Rare Car Galleria to Open After Pollution Cleanup

Chemical leak from a nearby dry cleaner forced a 5-year delay in startup's plans in Kenilworth.

Tom Snellback scoured the North Shore for years to find a second location for his Chicagoland auto-detailing business, The Last Detail. 

Although The Last Detail has 54,000-square-feet of space to store and maintain luxury cars in North Chicago, most of its customers reside in Cook County, not in Lake County. To better serve his clients, Snellback wanted a galleria on the North Shore where he could show off and sell a few cars, as well as do minimal maintenance and provide better service to his customers to the south.


While Snellback nearly purchased the old Midas shop in south Winnetka, he eventually found what he was looking for in the 600 block of Green Bay Road in Kenilworth. The building has housed an auto repair shop for decades, but its most durable feature was the sturdy rafters overhead.

“The character of the barrel-shaped ceiling is why we purchased it,” said Snellback, who bought the property in 2006. “They don't make buildings like this anymore.”

Then came five years of delay. This fall, after zoning changes and chemical cleanup that caused the delay, The Last Detail's satellite shop is set to open in October or November. 

Following the village's changes to its zoning in 2006 to allow for galleria auto sales—but not large, open auto sales lots—Snellback conducted what he thought would be a cursory environmental review.

“There were a couple in-ground storage tanks for spent fuel and oil,” he said. He knew those would have to come out.

But then he found something more troubling. A toxic dry cleaning chemical, identified as perchloroethylene or perc, had leached out years ago from a dry cleaning business that was located at an adjacent property, which is now occupied by the new Sherwin-Williams paint store.

“That leaked onto our property and it took a long time to restore,” Snellback said.

Perc, which is still in common use by many dry cleaners, may contaminate for years. The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency has authorized the cleanup of about 500 such sites since the late 1990s.

Neither Snellback nor the adjacent property owner was around when the contamination occurred, but a court eventually determined that the owner of the plot where should clean up the contamination.

The perc has been removed from the auto galleria property, but Snellback was forced to scale back his plans. “By the time the environmental stuff was done, the economics changed,” he said.

The businessman had intended to add onto the 5,100-square-foot building, but now will just maintain an outdoor courtyard between his building and Sherwin-Williams.

Once opened, The Last Detail will show off cars from the 1920s through the 1950s, as well as rare European models like Maseratis and Ferraris. The back half of the building will be reserved for detailing, oil changes and car washes, and the front half of the building will be ringed with French doors to showcase the rare automobiles and let the natural light to filter in.

“Some cars truly have to be seen to [be] appreciated,” Snellback said.

The courtyard will showcase some cars for sale along with the indoor galleria along the street. Customers seeking maintenance to their vehicles will come into the business from an alley.

“We're excited to see a building that is now vacant for five years come to be a reality,” said Kenilworth Village Manager Bradly Burke.

Burke said The Last Detail would continue the restoration of the Green Bay Corridor, which has seen several new businesses pop up since 2006.

The smaller building will also have its own benefits said Snellback, who noticed a lot of light coming in from the south and east sides of the buildings. He removed more of the walls and added windows along the new courtyard space.

“There's no electricity in here yet, but there's so much light coming in the building,” he said.

Stay tuned to Patch for more on the story. Like Wilmette-Kenilworth Patch on Facebook to join the conversation.


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