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CROWN POINT — Just days before its grand opening, the owner of the Crown Antique Mall was given the final OK from the City Council to begin business.

Mark Kratkoczki, petitioner and the owner of M.J.B. Auction Services, went before the council Monday seeking a use variance allowing retail operations at the new location closer to Interstate 65, which is zoned as an industrial district.

The Crown Antique Mall, which houses former vendors of the historic Old Town Square Antique Mall, is at 545 E. 110th Ave. in the Crown East Business Park just off the 109th Avenue exit from I-65. The 10,300-square-foot building can accommodate about 80 vendors and features 55 parking spaces.

Kratkoczki said he was relieved when he received a 7-0 vote of approval from the council.

“I had more than 50 people counting on me and who trusted enough in me to follow me into this new adventure. Without their support I wouldn't be where I'm at today,” Kratkoczki told The Times after the meeting. “We can't wait to open our doors officially.”

The council vote came after a 3-1 favorable recommendation was given by the city’s Board of Zoning Appeals. Conditions included a six-month probationary period with no parking allowed on the sides of the building or in the street as well having a rear entrance with parking.

At its recent meeting, BZA member John Marshall told the owner of the new antique mall he would need to “have enforcement and (add) extreme signage” and “get the parking under control and police it yourself.”

The council agreed with the BZA’s six-month probationary period, but voted to eliminate the other conditions after agreeing the parking enforcement would be a city issue and not something Kratkoczki can legally mandate.

I never want to place the city in a position of jeopardy when we look at or review the actions of the lower boards that make recommendations to you that are advisory in nature. When we look at this, I see … that we would be vying a lawsuit if we went along with these conditions,” City Attorney David Nicholls said during the council meeting.

Crown Point Mayor David Uran said he supported the legal team’s findings and believed opening the store would greatly benefit the city.

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“Historically the Antique’s sales in Crown Point have been very, very popular. They have drawn in a lot of tourism to our city,” Uran said. “As the mayor, I don’t want to lose that thought process of people coming in here to spend their money and using their disposable income and then going else places to support our town’s retail.”

Before the official vote, the board did go back in forth on the fact that the new building would be in an industrial district.

Councilwoman Carol Drasga said she was in shock when she recently drove past the property and found that vendors have already moved in.

“I was stunned with the audacity that these vendors moved into a building that we haven’t approved,” Drasga said. “It’s industrial and I don’t see the point in starting retail in an industrial zone. … This is retail. It has no business being there. I was extremely offended that they just moved in and they didn’t get the OK. They are packed in there.”

Kratkoczki told the council he secured the warehouse building the day before the historic Old Town Square Antique Mall closed downtown on May 31. Since then, he has been bringing over some of the employees and issued an open invitation to all the vendors to relocate there.

“I was trying to find something big enough to hold all of us and that was my only option,” said Kratkoczki, also a former vendor of the old antique mall. “Everyone had to take their stuff out and they had nowhere to take it. That’s why we are in their sooner than we wanted to be. … It’s all new to me. I jumped in and just wanted to give these people somewhere to go.”

Council President Chad Jeffries did point out that there are already some retail businesses within the industrial district. He said he had no issue with having a mix in the area.

“I would like to see all the antiques. I have family members that love shopping there. Fortunately the (older) building is being rehabbed but unfortunately you guys had to find another place to go,” Jeffries said.

The Crown Antique Mall will open at 10 a.m. Saturday. The grand opening celebration will include a car show, free food, live musical entertainment and a dunk tank.

Business hours are from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.

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Allie covers South Lake County municipal government, development and breaking news for The Times. She comes to the Region from Lebanon, Indiana. She is a proud Ball State University graduate.