Chicago Small Business Saturday: “Time to Really Get Out”

Neighborhood groups across the city focused on small businesses on Saturday, luring shoppers with deals, live music, refreshments and more after another brutal year for retail due to COVID -19.

“Small businesses are what makes Chicago, Chicago,” said Angelica Moore, owner of Detoxxed Body in Bridgeport. “We are a city of neighborhoods, we are a city of small businesses.

Moore was among the entrepreneurs who settled for Small Business Saturday in Bronzeville, where a pop-up market for emerging operations was launched alongside a village of shipping containers that now serve as storefronts.

The annual ‘buy local’ party was also recognized in the north, where Rogers Park Business Alliance District Manager Carolina Juarez offered fresh pancakes to passers-by in hopes of getting them to visit some of the 17 participating stores. to the neighborhood’s “Love Rogers Park” promotion.

“Now is the time to really get out there and just support the small businesses in the community that have been completely devastated over the past year and a half. That’s why we kind of went all out this year, ”Juarez said.

Carolina Juarez, director of the business district of the Rogers Park Business Alliance, delivers a bag of goodies to a customer outside the new 400 Theater in the Rogers Park neighborhood.
Pat Nabong / Sun-Times

Audrey Ney, director of Common Cup (1501 W. Morse Ave.) said the cafe was closed from March to September due to the pandemic, and seeing residents return to the scene was uplifting.

“I think this is a testament to the safe space it has been for people for so long,” said the 26-year-old.

Small businesses in Illinois have been hit hard by pandemic restrictions and financial losses, with more than a third of small businesses shutting down after the first year of the pandemic, according to the conservative Illinois Policy Institute.

Cassandra Westover, owner of Homegrown Wrappings (1505 W. Morse Ave.) said the diversity of businesses still present in Rogers Park shows the resilience and robustness of the neighborhood.

“I’ve never lived in another neighborhood where I walk around and I’m like, ‘Woah, am I in heaven?’,” Westover said. “The diversity of this district, the friendliness, it’s so good. I think this translates very clearly to the small businesses that support the community. “

In Bronzeville, operators sold their goods from reused shipping containers to “Boxville,” a lot managed by the Urban Juncture Foundation at 330 E. 51st St.

People are walking around Boxville in Bronzeville on Small Business Saturdays.

People are walking around Boxville in Bronzeville on Small Business Saturdays.
Pat Nabong / Sun-Times

“One of the best things about Small Business Saturday is the hope it provides,” said Janeen Mays, marketing consultant at Urban Juncture. “People are really proud of what they do, what they create and what they offer. “

One of the shipping containers is home to Southside Grinds, which found its permanent home in Boxville in September. Before that, the company was a pop-up store that hosted parties and events.

“You see the good coming out of the community, so that’s pretty dumb,” said Will Hale, an employee of Southside Grinds.

William Hale, a Southside Grinds employee, poses in the Boxville store.

William Hale, a Southside Grinds employee, poses in the Boxville store.
Pat Nabong / Sun-Times

Inside the Black Wall Street Journey Gallery, other small businesses displayed their products on tables while a group performed in the center of the storefront. From plants to herbal holders, from aromatherapy to skin care, the pop-up hosted a variety of products from an array of vendors.

Sharnele Amos, owner of Soilful Pots, and Karen Fair, owner of Grown Sumthin, both started their businesses in the midst of a pandemic and said they were grateful for the community’s support for their fledgling businesses.

“Business has grown thanks to COVID. Everyone wants to be a plant mommy or a plant daddy, ”Fair said. “I’ve always been a plant freak, so my inbox has gone mad during that time.”

With many businesses in Boxville or the pop-up that have only started in recent years, Mays said she sees the pandemic as an opportunity for people to make their small business dreams come true.

“A lot of people who wanted to do something on their own, whether it was losing their jobs or indulging in their passion, actually managed to get it out of their heads and bring it to life.” , Mays said. .

Boxville stores are open Wednesday through Saturday. Its pop-up holiday market next door will be open again on November 27, December 4 and 11.

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