Former Officer Friendly Jim Holder is affective on with his life. So, on a brilliant abatement day, Holder, a 31-year adept of the Chicago Brand Department, enters Z.J. Sales at 5247 N. Central Ave.
Drawn in by the dejected 1963 Chicago brand cruiser that’s anchored alfresco this Northwest Side storefront, Holder, 58, chats with buyer Zbigniew “Tony” Jackowski.
“I buy annihilation to do with law enforcement,” says Jackowski.
Responds Holder, “I retired in February, and I’ve got a lot of things.”
After a abrupt exchange, Holder promises to acknowledgment to the boutique — Chicago’s alone abundance adherent absolutely to brand collectibles and souvenirs — with “a accomplished closet full” of brand gear.
“My blouse and reefer, I’m arrangement of absorbed to them,” confides Holder, apropos to his compatible jackets. “But what am I activity to do with them? They’re aloof activity to sit in my closet. They accept memories attached, but `adios.'”
Jackowski chuckles at Holder’s airy attitude: “I accept guys appear in all the time and acquaint me they’re activity to accompany (things) in, and again they change their minds and don’t.”
About 75 percent, he estimates, do not return.
If anyone understands the band brand admiral accept with their accessories and their pasts, it’s Jackowski, 53. He served on the Chicago brand force for 27 years, best afresh as a baker in the high-pressure narcotics division, afore backward in April 1999. Hints to Jackowski’s accomplished abound. There’s a account of him in uniform, on the bank and an “Authorized Brand Personnel Only” assurance aloft his appointment doorway.
Opened in June 1999, the abundance reflects Jackowski’s affiliated adherence to the brand world. A aerial fiberglass accompaniment trooper stands bouncer at the door. Inside, the abundance is arranged from attic to beam with 2,000 items, abounding with a Chicago connection. Brand buffs can acquisition aggregate from a miniature handcuffs key alternation ($1) to an 1890 Chicago brand badge ($1,000).
Jackowski’s adolescent collectors favor bargain patches, accessory pins and die-cast Road Champs cars (slightly above than Match Box cars, the Road Champs band includes an all-encompassing arrangement of law-enforcement vehicles), and he stocks array of them. For those with added money to spend, there are attenuate aged badges and cher casting adamant brand alarm boxes. Annihilation with a brand affiliation counts — artificial toy guns, lurid fiction magazines, Andy Griffith cafeteria boxes, “We don’t t and release” fishing lures.
There are Chicago P.D. covering jackets (at $200, a actual accepted item); aged ablaze confined ($150-$250) and sirens ($75-$100) from brand cars; mug shots of such belled association as Jeffrey Dahmer, O. J. Simpson, John Wayne Gacy; and memorabilia accompanying to Baby Face Nelson, Al Capone and added villains.
Trade tends to be brisk, with hotter, newer items dematerialization aural hours of actuality set out.
The abundance attracts a ambit of bodies from concern seekers to austere collectors. Local filmmaker Tony DiGuida comes in attractive for brand memorabilia for his low-budget cop flick, “The Vagrant.” “We’re authoritative a brand station. We charge backdrop for the movie, things for the wall,” says DiGuida, who is application Jackowski as a abstruse adviser on the film.
About 90 percent of Jackowski’s customers, however, are cops. And he prefers it that way. “I opened this abundance up for brand officers,” says Jackowski, who still has “copper” accounting all over his tough-guy face. There’s a agenda table and chairs, so visiting admiral can relax and shoot the breeze. Jackowski keeps cookies, hot coffee and algid drinks on duke for his guests. And although he is able and affable with civilians, his brand barter amount most, he says.
“The guys appear in actuality and let their bouncer down,” Jackowski says. “The allocution is actual candid, no nonsense. It’s about like a roll-call room. It’s a abode to vent. I’m animated they feel adequate abundant to do that in my store.”
Patrolman Tony Barsano, 33, says he’s absorbed to brand collectibles and has a basement abounding with toy cars, figurines, ablaze bars, anarchism helmets and added to prove it.
Z.J. Sales “is, to say the least, a admirable place,” says Barsano, who is off-duty and dressed in artery clothes. “There aren’t any food like this. Already a anniversary I’ll stop by afterwards cycle alarm to see if there’s annihilation new, because if he gets annihilation new, it’s in and out.”
A few added Chicago breadth shops accept approved to advertise brand collectibles but failed. They had noncombatant owners who didn’t apperceive how to amusement cops, Barsano says. But Jackowski is different. “He’ll acquaint stories. It’s not aloof a business affair with him. You appear in actuality and talk. … The added food were aloof stores.”
Careful to abstain the chat “cheap,” Jackowski calls his brand barter “frugal.” “The actuality that I accept a pension, addition antecedent of income, I can be reasonable…,” Jackowski says. “Police are a altered breed. They don’t apperception you authoritative a profit, but they don’t appetite you to get affluent at their expense.”
Jackowski, the son of Polish immigrants, has consistently harbored career ambitions above brand work. “Ever aback I came on the job — and you can’t be on the job forever; brand assignment is a adolescent man’s job — I’ve consistently capital to own a business one day,” says the ancient DePaul University business major.
Jackowski, who was aloft in the Humdt Park neighborhood, abstruse the ins and outs of the promotional-products business during his years on the force.
Working with a architect friend, he began bartering assorted brand districts and organizations with custom-built brand tchotchkes they couldn’t acquisition anywhere else. He became the go-to guy for items such as ons, pins, pens and key chains.
During a 1994 cruise to a civic brand assemblage in Washington, D.C., Jackowski absitively that brand collectibles were his calling.
“When I went there and begin how accepted the Chicago Brand Department was and how accepted annihilation police-related was, I absitively this was a appropriate alcove for me. I’m accustomed with brand work. I’m accustomed with policemen and their mentality, their nuances. I said, `There’s an befalling here.'”
Working in the narcotics division, “I was on the edge,” says Jackowski, who spent his closing years on the force bringing bottomward biologic rings. So, aback the storefront he coveted — calmly amid a the 16th District brand base — became accessible for hire and the youngest of his three sons started advancing for college, Jackowski absitively it was time to leave his all-consuming job, accessible up his boutique and booty his wife out to banquet more.
Jackowski acquires his commodity in a array of ways. Best C.P.D. gift items are custom-made.
Other new articles are purchased from manufacturers. Jackowski additionally has a trusted core of civilians who abrade barn sales, flea markets and auctions attractive for hard-to-find treasures.
One of Jackowski’s suppliers, “Burt” enters the store. To a visitor, the tattooed Burt — who sports aphotic sunglasses and a carries a atramentous attache — looks added like a doubtable than a supplier. Aback Jackowski asks him if he has any brand items, Burt responds “I cartel not accompany annihilation else.”
The accord goes bottomward quickly. Jackowski pays $17 for 10 key chains — anniversary in the appearance of a baby adhere accompanied by the name of a now-defunct burghal amphitheater with a Mafia affair — a gift Chicago bandit map and a book about the agrarian shootout canicule of the Old West. Burt disappears.
Jackowski additionally campaign the country analytic for commodity at brand collectibles shows, aged food and flea markets. The above brand collectibles shows are captivated in Kansas City, Cleveland, Las Vegas and Boston, but Jackowski himself is planning to co-host a collective brand and blaze collectibles appearance in Chicago aing June 24..
Finally, Jackowski relies on admiral and their families to accompany in items — he bluntly admits that 18-carat aged brand memorabilia is adamantine to appear by, primarily because of sentiment.
“When they absolutely anticipate about it, best adopt to authority on to things,” he says. “Most guys are still captivation on because there is a tie, there is a affiliation to the past.”
Officers are decidedly absorbed to their handcuffs, batons and rules and regulations books, Jackowski says. “They’ve had that accessories with them so continued it becomes allotment of them.”
Family associates additionally are careful of their admired ones’ brand gear. Aback brand admiral die, spouses and accouchement tend to absorb these backing until they are accessible “to bisect ties with the past,” Jackowski says. Aback ancestors associates are assuredly accessible to sell, they “want to get [the gear] aback in the easily of brand officers,” Jackowski says.
And brand admiral are afraid to get these items aback in their hands. Jackowski keeps alone one-third of his absolute account in the shop, in allotment for amplitude considerations. But additionally because “if I lay out aggregate at once, guys will t up everything.”
What he anticipation would be a amusement is fast growing into a absolute job for Jackowski.
“I’m complex in too abounding facets of it for it to be aloof a amusement anymore.” This month, he’s ablution a Web site, www.copcollectibles.com.
Still, he says, ambidextrous with collectors is far added adequate and acceptable than arresting abyss for a living. And he doesn’t absence actuality one of Chicago’s finest.
“I’d apparently absence that if I was a retired noncombatant active up in Wisconsin, but I accept acquaintance with alive brand admiral every day,” he says. “I’m still connected.”
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