George Daniels knows a lot of famous musicians — from Kanye West to Beyonce — but it was members of Kool and the Gang who called him when he opened his new music store on Navy Pier.
George Daniels has long been a fixture in the Chicago music scene, beginning with his North Lawndale store, George’s Music Room, which opened in 1969. Daniels relocated to Midway Airport more than 15 years ago, but this year was forced out when the city decided to bring in new concessions as part of its renovation plans for the Southwest side airport. His new store is now open at Navy Pier.
Daniels’ said a lot of his friends in the music business have been watching to see where his iconic music store would end up. It was his deep community connections that helped him get his spot at Midway Airport. Daniels said Mayor Richard M. Daley gave George’s Music Room a prime spot in Terminal B at Midway, a big boost for a record store during the age of the internet and digital music.
But over the past few years, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has been working on a plan to upgrade Midway, and when the final proposal was released, the Department of Aviation said George’s Music Room wasn’t part of any of the bid proposals.
Despite community support and help from some aldermen, it looked like the days of George’s Music Room were over.
“I’ve been self-employed, going on 50 years. It’s kind of an odd position to be in,” Daniels said. “A guy like me, age ain’t nothing but a number. But economics is a number too, I wish I had been better prepared.”
But then a new option came up: Navy Pier, a major tourist attraction in the Midwest with tons of foot traffic. Daniels wasn’t clear on how the deal came to be, only saying “I guess I called at the right time.”
But Daniels is glad music fans won’t have to go through airport security to visit him — and he plans on bringing his celebrity friends to perform on Navy Pier.
Lauren Chooljian covers city politics for WBEZ. Follow her on Twitter at @laurenchooljian.