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August 2016 SMOKESHOP 29 C hicago Gold Coast real estate mogul Fred Latsko has been in- volved with numerous innova- tive projects. But even for this seasoned developer, converting the former Il Muli- no restaurant into a cigar lounge was no small undertaking. Housed in the circa 1874 John DeKoven House—better known locally as the Biggs Mansion in the city's National Register-listed Gold Coast Historic District—the project re- quired two years of restoration and four million dollars to complete. Since the city's smoking ban took ef- fect January 1, 2008, many Chicago and business travelers have struggled finding a cigar respite away from home, Latsko explained of his vision in embarking on the project. "I know a lot of people who want to smoke a cigar, but there were really no [cigar] facilities in the city [of Chicago], and I don't like to smoke in my house," said Latsko. "I figured I'd open it up and see how it was received." The first floor retail area, Biggs Cigar Emporium, opened on Labor Day, 2014, while the members-only second and third floors, comprising Biggs Lounge, became accessible in the spring of 2015. Arriving at the corner of Elm and Dearborn Streets, visitors to Biggs feel the grandeur of the stately four-story, 15,000 square foot Victorian structure. Adding to the ambiance is the original cast iron fence that encloses a spacious patio area in front of the building. A series of small tables with wicker chairs and umbrellas allow patrons to recline and converse in comfort. Dual staircases from the court- yard connect to the ground level retail en- trance. Inside, plush brown leather chairs and couches surround the tables on the second and third floors and go well with the mahogany woodwork, used through- out the mansion. Overseeing the cigar operations as director of retail is Rhoda Bogardus. With over 35 years in the cigar business, she has built relationships with dozens of manufacturers. Spanning several dif- ferent walk-in humidors, Biggs stocks over 80 premium and super-premium cigar brands, from established manu- facturers to boutiques, that can satisfy casual smokers and discriminating cigar connoisseurs alike. A state-of-the-art Ha- vana Controls humidification and mon- itoring system ensures that all cigar in- Chicago's Biggs Cigar Emporium A Very Big Deal Chicago's Biggs Mansion is no ordinary building, and its newest occupant, Biggs Cigar Emporium & Lounge, is no ordinary cigar destination. Embracing a democrati- cally wide range of customer demographics in a one-of-a-kind "super destination," the project is a vindication of owner Fred Latsko's labor of love. >BY SETH SCHWARTZ > Left: The John DeKoven House, widely known as the Biggs Mansion, was transformed from a restaurant into a three-story cigar emporium and lounge. Above: The street-side patio. > We have people who come in from major cities and places from all around the country frequently. They said they read about us on Yelp, or heard about us from the concierge at their hotel. We've been in all the — Rhoda Bogardus, director of retail

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