Editor's note: This is the second and final story of a two part series that takes an in-depth look at Lincolnwood's Purple Hotel. To read our first part,
Jake Weiss was reared in real estate world and literally got his hands working for his father Joe, who had buildings in Uptown, Edgewater and Rogers Park.
“I grew up in the boiler room,” Jake remembered. “I emptied the garbage bins every day and when there was a broken pipe, I fixed it. My father taught me how to do everything myself. Knowing what a contractor has to go through gave me very good perspective on doing build outs.”
Blond and bearded, Weiss is now in his upper 30s, he says he does not know his exact age. He is raising six kids, three with his current wife, two from a previous marriage and one from his wife’s previous marriage.
. He is miffed the previous owners that let the property become the embarrassment it is today. “The problems here were not the building and not the neighborhood, they were an owner. An absentee landlord is the absolute worst thing that can happen to a property.”
As for the hotel’s sordid past that included convicted political insider Stuart Levine having drug parties there, Weiss is philosophical. “In the hospitality industry you have to constantly be doing new things to keep guests and visitors excited. If you let it sit there or worse, cater yourself to a crowd of individuals that may not have the best interests in mind for the property, not great things are going to happen.”
The 1983 gangland slaying at the hotel parking lot that took the life of Allen Dorfman, (no relation to the writer of this story), Weiss says he does not know the place of the hit, but when he does locate it, he pulls out a macabre sense of humor. “I may put up a parking sign, “Parking for Allen Dorfman only!”
The fact Weiss has the resources available to put so much time in this project is indication of the success he has had on his own. He says he tries not to spread himself out too much, instead limiting himself to a couple of projects a year.
His portfolio includes 12 commercial properties, four skilled nursing facilities and a couple of hospitality investments. Most of the time he has succeeded, but he has hit some speed bumps along the way.
“There have been a number of projects that we have gone very far down the road with that for one reason or another did not come to fruition,” he admits. “You invest your heart, soul and money into a year to year and a half into a project and then it doesn’t happen, that does drain you.”
Moreover, he has had to work with the tenants to help them through the economic downturn.
So what has he learned from the defeats?
“Don’t give up. You have to keep plowing away,” he said. “You are not going to win every one.”
One of the first things that stands out about Weiss is his yarmulke. He describes himself as “modern orthodox” in terms of the branch of Judaism he practices. He adds that gives him a “moral base” and the responsibility that in his transactions he believes he is representing all Orthodox Jews and not just himself.
“When somebody sees somebody that does cover their head, they are going to judge you by that and that gives you an eternal modern sense but also the responsibility that you are representing a bigger group,” he said.
While time is sparse given his business and family demands, Weiss is active in local community growing promoting Jewish education.
He takes whatever time he can to pursue those ventures, but he is a major project in front of him right now at the intersection of Touhy and Lincoln. He is doing it to be a commercial success and not to carve his name into the local history books.
“I’m not a name kind of guy,” he claims. “I’m happy being the guy behind the curtain. We believe your name and your reputation is very important and we have built a good reputation which is why I think Lincolnwood was excited to go on this journey with us. But at the same time it is not about putting your name out there, it is about accomplishing your goals.”
Lincolnwood Mayor Jerry Turry said one of the things he really enjoys in his relationship is that he believes he is an honest man and his handshake is his word.
Weiss says he tries to live up to that compliment in the way he does business.
“Having accountability keeps you grounded and you have a much greater sense of the big picture and we realize we are here for a defined period of time and you have to do whatever you can in that time that will leave your mark that will be good for your family and be good for people as a whole. So make it count.”