Wilks Communications Group is moving into the old Piggyback Tavern restaurant in Forest Park after an increase in employees squeezed the integrated marketing and communications firm out of its Oak Park space.
Wilks closed on 410 Circle Ave. in late December 2017, paying $275,000 for the property, 31 percent less than the space’s original $399,000 asking price, according to Midwest Real Estate Data. Restaurateur Rachel Dennis opened Piggyback in 2012, and closed the BBQ restaurant last summer. Dennis also owns Lake Street Kitchen & Bar in Oak Park and Randolph Tavern in the Loop.
“We have been looking at real estate for the last couple of years because we’ve been growing quickly as an organization,” said Brad Wilks, managing director of Wilks Communications. “We looked in Oak Park, downtown, all neat neighborhoods around the city of Chicago, and we found an amazing property, convenient, good for public transportation for folks, and it’s a great venue.”
Wilks said the Forest Park location is about twice the size of the communication group’s current space at 1033 South Blvd. in Oak Park. He said the firm doubled its headcount and revenue in 2017, and “we’ll probably increase by at least 50 percent in 2018,” he said. He declined to specify the company’s annual revenue but credits a loyal customer base and word-of-mouth referrals for driving growth.
Wilks has around 15 people working at its firm, with clients ranging from food ingredient corporations like Nielsen-Massey Vanillas, a manufacturer of vanilla extract based in Waukegan, to nonprofits like World Vision International, a humanitarian organization. Because food ingredient and food corporation clients are “our real specialty,” Wilks said he plans to install a test and prep kitchen in the space.
Wilks has hired Eastlake Studios architecture firm to draw up plans for how to change the restaurant into office space. He said he hopes to start construction on the 22,497-square-foot space by March, tearing out the booths and tables, replacing the lighting, updating the floor and more. Tuscan Lofts condominiums are located above the soon-to-be office space.
“We’re happy to have them in town,” said Steve Glinke, director of the Forest Park Department of Public Health and Safety. “In that particular mixed-use building, a restaurant was just a little bit too much with fumes and stuff like that. General business use in there will restore a little more peace.”