Joe Gaberik always had big plans for Riverside Works. When he and his brother bought the building at 39 E. Quincy St. in Riverside in 1970 it was a wreck. Over a period of five years,
the two overhauled it and created a one-of-a-kind space – a combination antique auto museum and machine shop that was part business and part gathering spot.

Through the years, the 77-year-old Gaberik dreamed of creating a retail space in the front of the store. A spiral staircase was supposed to have connected the ground floor with space on the second floor, which the Gaberiks built out.

While that never materialized, Riverside Works continued with its bread-and-butter business – designing and making product prototypes for lighting and other companies; crafting reproduction parts for music machines, clocks and automobiles; creating special awards and selling antique mechanical equipment.

A typical example of the work – small, hollow, oval brass rings, stamped out by a machine that dates from the 19th century. Gaberik sells them to the Higgins Glass Company, next door, which fuses glass around them and makes mobiles with the pieces.

But not for much longer, in Riverside, at least.

The building housing Riverside Works was sold last week to a group investors with local ties.

One of those involved in the purchase is Charles Pipal, a local architect who is chairman of the Riverside Preservation Commission. Pipal is also part owner of the Higgins Glass space, which is next door to Riverside Works.

Originally, the properties were all one building, a Chandler automobile agency. The Higgins space, with its terrazzo floor, was the show room.

Pipal has done restoration work on the façade of the Higgins building and wants to do the same at 39 E. Quincy. He also said he didn’t want to pass up an opportunity to unify the building.

The investors paid around $330,000 for the property, according to Pipal, who said the next step is to do some restoration work and then begin marketing the space to tenants. The deal closed on July 20.

“An arts-related use would be a great idea,” said Pipal. “It would also be a very nice space for a restaurant.”

The interior of the building would need a lot of work, said Pipal. It has no plumbing, a simple radiant heating system and no air-conditioning. In the current market, Pipal said he doesn’t expect to have a new tenant right away.

While he said he feels bad that Gaberik will be leaving the space, he said that with the building up for sale, it would be inevitable.

“Regardless of who purchased the building, that would have been the case,” said Pipal, who added he was approached the buy the building. “The alternative is that it would have gone up for sale with a Realtor and the unification of the building would not have been possible.”

Gaberik didn’t sell the building, because he no longer owned it. In March, according to documents filed with the Cook County Recorder of Deeds, ownership transferred to Riverside resident Glenn Windstrup.

A phone message left for Windstrup at his home by the Landmark went unreturned.

Gaberik declined to get into the specifics of the ownership transfer, but he regrets the change and says he should have sold the building in 2005 shortly after his brother Paul’s death.

“The building became quite valuable,” Gaberik said last Friday evening, sitting at his desk trying to catch up on a backlog of work and trying to hammer out a deal to relocate his business.

“My misfortune was not selling when Paul died. People were waving money at me. Now it’s worth a fraction of what it was.”

According to Gaberik, he was initially told he’d be able to stay in the building for over a year. But about three weeks ago that changed. With a sale pending, he had two weeks to get his equipment into the rear one-third of the building. By the end of October he is to be out of the building completely.

Since the beginning of the year, Gaberik has been selling some of his collection and putting the rest in storage until he finds a new location.

“I sold all the cars I had except for the 1968 Dodge van and the 1921 White truck,” Gaberik said. He likes the van, because it’s a multi-tasker. He can enter it in classic car shows and also sell auto parts out of it at the same time.

Gaberik said he’s not looking for 5,000 square feet these days. Between 2,000 and 3,000 square feet should do it, he said. He said he also has no plans on retiring. Gaberik does the production work himself, sending out pieces to subcontractors to do things he’s not equipped to do, like plating and engraving.

“I do the design and practically all aspects of production,” Gaberik said. He’s the company’s remaining sole employee.

“My brother was my last partner,” he said.

At the time the Gaberiks bought the building in 1970, 39 E. Quincy St. housed a body shop. Both Joe and Paul Gaberik worked at the Ellis Engineering Company in Chicago. Joe was the shop manager, while Paul did purchasing.

Joe and his wife, Rose, also owned and operated the Stardust Lounge, a tavern in Gaberik’s hometown of Berwyn.

At the same time, Paul and Joe, after turning out the body shop business, personally rehabbed the Quincy Street property. They spent months demolishing the existing concrete floor and then poured the floor still there today. Then, quitting Ellis Engineering, they set about housing their antique cars and creating their unique business.