2014 – Crain’s – A life of excess: Stuart Grannen of Architectural Artifacts


By LAURA BIANCHI

Stuart Grannen, 57, is founder of Architectural Artifacts Inc., an 80,000-square-foot antiques store in Ravenswood. He lives in a converted charcoal factory loft on the North Side. His stock includes stained and beveled glass, period lighting, gargoyles, griffins and church artifacts—and some limestone columns from the old Chicago Mercantile Exchange—thousands of pieces in all.

Your most exciting find? I found the estate of (early 20th-century metal worker) Jose Thenee in Buenos Aires, the best of his kind in the world. At first my dealer wouldn’t tell me where he was getting the pieces, but he owed a huge favor to a friend of mine. We told him the favor would be forgiven if he would tell me his source. After that I had a tough, multiweek negotiation, but I bought out his estate: hundreds of iron pieces and tens of thousands of drawings. I did very well.

You almost died from drug use and other adventures in the ’70s. Do you have a death wish? No, I was always just curious about things, and I like excess.

 

Example? I was a cocaine addict for many years, and I had a heart attack in my 20s. My family threw me in a hospital, and eventually I smartened up. In July I will be 30 years straight.

 

Another close call? Once I was kayaking on a river in Nepal after a huge flood. It was very technical and man-eating. I got caught in a giant hydraulic (hole) and then a 100-foot-long standing wave. I was “swimming” for quite a while, and nine-tenths of the way gone. After that I only kayaked once more. I didn’t want to die.

In what other excesses do you indulge? I run marathons all over the world. I’m training for the 56-mile race in South Africa June 1.

Favorite place for dinner? Irazu on Milwaukee Avenue. It’s a Costa Rican restaurant that’s a step up from a dive. I get a little steak with plantains and rice every time, and their pomegranate shakes are spectacular.

Your favorite film? “Tribes” with Jan Michael Vincent. He’s a hippy who gets drafted, but he beats the system.