In a video from 1987, beloved East Side pharmacy Oriental Drugs is continually described as a “crossroads.” “It’s interesting,” says one woman. “It’s a crossroads. Everyone comes here at one time or another.” Oriental Drugs closed in 1995, leaving the corner of North and Farwell avenues anything but a “crossroads” for decades. Multiple tenants came and went. Ever since the closure of Rosati’s in March 2017, the space has stood empty.
But now, new life is coming to the 7,000-square-foot space—new life inspired by old life. Crossroads Collective, “a unique culinary-driven food hall with multiple micro-restaurants,” is set to take over the former Oriental Drugs this October. The brainchild of New Land Enterprises owner Tim Gokhman, Crossroads Collective intends to revitalize one of the city’s most iconic—and ever-changing—intersections.
“I knew Oriental Drugs was an institution,” Gokhman says. “I underestimated how integral it was to the community, to people’s lives. It was something to everyone, and that’s when we understood why a food hall was the only correct choice. It’s difficult for a single restaurant to be many different things. But you get six different chef/owners into a space, and we think it’ll be magical. It’s the best tribute we can pay to Oriental Drugs.”
Crossroads will be managed by Cordial Consulting, a newly minted restaurant consultancy formed by Justin Carlisle and Dan Frame. It will feature six to seven vendors—some startups, some second or third locations. The space will also feature a main bar, as well as “a speakeasy accessible only from Black Cat Alley, located in a secret space inside the food hall.”
So what’s a food hall, anyway? According to a press release:
The food hall movement has been sweeping the country, but a specific definition of what a food hall is doesn’t exist. Some think of concepts like Eataly in Chicago or New York, or the Public Market. Crossroads is neither, and both. Unlike some of the larger food halls operated by one entity, the six to seven vendors will all be operated by individual owners. Crossroads is also much smaller (some have started calling halls under 10,000 SF micro food halls), and maximizes efficiency by sharing cooking, prep, cold and dry storage, as well as beverage service, in a commissary style kitchen.
The Crossroads team will be seeking out and interviewing potential vendors in the next few weeks. As for the vibe of the new space, expect a few flourishes from its Oriental Drugs past.
“We found two original cash registers in the basement,” Gokhman says. “We will continue to look through memorabilia, get feedback, and incorporate as much as we can into the design. It’s a very exciting project.”
Oh, and about the name. Per the press release:
Looking at an old video posted by the Milwaukee Record, they heard “crossroads” used multiple times to describe what Oriental Drugs was culturally and physically (given the 5-point intersection). The venture named itself right then and there.