Why Pilsen is the ‘perfect place’ for Mike Magee

When Magee set out to build a distillery/tasting room (complete with a street soccer field) for the Sneaky Fox vodka he created in 2018, Pilsen drew him in because it had the kind of property he needed but also has stayed true to itself.

SHARE Why Pilsen is the ‘perfect place’ for Mike Magee

Mike Magee, seen here celebrating a goal, is building a distillery/tasting room in Pilsen.

Courtesy of the Fire

Mike Magee is a Chicago guy. Yeah, he also played for the New York Red Bulls and LA Galaxy, but Magee’s love for his hometown never waned.

He also has an understanding of the city. So when he set out to build a distillery/tasting room (complete with a street soccer field) for the Sneaky Fox vodka he created in 2018, there was a neighborhood that drew him in, one that had the kind of property he needed but also one that’s stayed true to itself.

“Pilsen is incredible,” Magee told the Sun-Times. “I thought it was the perfect place, the perfect people. It totally embodies Chicago, and the building suited that. Pilsen felt right.”

Magee hopes the tasting room and soccer field at the 10,000-sq. ft. space will be available by July 1. And when it’s finished, Magee doesn’t see himself being just another business owner. He’s eager to be an active part of the area, is already engaging with local charities and wants give people another place to congregate and have fun.

“We want to totally ingrain ourselves in the entire community and see an opportunity,” Magee said. “Being born and raised in Chicago has stuck with me everywhere I’ve went. I lived in LA and New York and all I do is tell people how Chicago is the best city in the world. I saw an opportunity to make it even better.”

During the 2014 and 2015 seasons, it was clear how much the Fire’s poor record grated on Magee and how much he savored their rare triumphs. Knowing that, it’s no surprise Magee is attacking his business this way.

“Growing up in Chicago, I’m so biased towards here, I didn’t really want to do anything small,” Magee said. “I’ve taken this on with the same passion I did playing, and I think building a distillery in Chicago, helping improve the community and devoting my time to not only creating a business but creating a space for the city of Chicago and this community to come together. 

“After a couple [challenging] years, if I can bring some joy to people and open that space, I think it will be really special to a lot of people.”

As busy as Magee is with building a company, he still has time for the Fire.

Following his retirement from soccer after he spent the 2016 season back with the Galaxy, Magee was a little burnt out from the game. Injuries had taken their toll, and he needed a break from the sport that brought him two MLS Cup titles in LA and the 2013 league MVP award with the Fire. But around two years ago, Magee caught himself yelling at the TV again during a match. 

Like he was growing up, Magee is now a full-blown Fire fan (while also supporting the Galaxy) that roots, cheers and gets upset during games. So far, he’s impressed with what he’s seen from coach Ezra Hendrickson and the 2022 group, who entered the international break tied for second in the Eastern Conference while making people wonder how good his team can be.

“I’d hate to put any pressure on them,” Magee said. “I think what Ezra’s done and [assistant coach] Frank Klopas, is awesome. The guys have bought in.”

Magee is confident he can make the same kind of impact in Pilsen.

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