Breit & Johnson coming to River Forest

? Familiar name returning to Oak Park-River Forest area, sans gun sales.

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By BILL DWYER

A well known and sometimes controversial name in local sporting goods retailing may be returning to the Oak Park and River Forest area, though in a markedly different form. Mark Breit, owner of Breit & Johnson Sporting Goods in Elmwood Park, which did business on North Avenue in Oak Park for decades, is reportedly in negotiations to purchase a long-undeveloped River Forest parcel at the corner of Franklin Street and Madison.

Neither Breit nor David King, whose real estate firm is representing the current property owners, would comment on any possible developments when contacted Tuesday.

However, Breit is scheduled to appear before the River Forest Zoning Board this Thursday evening for a pre-filing conference related to a proposed structure on the Franklin Street and Madison Street site.

"It's a roughly 5,000 square foot lot," said River Forest Assistant Village Administrator Steve Guitierrez on Tuesday. "Approximately 4,000 square feet of that will be a drop off dry cleaners. The other 1,000 square feet will reportedly be a sporting goods business focused mainly on team uniform sales."

Whatever the focus of the new business, it would appear to have the support of Village President Frank Paris. Paris said last week that he has spoken with Breit  "several times" over the last few months.

"I'm hopeful he'll buy (the lot)," Paris said, adding that he believes Breit's intention is to "recapture the business Breit & Johnson had selling uniforms to local sports teams."

"I think he'll be a great business for that corner," Paris said.

One thing the new business definitely will not engage in is the sale of guns. Besides not being allowed in River Forest, Breit has had issues with gun sales in the past.

The firm was tied up in both Cook County and Federal courts for years, ending with it losing a lawsuit against the US Treasury Department in 2003 after the firm sued the ATF following revocation of its fire arms dealers license in 2001. The corporation was involuntarily dissolved in November 2001.

The old Oak Park Breit & Johnson was also accused by Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, both in the media and in the courts, of serving as a weapons pipeline for Chicago street gangs. In 1998 Elmwood Park Mayor Peter Silvestri ordered his police department to determine whether there were grounds to revoke licenses of Breit & Johnson's and another Elmwood Park gun store.

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