Forest Park was a hot spot for celebrity sightings on Oct. 9 as cast and crew from the Fox television show Empire, now in its final season, filmed an episode at Danche Guitars on Madison Street. No parking was allowed on the south side of the 7200 block of Madison Street as trucks and equipment were staged there. The Park District of Forest Park hosted cast trailers, parked behind the playground and skate park on Harrison Street, for the actors to use between and after filming.
Store owner Ivanovic Danche said he was surprised when a representative from the show’s location department came by about 10 days before filming began and asked to take photos of his store. He was even more shocked when the representative called the next day to ask if Empire could film there.
The show’s location scouts, Danche said, looked at over 40 guitar shops in the Chicago area to find one “with the right soul, that felt comfortable.” They settled on Danche’s shop at 7232 Madison St. The name of the fictional shop in the show is “Moishe’s Music Shop,” and he plans to leave the decaled name on his window for at least a few days.
The experience was exciting, he said, and everyone on the Empire staff was well trained, polite and cleaned up after themselves. Danche lives above his store, so he came down several times to watch the filming. The actors were friendly. In total, the Empire crew and cast spent about 14 hours inside his store. Two of the crew members bought guitars from him.
He enjoyed meeting some of the cast members, including Terrence Howard, Academy Award and Golden Globe nominee and winner of the BET Best Actor Award in 2015 for his role on Empire. Danche also got a kick out of meeting the actor who plays the owner of Moishe’s Music Shop.
Next door store owners at Escape Factor, Jonathon Biag and Dexter Cura, also found the activity on Madison Street exciting.
“Terrence Howard was really nice,” they said. “He saw us taking pictures through our window, and he gestured for us to come outside for a photo with him.”
Danche is himself no stranger to being in front of the camera. He’s been in several documentaries about luthiers and musicians, including one by WTTW Chicago about eight years ago. Those shows, he said, had a fraction of the people and equipment that the Empire production did.
Danche opened his store in Forest Park about fours ago, moving from his previous location in Oak Park. He said he loves his job, which includes selling and repairing guitars and giving guitar lessons. He also teaches one-on-one guitar-building classes.
“People have a dream,” he said. “I can help them achieve it.” He also enjoys talking to customers and “making people happy.”
“An old man came in once with a broken Martin,” Danche recounted. “He was crying because he had the guitar for 60 or 70 years. It was very important to him, very special. I did the best repair I could. It was so good you couldn’t even tell it had been broken. When the man came back to pick up his guitar, he cried again, but this time out of happiness.”
Interactions like this, he said, feeds his passion for his business.