Welcome to the My Chicago Podcast!

My Chicago is a podcast that explores the businesses, stories, and people that make Chicago great. Host Carrie Rubin interviews the entrepreneurs behind local small businesses in Chicago and shares their behind-the-scenes stories and the rollercoaster of keeping their business afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic. The latest episodes are below or you can listen on your favorite podcast provider: Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or Google Podcasts. New episodes every Friday!

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Chicago Makers Pop Up Shop with Anna Romo

Chicago Makers Pop Up Shop with Anna Romo

I met today’s entrepreneur in her shop and I just loved her energy and invited her to be on the podcast on the spot! In this episode, Anna Romo, the co-owner of the Chicago Maker’s Pop Up Shop, located at 2064 N Damen Avenue discusses starting the pop-up store for Chicago-based crafters and makers with her business partner Monica Little back in November 2020.

They have such a unique business model, not only selling locally handmade items but also helping the entrepreneurs behind the products succeed in getting their business up and running. We also dig into the details on their engagement, training, and services they offer their maker community and what all is involved in participating in their shop and community. And finally, we dig into their exciting details about expanding this holiday season to a location in West Town and Wicker Park over the next month or so. Without further ado, please enjoy this episode with Anna Romo of the Chicago Makers Pop Up Shop!

In Anna Romo’s interview we discuss:

  • Meeting her business partner Monica Little while collaborating to help grow their crafting businesses, Virtue Alchemy Candle Co and Plant Based Beauty
  • Starting Chicago Makers Pop Up Shop with Monica in November 2020 as pandemic pivot
  • Getting the store up and running in a week’s time so they could be ready for the holiday season
  • Support from the community and the media
  • Pandemic related capacity restrictions putting a damper on “meet the makers” and pivoting to an online format
  • How the Chicago Makers Pop Up helps makers get their businesses up and running and profitable
  • How makers get featured in the shop and what is involved in participating; benefits of being a member of the community
  • Hosting pop up markets outside of the shop on Damen
  • Expanding to two additional pop up shops this holiday season! Their new location in West Town opens October 6th at 1821 W Chicago Avenue and Wicker Park at 1279 N Milwaukee Ave opens on November 1

Anna’s nominations

Chicago Makers Pop Up
2064 N Damen Ave
Chicago, Illinois 60647

1821 W. Chicago Ave
Chicago, Illinois 60622

Wicker Park Inn with Laura Yepez

Wicker Park Inn with Laura Yepez

In today’s episode, I interview Laura Yepez, the owner of Wicker Park Inn, located at 1331 N Wicker Park Avenue, nominated by Emily Gloekler from One Strange Bird. I drive by her beautiful building often when I’m dropping my kids off at school and I’ve always been curious about what the place was like. In this episode, we discuss how she took over the Inn in 2004 and redecorated, expanded, and renovated the space over the years to the current offering which has 9 rooms to rent.

We also talk about the packages she offers, which include local eats from Milk & Honey, Alliance Bakery, and Jeni’s Ice Cream. I think it’s a brilliant touch that makes staying there super unique and very Chicago!  We also dig into pandemic pivots and the great ideas she came up with to keep the business afloat. Laura was such a pleasure to speak with and struck me as a smart and savvy entrepreneur – I’m excited to share this interview with you! Here’s Laura Yepez from Wicker Park Inn… enjoy! 

In Laura Yepez’s interview, we discuss: 

  • A bit about Laura and how she came to start the Wicker Park Inn in 2004 
  • The changes she made to the building when she took it over 
  • Designing the three additional rooms she added in 2006 
  • Adding an additional building to the inn and gut rehabbing it in 2016  
  • Some of the packages she offers guests at the inn 
  • Partnering with other local small businesses to offer a unique stay 
  • Becoming a one woman show when the pandemic started in 2020
  • The point at which business started to pick back up and she was able to rehire staff 
  • Other pandemic pivots: staycations and micro weddings at the Inn 
  • Laura as a woman, minority, and independent business owner 

Laura’s nominations:

  • Milk & Honey – breakfast & brunch cafe at 1920 W Division St in Wicker Park
  • Field & Florist – florist located at 1908 W Division St in Wicker Park, provides flowers for the micro weddings hosted at Wicker Park Inn
  • Alliance Bakery – Laura’s former business located at 1736 W Division St in Wicker Park

Wicker Park Inn
1331 North Wicker Park Avenue
Chicago, IL 60622
(773) 486-2743

Rhine Hall Distillery with Jenny Solberg Katzman

Rhine Hall Distillery with Jenny Solberg Katzman

Today’s featured business was nominated by Liza Solberg from Spynergy (episode 13 of the podcast), and it’s Rhine Hall Distillery, run by her cousin Jenny Solberg Katzman. Located at 2010 W Fulton Market in the Kinzie Industrial Corridor in the West Loop, Rhine Hall manufactures European-style fruit brandies made from locally sourced fruit. In this episode, Jenny discusses starting the business with her dad back in 2012 and how they came to specialize in these types of spirits.  She also shares a bit about their business model, which includes selling their brandies primarily to bars and restaurants, as well as some direct-to-consumer business via their tasting room and cocktail classes. We of course dig into pandemic pivots and how some quick thinking kept them afloat during the shutdown. I really enjoyed learning more about their business and can’t wait to try one of their cocktails when I make my way out to the tasting room.  Here’s my interview with Jenny Solberg Katzman from Rhine Hall Distillery…

In Jenny Solberg Katzman’s interview we discuss:

  • What Rhine Hall Distillery does and why Jenny and her dad started it in 2012
  • Why they chose to specialize making European style fruit brandies in Chicago and ultimately turn it into a business
  • Challenges with opening a business around alcohol in Chicago
  • A bit about the business incubator and neighborhood where they started the business 
  • The business mix – tasting room, experiences, selling to distributors which in turn sell to bars and restaurants
  • Where they distribute their products 
  • Pandemic challenges given that a bulk of their business comes from bars and restaurants; pivots to keep the business afloat – hand sanitizer, virtual cocktail classes
  • Some of the cocktails they make in the tasting room

Jenny’s Nominations

  • Tori Gwin, Real Estate Agent
  • Just Like Family – Nanny Agency
  • Violet Hour – a bar that offers some cocktails with Rhine Hall spirits, located at 1520 N Damen in Wicker Park
  • Soap Distillery – manufactures soap and other personal care products with cocktail inspired scents

Rhine Hall Distillery
2010 W Fulton St
Chicago IL 60622
(312) 243-4313

Bizarre Bucktown with Gordon Meyer

Bizarre Bucktown with Gordon Meyer

I’ve seen today’s business around social media and since what this business offers is totally my jam, I knew I’d want to feature them on the podcast. Gordon Meyer from Bizarre Bucktown is on the show today discussing the history of his business and how he discovered the stories he shares on his walking tours of Bucktown and Wicker Park. He also shares part of one of the stories from his tour around the history of Walsh Park and I got confirmation that the Bucktown Pub (which was episode 14 of the podcast) does indeed have a haunted history! I definitely want to get out for a tour sometime before it gets too cold out as I’d love to hear more about the history of the neighborhood!  Here’s my interview with Gordon Meyer of Bizarre Bucktown!

In Gordon Meyer’s interview we discuss:

  • A bit about Bizarre Bucktown and how Gordon decided to start the tour
  • Where he got his stories about Bucktown and Wicker Park and why he chose to have his tour in this neighborhood
  • Gordon’s other hobbies and work interests
  • The mix of tourists vs locals on his tours
  • One of his favorite stories from the tour: Walsh Park
  • How the pandemic impacted his business and how he used his writing skills to create booklets of neighborhood history & stories during the shutdown: Bizarre Fact Files
  • Confirmation that Bucktown Pub has some haunted history (as pub General Manager Autumn Giltner suspected!)
Bizarre Bucktown Logo

Gordon’s nominations

Bizarre Bucktown
1579 N Milwaukee Ave
Flat Iron Arts Building Suite 203
Chicago IL 60622
Instagram: @bizarrebucktown (Gordon has a fun feed, check it out!)
Facebook: @bizarrebucktown

Kelly Brask Organizing

Kelly Brask Organizing

I’ve actually known today’s entrepreneur for several years. I had met Kelly Brask at a networking event back when I was working to grow my health coaching business. We clicked instantly because of her business: professional organizing, which was another entrepreneurial venture I had tried my hand at.

Organizers have definitely grown in popularity over the last several years with shows like the Home Edit and Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. I know I certainly appreciate the calm that having a clean and organized home brings me!  In this episode, Kelly discusses exactly what a professional organizer does and what niches of organizing she specializes in as well as how she fared attempting “virtual” organizing during the pandemic.  We also bond and have a laugh over our “zero inboxing” and attempts at minimalism.  So here it is: my interview with Kelly Brask, Certified Professional Organizer: 

In Kelly Brask’s interview we discuss:

  • What a professional organizer does and some of the niches that organizers serve
  • How Kelly got started with professional organizing and the types of organizing she offers
  • Some of her favorite organizing tips
  • What pandemic organizing was like – attempting virtual organizing and taking up gmail cleanup organizing and helping others Airtable templates
  • Getting back in person for organizing
  • The areas around Chicagoland that she serves

Kelly’s nominations

  • Lizzy J Cafe – 2205 W Montrose Ave – breakfast and brunch cafe
  • The Bodylux RX – 4015 N Rockwell St – chiropractor Dr Kathleen Morris
  • Skippagosh – Kelly’s friend Laura opened a party planning business in the middle of the pandemic!

Kelly Brask Certified Professional Organizer®
Serving Chicago & Northern Suburbs

Ludlow Charlington’s with Naji Al-Awar

Ludlow Charlington’s with Naji Al-Awar

I stumbled upon today’s featured business on Instagram. It had a clever name, a good cause, and a fun look and feel to it, so I reached out to invite them to be on the podcast. In this episode, Ludlow Charlington’s Coffee Shop owner Naji Al-Awar shares why he ventured to open the shop at the beginning of August, how the shop got its name, why they share 50% of their merchandise sales proceeds with the FCACC (Friends of Chicago Animal Care and Control), and about the conscious sourcing and sustainability efforts of their business. I stopped by earlier this week to stop by the shop, located at 2425 N. Clark Street to snap some photos and grab an iced single-origin coffee. I thoroughly enjoyed both the shop and my drink! So grab a mug and have a listen to my interview with Naji from Ludlow Charlington’s!

In Naji’s interview we discuss:

  • The unique theme of the coffee shop
  • A bit about their pit bull Cora that they got from CACC (Chicago Animal Care and Control) and and why they chose to raise money and awareness for the organization that supports it FCACC (Friends of Chicago Animal Care and Control) 
  • Why Naji chose to exit the film industry and open a coffee shop just a few short weeks ago
  • Sustainability efforts and a bit about the vendors they chose to support this cause: Counter Culture Coffee, Kilgus Farms Dairy, and compostable disposable goods
  • Pandemic effects on opening his business 
  • An overview of the beverages and food they offer
  • The origin of the name of the business

Naji’s nominations

Naji wanted to give a shout out to his Lincoln Park neighbors on Clark for supporting his business as they opened:

Ludlow Charlingtons Coffee
2425 N. Clark Street
Chicago, IL 60614

Instagram: @ludlowcharlingtonscoffee
Facebook: @LudlowCharlingtons

Birch Road Cellar with Kim Bosse

Birch Road Cellar with Kim Bosse

Today’s guest is another entrepreneur I met at the networking event I discussed last week. Kim Bosse actually hosted the event at her space, Birch Road Cellar and today’s episode is all about this incredible space and super unique business. In this episode, Kim discusses creating this members-only “neighborhood clubhouse” BYOB club back in 2014 and how they chose each of their locations: the first in Lincoln Park at 1113 W Armitage, followed by the space at 2002 W Roscoe in Roscoe Village, and lastly, a space in Seattle when her business partner moved there in 2019.

We dig into the details of what is included in membership and how Birch Road Cellar differs from a traditional private club as well as some of the events the club hosts for its members. I must say, the space is beautiful and I definitely would love to hang there. Listen in to hear more about the company and perks of membership from Kim Bosse from Birch Road Cellar…

Birch Road Cellar Logo

In Kim’s interview we discuss:

  • Why Kim and her business partner Sharon opened Birch Road Cellar in 2014 and how they came up with idea of a BYOB membership-based “neighborhood clubhouse” as an alternative to a bar
  • Benefits of having a separate space like Birch Road Cellar for socializing – “gathering simplified”
  • Membership levels, fees, and benefits as well as differences from a traditional private club
  • Choosing locations in Chicago and expanding to Seattle and a bit about each of the three clubs
  • Pandemic effects: closing the clubs, virtual events, and how members continued to support Birch Road through the tough times

Kim’s nominations

  • Bottles’ Up – 3164A N. Broadway (Lakeview) Melissa Zeman – wine store
  • Off Premise – 1128 W Armitage Ave (Lincoln Park) Adam – great whiskey and craft beer selection

Birch Road Cellar
1113 W. Armitage Avenue
Chicago, IL 60614

2002 W. Roscoe Street
Chicago, IL 60618
(312) 715-7774

Facebook // Instagram

Memoir for Me with Nora Kerr

Memoir for Me with Nora Kerr

I met today’s entrepreneur at my first in-person networking event since COVID back in June. I’ve been a member of Chicago Moms in Business for a while and I’ve met quite a few of the guests on this podcast via that group. It was so exciting (and a bit weird to be honest, since it had been so long) to be able to meet some new people face to face! I had a short couple-minute conversation with Nora Kerr from Memoir for Me as I was headed out the door and I knew I’d want to have a longer chat to learn more about her business so I invited her to be a guest on the podcast. 

Nora and her team interview people’s loved ones and turns the transcripts from those conversations and family pictures into a beautiful legacy storybook to share with generations to come. Even though this is a bit different from my usual interviews on this podcast as she doesn’t have a storefront, I wanted to share it because this kind of thing is totally my jam, and wholeheartedly believe in the importance of capturing your family’s memories. Listen in to hear more about why she started the business and what kinds of packages she offers.

In Nora’s interview we discuss:

  • A little about the services that Memoir for Me offers and how Nora and her team creates keepsake memory books that include both stories and photos about a loved one
  • How Nora came up with the idea for her business in 2015
  • The free resources and tools available on her website for how people who can’t invest in her services can capture their loved ones stories
  • The effect COVID had on her business
  • When the best time is to start the process of capturing your loved one’s stories

Nora’s nominations

Nora chose a few photo organizers that she works closely with to help her tell stories:

Memoir for Me
Instagram: @memoirforme
Facebook: @memoirforme

Bucktown Pub with Autumn Giltner

Bucktown Pub with Autumn Giltner

I absolutely loved today’s guest: Autumn Giltner, the general manager of Bucktown Pub, located at 1658 W Cortland Avenue in Bucktown.  She had liked a few of the things I had posted on Instagram, and I decided to reach out because I was super curious about how a bar fared over this past year and a half. She was such an interesting person to talk to and had a lot to share about the bar’s history, navigating the COVID-19 restrictions, neighbors supporting the bar and each other, and hospitality-related challenges post-pandemic. I really am looking forward to hopefully getting out to Bucktown Pub for a Trivia Night and to have the chance to meet Autumn in real life and have a drink and a good conversation! Enjoy today’s interview…

In Autumn Giltner’s interview we discuss:

  • Autumn’s history with Bucktown Pub and a little about the vibe at the bar
  • Some of the history and neighborhood lore about the bar
  • Supporting neighborhood charity events
  • How they fared during the pandemic without having a kitchen and how they bridged the gap during the 6 months the bar was shutdown
  • Challenges with masking, constantly changing restrictions, and other covid-related issues
  • Coming together to support neighbors and neighborhood small businesses
  • Getting back to a new normal and challenges with finding staff to be able to be open at full capacity

Autumn’s nominations

  • Mabel’s Table – restaurant located at 1655 W. Cortland St in Bucktown (I love this place too!)
  • The Map Room – (Laura, owner) bar & coffee shop at 1949 N. Hoyne Ave in Bucktown
  • Lemming’s – a bar at 1850 N Damen Ave in Bucktown

Bucktown Pub
1658 W Cortland Ave
Chicago, IL 60622
(773) 394-9898
Instagram: @bucktownpub

Spynergy with Liza Solberg

Spynergy with Liza Solberg

Today’s featured business was nominated by Melissa Talleda from Zen Yoga Garage and I’m so glad she did! I had taken spin classes at Spynergy, located down an alley at 1632B W. Division Street in Wicker Park in the past and absolutely loved the vibe, music, and workout that I experienced there. In this episode, owner Liza Solberg shares the story of how she started Spynergy Chicago in 2018 after teaching for several years at her mom’s flagship Spynergy studio in Winnetka. We also dig into how they managed through COVID-19 restrictions, coming up with creative solutions to keep teaching virtually and how the garage door in the studio was of great benefit during the pandemic. I thought it was brilliant! I’m excited to share this with you… now, I need to go book my next spin class. Enjoy!

In Liza’s interview we discuss:

  • How Spynergy came to be with her mom and aunt starting their first location in Winnetka 20 years ago
  • The vibe Liza was going for in creating the Chicago Bucktown location of Spynergy when she opened in 2018 and the unexpected benefit of having a garage door for fresh air
  • Closing the studio during COVID due to city restrictions, including creative ideas for keeping classes going when it was closed and having virtual classes
  • A bit about the types of classes Spynergy offers 
  • The story behind mural on the side of the building

Liza’s nominations

  • Free Mvmt Shop – 1655 W Division St – fitness boutique focusing on all kinds of movement, mostly dance based
  • Rhine Hall Distillery (2010 W Fulton St in Fulton Market) – her cousin and uncle’s business 
  • Steely Boutique  – clothing boutique located at 1730 W Division in Wicker Park – Sam (old neighbor)

1632b W Division 
Chicago, IL 60622