in the same building. They’ll use about 10,000 square feet, which is about one-eighth of the showroom’s peak size in 2012.

“It’ll be very Architectural Artifacts-like, but better and more interesting,” Grannen said.

But before they can consolidate, they’ll auction off about 90 percent of the items that take up the current space. The pair has already decided which pieces to keep and which to include in the live auction Nov. 1-2. Grannen says he isn’t sad to see so much of his collection gone in one swift sale.

“To me, it’s all just things,” he said. “They’re wonderful, beautiful, aesthetically pleasing things. But they’re still just things.”

Grannen says he’ll “still be buying like crazy” for the new store — including on a trip to France in December — but he also wants to focus on other interests, such as his women’s clothing brand and some real estate ventures across the world.

But for those concerned that Architectural Artifacts won’t be the same going forward, Grannen says to stop the worrying.

“We’re not leaving Chicago,” Grannen said. “We’ll be here.”