Casa de Puros tobaco shop interior on Friday July 28, 2023 | Todd Bannor

Casa de Puros, a cigar lounge that has been a mainstay of Madison Street in Forest Park for the past 15 years, is moving to Maywood. 

The staff was busy packing boxes and loading them onto a moving van when this newspaper interviewed co-owner Greg Walker on July 31. He insisted they were moving because the Maywood space at 1117 S. 1st Ave. is larger, has two outdoor patios and its own dedicated parking lot. The fact that it’s also a free-standing building that he and his co-owners bought outright, as opposed to leasing, helped as well.

Walker said he expects to finish moving out of the Forest Park space by the end of the week. He plans to reopen at the Maywood location on Sept. 15.

Casa De Puros, which means “House of Cigars” in Spanish, opened on the ground floor of a condominium building at 7410 Madison St. in 2008. Co-owner Tim Polk was interested in opening a shop where customers could buy and smoke cigars. Since then, the building has been modified, getting large display windows that are open during the summer. Polk previously described the shop as a “classic bachelor club style” establishment, with deep leather chairs, dark wood-paneled walls, a marble fireplace and ample ashtrays.

Since then, the ownership shifted several times. By 2020, it was co-owned by Julienne Tooles and Brandon Prince, with Walker, of Chicago’s Galewood neighborhood, originally coming in to provide financing. The Illinois Secretary of State filing currently lists Walker as the sole owner. 

Casa de Puros struggled through the COVID-19 pandemic, surviving on federal economic support programs. Business has since rebounded. 

Polk is Black, and so is Walker. Customers previously told this newspaper that African-Americans account for about two-thirds of the regular customer base. 

According to Forest Park police records, Casa de Puros was cited six times for selling cigars to underaged customers, with the last three citations made in 2022. It was cited twice for allowing customers to drink alcohol outside in 2018 and 2021. Forest Park police chief Ken Gross also said that his department “received complaints in the past about Casa De Puros and neighboring Murphy’s/Lantern Haus patrons consuming alcohol on the public way and those on motorcycles playing loud music as they were coming to and/or leaving the business.”

Walker said the move was simply about having more room to grow.

“We’re moving to a bigger and better place,” he said. “We appreciate the opportunities that Forest Park gave us.”

The Maywood building has seen several uses over the years, most recently housing the Shrimp Spot restaurant. The new space is nearly three times bigger than the current location. The staff plans to take advantage of the existing patio in the front, and there is room for another patio in the back.

Dr. Kevin O’Mara, an associate professor at Concordia University, said he’s been coming to Casa de Puros since it opened. He said a new location won’t change that.

“[The other regulars] are my friends,” O’Mara said. “It’s a great atmosphere, everybody is welcome. A lot of us have been here for each other though the loss of friends and loved ones. We’re always there for each other. [The new Maywood location] is a great space, and we’re excited about the new opportunity.”