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A Brooklyn native, Mark Weglarz opened Metal

Haven in July of last year after a seven-year stint heading Tower Records' midwest regional security office. The job was swell, he says, but a mission beckoned. A devoted metal fan, Weglarz was tired of having to comb record stores for his favorite releases. "I'd shop all over the city and suburbs for metal, and not one place had everything I wanted," he says. "I wanted to open a store for metalheads run by a metalhead."

He rented a spot near the intersection of Clark and Belmont. "From the east, the north, and south, this is central, jetting out in all directions," he explains, waving his arms around. "I wanted to be in an area where a lot of kids come, especially from the suburbs." One of Weglarz's buddies, John Shirey, says, "I've been looking for 15 years to find a Helloween shirt. I finally got one. This store is a dream come true." T-shirts showcasing sin and destruction hang overhead and drape the walls. Piles of CDs tower atop the checkout counter, waiting to find a home on overflowing racks. "I'm already out of space," says Weglarz, 31. "There's just so much metal from all around the world and no room for it all."

Despite the merch and the prime location, it hasn't been easy. "The first year, I worked 180 days in a row," Weglarz says. Now he moves a fair amount of the stock, mostly death metal and black metal CDs, and manages to break even. "It's doing enough to exist, basically," he says. "I can't afford to hire anybody or pay myself a salary. I knew going into this that I wasn't going to get rich. I'm not here trying to rip anybody off."

Weglarz has been into metal for more than 15 years. "Master of Puppets, Piece of Mind, and Number of the Beast came out sort of at the same time, and I was hooked," he says, referring to classic albums by Metallica and Iron Maiden. "These are masterpieces." He also liked glam rock "back in the day," and he's not ashamed to admit he's listened to Christian metal. "I went to three Stryper shows," he says. "The beauty of metal is that there is always heavier and faster stuff, and gradually you get into the heavier and sicker shit." He doesn't indulge much in chemical depravity. "A lot of metalheads have to drink and smoke pot, but drinking for me is infrequent. My only vice: metal."

A Venom CD blasts from the sound system. "I love that shit," says Weglarz, attacking an air guitar. He remembers the time he went to a Bulls game wearing a Witchery shirt featuring a bare-breasted nun posing as Christ. A mother with her daughter "gave me one of those looks," he says. "Yeah, baby, that's the response I want. Mothers and fathers, hide your sons and daughters!"

Metal Haven, 604 W. Belmont, is open Tuesday through Saturday noon to 9 PM and Sunday 1 to 6 PM; closed Monday. Call 773-755-9202.

--Laurent Lebec

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Eugene Zakusilo.

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