96-Year-Old Calumet Fisheries Nears Return Six Months After Devastating Electrical Fire

Must read

Calumet Fisheries, the famed smoked fish shop on Chicago’s far South Side, is nearing a triumphant return about six months since a ravaging electrical fire forced its closure.

The iconic red-roofed shack should reopen in early June at 3259 E. 95th Street, much to the relief of its fans who stop in to check on the proceedings beside the 95th Street Bridge. Calumet was founded in 1928 and purchased by its current owners two decades later.

“Every day we get a new set of people coming in [to ask], ‘Are you still closed?’” says GM Javier Magallanes. “I’m excited — I know we’re going to get rushed with a lot of eager customers… but the nerves are coming. I don’t want to run out of anything, I want to get them well situated.”

Despite the initial shock of the fire, which extensively damaged the roof just days before Thanksgiving in 2023, co-owner Mark Kotlick contended a comeback would happen. Sid Kotlick and Leonard Toll — Kotlick’s late father and uncle respectively — bought the business in 1948 and rapidly earned a reputation for some of the most delectable smoked seafood in town, from delicate and flaky sable to snappy shrimp and zesty pepper and garlic trout.

Along the way, Calumet managed to rise from local fame to national notoriety, a trajectory set in motion by the shack’s immortal 1980 cameo in The Blues Brothers, visible just as Jake and Elwood prepare for their gravity-defying bridge jump. The shack returned to the national stage thanks to the late Anthony Bourdain, who paid a visit in a 2009 episode of No Reservations, and the James Beard Foundation dubbed it an America’s Classic the following year.

Though Kotlick now oversees operations from Florida, he and Magallanes attest that he remains deeply involved in the business and will fly into Chicago for the reopening. “We’re going to keep things the same,” says Kotlick, eager to assuage the fears of anxious devotees. “The signs all look the same, the employees will pretty much be the same — the store’s just got a nice, clean coat of paint, new floors, and new refrigeration.”

There is, however, a noteworthy change on the horizon. When it returns, Calumet will resume cash-only business, but “it’s a credit card world,” Kotlick observes. He acknowledges that at some point, he’ll have to make the shift.

In the meantime, stay tuned for more Calumet Fisheries’ eagerly anticipated reopening.

Calumet Fisheries, 3259 E. 95th Street, scheduled to open in early June.

Calumet Fisheries

3259 E 59th Street, Chicago, IL 60617 773 933 9855

More articles

Latest article