Supporting local businesses has never been more important. Earlier this year, the University of Chicago Law School’s Institute for Justice Clinic on Entrepreneurship launched shopinplacechi.com, a digital database of small businesses that make the city special. Here are four of our favorites; be sure to visit the site for many more.
Back of the Yards Coffee
Jesse Iñiguez and Mayra Hernandez grew up in the South Side’s Back of the Yards neighborhood, and they opened this coffee shop in part to help sustain economic activity there. “There are many ‘coffee deserts’ across the country in communities of color, specifically in Latinx neighborhoods,” Iñiguez says. “Our goal is not only to provide quality coffee and economic opportunity but also safe gathering spaces that inspire creativity.” The shop invests a dollar from every bag sold of its 47th Street Blend into a social impact fund to support neighborhood nonprofits. backoftheyardscoffee.com
The Silver Room
For more than 20 years, The Silver Room has celebrated Black creativity with its fashion-forward collections of jewelry, clothing, and art, and through community events such as its Sound System Block Party, which brings tens of thousands of Chicagoans together. More recently, founder Eric Williams has kept up pandemic-friendly programming, screening work from local filmmakers on the storefront and putting on outdoor jazz performances, virtual book talks, and sidewalk art sales. “Our mission has always been to be more than retail,” Williams says. “Acting as an intersection of art, culture, and fashion allows us to encourage the growth of the community.” thesilverroom.com
Old-fashioned, gendered clothes and toys may seem omnipresent in most kids stores, but this Humboldt Park boutique offers an alternative. “This next generation is less burdened than previous generations by the notion that things have to be the same way we were taught,” says owner Claire Tibbs. Peach Fuzz aims to help kids “find value in all the ways that make them unique” with products such as gender-neutral, banana-printed onesies and anti-racist children’s books. littlepeachfuzz.com
Semicolon Bookstore and Gallery
The only Black-woman-owned bookstore in Chicago, Semicolon is also home to a gallery that maintains an artist-in-residence program. “We wanted people to be able to experience a myriad of emotions while they’re in the space,” says owner DL Mullen. Since last spring, she and her staff have put together more than 2,000 bags of free books for K–12 public school students as part of the store’s Clear the Shelves initiative focused on youth literacy. semicolonchi.com