Billy Corgan’s tea house to occupy former post office space in Highland Park
Billy Corgan and the Smashing Pumpkins perform at the Chicago Theater Nov. 18. Corgan announced plans this week to open a tea house near his home in Highland Park. | Sun-Times photo by Tom Cruze
Updated: February 6, 2012 8:29AM
Highland Park residents lamented the loss of a long-standing community staple last winter when the U.S. Postal Service closed the Ravinia neighborhood post office.
City officials even lobbied to keep it open, but ultimately understood it was a sign of the times — the historic decline in traditional mail volume has eliminated the need for small, nostalgic neighborhood postal offices.
The post-snail mail culture has not escaped Smashing Pumpkins front man Billy Corgan, however.
The Highland Park resident announced this week he is opening a 1930s Chinese-style Tea House in the spring — in the former space occupied by the Ravinia neighborhood post office, at 582 Roger Williams Ave.
Corgan’s sit-down tea shop has yet to be named, but his business partner, Highland Park resident Sharon Mackin-Norberg, said Friday that they have signed a multi-year lease and are currently working on the space’s design and extensive tea menu.
“We love the Ravinia business district and the Ravinia area in general,” said Mackin-Norberg, who opened the Ravinia Wine Shop across the street seven months ago. “We were drawn to this area, because it was originally an artists’ community. It felt very natural to put the wine shop here and we feel the same way about the tea house.”
Corgan has held the tea house idea for many years, she explained, but first approached her about a year ago to go into business together. Mackin-Norberg will run the day-to-day operations, but Corgan has been instrumental in selecting the teas and decorating the store.
“He’s such a strong creative force,” said Mackin-Norberg of Corgan’s plan to use French-inspired 1930s Chinese wall papers. “He’s got a great eye.”
The shop also will feature a small acoustic stage for open-microphone nights, poetry readings, intimate concerts and film lectures.
Corgan may even perform the first show. He could not be reached for comment.
Mackin-Norberg envisions the tea house to be the perfect venue for pre- or post-Ravinia Festival concert entertainment, or just a place for the neighborhood to relax.
“I have three children including a teen at Highland Park High School, and I think it’s a place she’ll look forward to going to after school,” she said. “Teens can be exposed to music they might not necessarily hear, or listen to a poetry reading, or listen to a film lecture.
“There is just a ton of possibilities.”
The tea menu will tout flavors and aromas from around the world, from greens to organics and exotics. The shop also will serve coffee.
Corgan pitched the idea personally to Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering about two weeks ago over breakfast at the Country Kitchen in downtown Highland Park.
“It seems like a great, unique concept,” Rotering said. “He has some unique ideas to bring more of a fun, cultural vibe to Highland Park. It’s neat that he wants to bring his creativity and his energy to our community.”