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!
I was introduced to today’s business and one of its founders twice in a matter of a week: Mike Healy from Guild Row, located at 3130 N. Rockwell St in Avondale. The first was by Melissa Zeman from BottlesUp! (which was episode 25 of the podcast), the second was via a friend who listens to the podcast and is also a member. I knew I had to have Mike on to hear more about this really cool social club with members who “give a damn”.
We discussed the construction of the space and a bit about the different areas of the club, which include co-working space, a woodshop, a commercial kitchen, and a courtyard outdoor space. We also dig into the creatives, entrepreneurs, and activists who make up the membership base of Guild Row and details about becoming a member. I’m really looking forward to checking it out and meeting some of the members when I go for an event that Melissa Zeman is hosting there soon. Without further ado, here is Mike Healy from Guild Row!
In Mike Healy’s interview we discuss:
- How Mike and his partners Jim Lasko and Elyse Agnello started Guild Row and why they chose to make a social club centered around “people who give a damn”: educators, creators, activists, etc
- Features of the space at Guild Row: co-working, woodshop, commercial kitchen, courtyard space
- The construction of the space and how they chose the location
- A week in the life of Guild Row
- A bit about membership – application process and fees
- Nikki Darling Confections – owner Evan Coben incubated in Guild Row’s shared kitchen during the pandemic
- The Simple Good – member Priya Shah runs this non-profit that provides social-emotional curriculum to children in high-need areas
- BottlesUp! – returning the love to prior My Chicago Podcast guest Melissa Zeman
- Linsey Herman – makes ceramics in her basement
- The Oakley Oven – Pat Ceron and Matt Merjavi created this non-profit nightclub in their backyard
I’m super excited to share today’s episode with you: David Halpern from Four Entertainment Group is on the I’m super excited to share today’s episode with you: David Halpern, managing partner of Four Entertainment Group is on the show discussing the group’s newest venue, Central Park Bar, located at 2924 N Central Park Avenue in Avondale. I absolutely used to love aliveOne, the first bar that they opened in 1996 in Lincoln Park – it had such a cool vibe and great music! Since then, they’ve opened four other bars in Chicago: Estelle’s, Remedy, The Owl, and Easy Bar in the Bucktown/Wicker Park area as well as twelve other bars in the Cincinnati area. We discuss how Four Entertainment Group got their start, how they choose locations, pandemic challenges, and all of the details around the latest addition to their roster Central Park Bar which opened at the end of October. Please enjoy this interview with David Halpern from Four Entertainment Group!
In David Halpern’s interview we discuss:
- The history of Four Entertainment Group, which started with opening aliveOne bar 25 years ago in Lincoln Park
- Coming up with the concept of aliveOne with his business partner Ben Klopp
- Branching the business to Cincinnati because of his connections from college at Miami of Ohio
- Opening his sixth spot, Central Park Bar at 2924 N Central Park Ave in Avondale at the end of October
- How they come up with the different concepts, but focusing on neighborhood staple bars in Chicago
- The most important part of opening new locations
- Staffing shortages, furloughs, and other challenges with the hospitality industry during the pandemic
- Why they chose the location for Central Park Bar, which has a 3500 square foot outdoor space that they decked out to make it feel like it was indoors
- Struggles with construction during the pandemic
- Sweet Mandy B’s – bakery with locations in Lincoln Park at 1208 W Webster Ave and at 254 E. Ontario St in Streeterville
- Olivia’s Market – neighborhood market at 2014 W Wabansia in Bucktown
Visit Four Entertainment Group to check out their other venues!
Today’s featured business was nominated by Kim Bosse from Birch Road Cellar in episode 16 of the podcast. BottlesUp! owner Melissa Zeman is on to discuss starting her bottle and experience shop at 3164A N Broadway in East Lakeview in September 2019. We also dig into the types of alcohol she features and some of the virtual and in-person events she hosts in her space. She is a ton of fun and I had a blast getting to know her. Enjoy today’s interview with Melissa Zeman from BottlesUp!
In Melissa Zeman’s interview we discuss:
- Starting the bottle shop & experience in East Lakeview by following her passions
- What types of products and how she chooses what she offers in the shop
- Why she chose to start a business centered around alcohol
- Opening September 2019 and having to quickly pivot within 6 months because of the pandemic
- Events & experiences pre- and post-pandemic
- Benefits of virtual events, take home tastings, and other pandemic friendly events
- Getting back to in-person events
- Bringing the fun!
- Birch Road Cellar – sharing the love back to Kim Bosse, who nominated Melissa!
- Guild Row – co-working, membership club about creating good in Chicago and beyond that opened during the pandemic – Avondale
- Anderson Ganne Wines – small importer/distributor of wines – Rendi
I had first learned about today’s business in the Bucktown Community Facebook group in a thread about the best pizza in the neighborhood. I gave it a try and really enjoyed it, and was curious to learn more about the business as it seemed to have a ton of fans in the neighborhood. Brian Tondryk, owner of Bartoli’s Pizzeria with locations in Roscoe Village at 1955 W. Addison St and West Town at 658 N. Ashland Ave, is on the show today discussing his family roots in Gino’s East and why he decided to start his own pizza restaurant. We also dig into a bit around their community service and engagement as well as the awards they’ve received for their deep dish pizza and more. So in honor of “National Pizza Month” wrapping with the end of October near, enjoy a Chicago classic with today’s episode with Brian Tondryk of Bartoli’s Pizzeria.
In Brian Tondryk’s interview we discuss:
- Getting inspired to open a pizza restaurant from his grandfather, who started Gino’s East in 1966
- Making pizza for friends and family, perfecting his recipe, and ultimately opening his first location in Roscoe Village in 2013
- Earning awards for his deep dish, and a bit about the cracker crust pizza
- Expanding to West Town right when covid started in March 2020, and challenges around getting the word out about the new location during lockdown
- Leaning on takeout and delivery during the pandemic
- Giving back to the neighborhood in West Town and Roscoe Village to homeless, people out of work, and schools
- People coming in from all over the world to try their pizza
- Bartolis as a great option for a night out as a BYOB, family owned business
- Cuba 312 – 2054 W Roscoe in Roscoe Village – small, family owned Cuban restaurant
1955 W. Addison St
Chicago, IL 60613
I loved learning about today’s featured business: Uvae Kitchen and Wine Bar, located at 5553 N Clark Street in Andersonville. In this episode, owner and Sommelier Lindsey Anderson shares why she started the business back in 2019 as a place for education and exploration of wine, small plate dining, and food and wine pairings. She also shares a bit about her pandemic pivots, challenges, and successes, including virtual wine tastings and deliveries all over the Chicagoland area. We also dig into her exciting news around Uvae’s expansion into the storefront next door on November 1, which will become the Uvae Fromagerie and Tasting Room, and what will new space will be used for. So without further ado, grab a glass of your favorite wine and enjoy today’s episode with Lindsey Anderson from Uvae Kitchen and Wine Bar.
In Lindsey Anderson’s interview we discuss:
- Her education at Kendall College and background in hospitality set the stage for opening Uvae
- Teaching sommelier certification classes at Kendall College
- Signing a lease for Uvae in 2018, and why she chose Andersonville
- Opening in 2019, six months before the pandemic hit
- A bit about the concept of Uvae: education and exploration, small plate dining, food and wine pairings
- Pandemic challenges: attempting to-go food, virtual tastings, expanding their customer base outside of Andersonville, delivering tasting wines all over the Chicagoland area
- Using the dining room while the restaurant was shut down to host maker markets
- Expanding in November 2021: Uvae Fromagerie and Tasting Room, including a shopping and space for private events
- Challenges with current labor and supply shortages
- Supporting and collaborating with local businesses in the Tasting Room: Twidley Bits, Tasting India
- City Olive – Karen – 5644 N Clark St (Andersonville), gift shop
- Little Madrid – Francisco – authentic BYOB restaurant Spanish cuisine – 5661 N Clark St (Andersonville)
Check out a sneak peek of the Fromagerie & Tasting Room!
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
- All Things Coops Beauty – soap & body care products with maker CeCe Cooper
- Mad Harriet Ceramics – ceramic cups, bowls, and dishes with maker Dale Frances
- Maia Salsa – Mexican culinary salsas & marinades with makers Claudia & Juan Carlos Ibañez
Chicago Makers Pop Up
2064 N Damen Ave
Chicago, Illinois 60647
1821 W. Chicago Ave
Chicago, Illinois 60622
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
- 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
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
- 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
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!)
- Bucktown Bow & Meow – pet store, daycare, and grooming store at 1823 W. North Ave.
- Virtu for You – gift store at 2035 N Damen Ave (also nominated by Jessica from Purple Monkey Playroom!)
- Quimby’s Bookstore – small press and personally published books & zines at 1854 W North Ave
1579 N Milwaukee Ave
Flat Iron Arts Building Suite 203
Chicago IL 60622
Instagram: @bizarrebucktown (Gordon has a fun feed, check it out!)
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
- 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!