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!
Purple Monkey Playroom, located at 2040 N Western Avenue in Bucktown was actually on my initial list when I dreamed up this podcast because I suspected that a playroom would have had a really difficult time staying afloat during the pandemic. Additionally, I had known the owner, Jessica Roubitchek from a couple of Facebook groups that I am in. I am glad to hear that they made it through, and you’ll hear more about how in the interview. It was also interesting to hear how she pivoted her business model a bit to make sure she and her staff as well as their patrons felt comfortable having parties and getting their kids out to play during the pandemic. I took my kids to Purple Monkey when they were young and it’s such a great space! Jessica is so fantastic… I’m excited to share this episode with you!
In Jessica’s interview we discuss:
- How Purple Monkey Playroom was able to survive the pandemic and the wonderful support of the community, including a Go Fund Me campaign
- Starting Purple Monkey and why she chose starting a playroom business as her venture after business school
- If being an entrepreneur and starting her own business is what she thought it would be
- Why she ended up opening Aubergine, an event space, in Logan Square
- The current state of her business given that there still are some COVID-related restrictions as kids aren’t yet vaccinated: private playtime, parties, cleaning, masks, scheduling time, etc
- Bucktown Music – 1890 N Milwaukee Ave in Bucktown, child and adult music classes – Jessica Solares
- Irazu – another vote for this great Costa Rican restaurant in Bucktown, check out the My Chicago Podcast interview with Henry Cerdas here!
- Virtu – 2035 N Damen in Bucktown, a gift boutique with handmade jewelry & artisan ceramics, wood, textiles, paper & metal, owner Julie Horwitz Jackson
- Color Wheel Studio – 2034 N. Damen Avenue in Bucktown – fine art classes for adults
We have another fantastic fitness studio featured on the podcast today: Through the Body, located at 1819 W Grand Avenue in West Town. Owner Stephanie Escobedo shares why she started this dance-centric fitness studio in 2016 and why creating a “fitness misfit” Belle Gang community was important to her. I had taken her Hellz Bellez class several years ago, which we discuss a bit at the very beginning of the interview and as a rock and 80’s music fan, I absolutely loved the strength training workout set to hair band rock! Stephanie is a ton of fun, and I know you’ll love getting to know her as much as I did. Enjoy this interview with Stephanie Escobedo from Through the Body!
In Stephanie’s interview we discuss:
- Starting Through the Body in 2016 and the inspiration for creating a fitness studio centered around dance
- The types of classes offered at Through the Body, including classes for kids
- A bit about their space at 1819 W Grand Avenue in West Town
- Stephanie’s favorite class to teach and a bit of detail about what to expect
- Challenges around teaching fitness classes virtually during COVID and other pandemic pivots
- Events they hosted for the Through the Body community both virtual and in-person
- Making sure they were COVID-safe once they were able to re-open in-person
- Why also building a community with and for her clients has been an important part of her business
- Itty Bitty’s Doggy Day Care – 1040 W 18th Street in Pilsen, specializes in small dogs – Stephanie’s mother in law
- Studio 836 – a nail studio at 836 N Damen Avenue in West Town – Martha
- Sol – 1651 W Chicago Avenue in West Town – specializes in smoothies and teas, great post workout fuel!
Today’s business is one that I suspect many of you might be curious to learn about – a pole dancing fitness studio! Andrea Caines from Catalyst Movement Arts at 2100 W. Grand Avenue in West Town is here to talk about starting the studio with her business partner David Owen, how pole dancing might be different from what you’d expect, and some of the benefits over and above the physical fitness aspect of the workout. I have tried pole dancing classes in the past, and I can definitely vouch for the upsides she discusses in the interview! I will have to stop by Catalyst to give it another go, as it’s been several years since I’ve taken a class. Have a listen to the interview below!
In Andrea’s interview we discuss:
- Starting Catalyst Movement Arts with her partner David in 2017
- What they were trying to create when they started the studio
- Benefits of pole dancing over and above the physical fitness
- What someone new to pole dancing can expect in a class at Catalyst
- The biggest benefits that Andrea has personally gained through her pole dancing journey
- Classes available at Catalyst and other services
- How they fared during the pandemic and unexpected upsides of having to shut down
- Upton’s Breakroom – 2054 W. Grand Ave (West Town) – Vegan Restaurant
- Dark Matter Coffee – (multiple locations)
- Hummus Grill – 744 N Damen Avenue – Mediterranean Restaurant (West Town)
Catalyst Movement Arts
2100 W. Grand Avenue
Chicago, IL 60612
I really enjoyed chatting with today’s entrepreneur, Maren Rosenberg from Escape Artistry. She’s really funny, a great storyteller and her theatre background is definitely apparent as she shares the story of her taking over Escape Artistry in 2015 and what all is involved in creating the six different escape rooms located at 1579 and 1342 N Milwaukee Avenue in Bucktown. I love her passion and appreciation for the arts and the artists that make Chicago so great.
P.S. Don’t you love the post-escape photo of my family completing the Railcar room? We were in the middle of saying “choo-choo” when it was taken so we all have pretty goofy expressions on our faces! LOL
In Maren Rosenberg’s interview we discuss:
- Her beginnings as an escape room zombie, then moving into management for the owner who started the first-ever escape room in Chicago in 2015, then ultimately taking over the business
- Challenges with the city and permitting/licensing because escape rooms were a new type of business
- Opening additional escape rooms with other investors in 2016 in a second location, right when the escape room market got saturated in Chicago
- Buying out the investors in 2019
- Navigating the covid related restrictions and finding new sources of revenue
- Scrambling to create a virtual experience and the challenges around that
- Maren’s second full-time job as the Co-Artistic Director of Uprising Theater
- What is involved in designing new escape rooms and what sets Escape Artistry apart from their competitors (there is a lot more involved than you’d realize!)
- Maren’s passion for supporting the arts and artists and why she encourages others to do so as well
- Goldpoint Studio, a production studio run by Maren’s design partner Grace and Melissa
- Osorio Metals – Maren’s friend Adriana
- Nina D’Anger – Silhouette Artist and host of Nina Nightingale’s Charm School
Flatiron Arts Building
1579 N. Milwaukee Ave, Chicago
Third Floor, Room 350
1342 N. Milwaukee Ave, Chicago
I love local businesses and especially those that are the epitome of the American Dream – and the story behind Irazu Costa Rican food. located at 1865 N Milwaukee Ave in Bucktown is definitely that! In this episode, I have a chat with owner Henry Cerdas, and he shares the story of his parents starting the restaurant in 1990 as well as all of the ups and downs the business has endured over the years, and certainly including the last year with the COVID-19 pandemic. Fortunately, Irazu was the recipient of Dave Portnoy’s Barstool Fund as well as quite a bit of media attention (rightfully so!), including a national Google print and video ad campaign among many others that helped them stay afloat. I hope you enjoy his inspiring story as much as I did!
In Henry Cerdas’ interview we discuss:
- The history of Irazu – Henry’s parents leaving Costa Rica to pursue the American Dream and the steps that led to opening the restaurant in 1990
- Where the name Irazu came from and why it proved to be a stumbling block and other challenges his parents overcame in the early days of the restaurant
- What Costa Rican cuisine tastes like and what ingredients you can find in the restaurant’s dishes
- A little bit of history about Costa Rica and what the slogan ‘Pura Vida’ is all about
- His parents retiring in 2006 and Henry taking over the business and his thoughts about his son taking over when he retires
- Challenges over the past year and being a recipient of the Barstool Fund in January 2021
- Creating the Barstool Fund application video and getting the call from Dave Portnoy congratulating him
- Details behind the Google national print and video ad campaign with Google featuring Irazu
- Responding to the changing covid restrictions for restaurants
- Henry’s shares his gratitude for all of the support during the pandemic
- Chicago Bagel Authority – Greg – 953 W Armitage Ave (Lincoln Park) and 955 W Belmont Ave (Lakeview)
- Manny’s Deli – Dan Raskin – 1141 S Jefferson St
Check out these videos!
I’ve been curious about how healthcare practitioner business owners outside of the frontline essential workers have been faring during the pandemic. I was glad that in her My Chicago Podcast episode, Katherine Ngyuen from Building Blocks nominated Dr. Stacy Beute from Wink Optical at 2736 N. Lincoln Avenue in Lincoln Park. Stacy was a pleasure to get to know and her optometry business was really interesting to learn about. Wink Optical offers a few different services over and above the standard eye exam/glasses/contacts offerings that most people are familiar with. In this interview, she also dives into a bit about adapting to the pandemic with patient’s safety and comfort in mind.
In Dr. Stacy Beute interview, we discuss:
- Bringing the dream of Wink Optical to fruition in 2009
- The challenges of being a business owner and a little more about Wink Optical and the unique services they offer
- Pivoting operating procedures and scheduling to remain open during the pandemic safely
- Accommodating patients and their comfort level with coming into the office
- All about visual therapy services and myopia management and who can benefit from it
- Roots Family Chiropractic – Dr. Tom Williams & Lauren Williams -2744 North Lincoln Ave (Lincoln Park)
- a pied 2037 W Roscoe St and Kickin’ 2033 W. Roscoe – Trudy Robinson (Roscoe Village)
- GailForce Massage – Gail Stephens – 3354 North Paulina Street Suite 206C (Roscoe Village)
2736 N. Lincoln Ave
Chicago, IL 60614
As a certified health coach and nutrition nerd, I’ve always been a big fan of businesses that endorse and teach healthy eating habits, especially to the pickiest of eaters – kids! The Kids Table at 2337 W North Ave in Wicker Park teaches kids cooking classes and has been around for 14 years and is a well-known business in the area. In this episode, Elena Marre shares her story of going from a tax lawyer to opening The Kids Table and all of the rollercoaster ups and downs she’s endured, especially over the last year during the pandemic. She certainly embodies the spirit of an entrepreneur, weathering the storm and doing what it takes to keep the business open. She’s was a lot of fun to get to know and I hope you enjoy today’s episode!
In Elena Marre’s interview we discuss:
- The rollercoaster of the past year during the pandemic, including laying off and re-hiring employees, closing one location, and adding Facebook Live and live stream virtual cooking classes
- Creating cooking kits for Big Brother/Big Sister and other customers
- The history of the business and how she went from being a tax lawyer to opening The Kids Table
- Pivoting from a homemade baby food business to kids cooking classes
- The pre-pandemic Kid’s Table programs: cooking classes, birthday parties, after school classes, camps, charity work, and more
- The challenges of opening and operating a second location in Lakeview
- Not having street festivals and farmers market booths during the pandemic
- Reopening for in-person classes and for Summer Camp 2021
- Rekindling her passion for The Kids Table
- A Little Photo Studio – Melissa Salvatore – photography studio and event space at 2868 N. Lincoln Ave (Lakeview)
- Easel Art Studio – Kerry Warner – kid’s art classes – 1911 North Milwaukee Ave (Bucktown)
- Pear Tree Preserves – Susie Kirkwood (at local farmer’s markets)
I had chatted with Emily while I shopped in her store, One Strange Bird located at 2124 W. Division Street in Wicker Park, a few times over the years and just found her to be such a fun and interesting person – little did I know how interesting her back story would be! She has such a spontaneous, adventurous, and entrepreneurial spirit that I really admire. I thoroughly enjoyed learning about her time in Africa through to coming back to Chicago to take over One Strange Bird. Her “figure it out” spirit certainly helped her over the last year in navigating staying afloat during the pandemic and came up with several creative ideas to keep the business running. I hope you’ll enjoy her story as much as I did!
In Emily Gloekler’s interview we discuss:
- Her entrepreneurial journey starting with her kid’s clothing line Kipepeo while she was in Africa
- How she ended up living and working in Africa
- Starting a jewelry line and custom women’s dress shop alongside Kipepeo in Tanzania
- The political changes in Tanzania that brought her back to Chicago
- Selling her jewelry to gift shops in Chicago, including One Strange Bird
- Taking over One Strange Bird in 2018
- Pivoting because of the pandemic: online store, craft kits for kids, and outdoor kids classes
- Sacred Art – 4619 N Lincoln Ave (Ravenswood)
- Paperish Mess – 1945 W Chicago Ave (West Town)
- Komoda – Sherri – 2559 W Chicago Ave (West Town)
- Lost Girls Vintage – 1947 W Chicago Ave (West Town) and 2710 N Sawyer Ave (Logan Square)
- Wicker Park Inn – Laura – 1331 N Wicker Park Ave (Wicker Park)
One Strange Bird
2124 W. Division St
Chicago, IL 60622
I just love today’s featured business: Zen Yoga Garage. I like to work out, but don’t do classes super frequently, but when I do, Zen Yoga Garage is one of my favorite places to get my stretch on. I loved that it had the look and feel of a corporate chain studio but it is a small, local gem with a very “everyone’s family” feel to it. I also appreciated and had taken advantage of their in-person classes on a variety of topics that are yoga and mindfulness-related. I was also always curious about how they got started as well as the pivot to offering classes in a vacant lot last summer, so I was thrilled with Melissa Talleda, the current managing partner of Zen Yoga Garage agreed to jump on a call with me! They’re currently offering classes in person at 1845 N Milwaukee Ave in Bucktown as well as online, so be sure to check out their schedule at zenyogagarage.com and get your zen on.
In Melissa Talleda’s Interview we discuss:
- The history of Zen Yoga Garage and why it’s called a ‘garage’
- A bit about the founders, Piper Lori Parker and William (Bill) Senne
- Expanding to multiple studios and an outdoor space
- Melissa taking over as managing partner in early 2020
- Adapting to the pandemic – Zen Yoga Yard, live streaming yoga, decreased number of classes and students
- Why Melissa is encouraging stepping into a yoga practice now rather than stepping away from it
- Irazu Costa Rican Restaurant – 1865 N Milwaukee Ave (Bucktown)
- Spynergy – Liza – 1632B W Division St (Wicker Park)
- Lost Girls Vintage – Sarah & Kyla – 1947 W Chicago Ave (West Town) and 2710 N Sawyer Ave (Logan Square)
Zen Yoga Garage
1845 North Milwaukee Ave
Chicago, IL 606047
I’m so excited to introduce you to today’s featured entrepreneur, Joe Glorioso. I live in Ukrainian Village near St Helens and let me tell you, Joe is famous in these parts. Not only is he the man behind Joey G’s Mac and Cheese at 959 N Western Ave but he’s also very involved in the community at St Helen’s, Windy City Wildcats little league baseball, local politics, and seems to know just about everyone from one of the many endeavors that keep him busy.
I knew Joe personally from when my daughter attended preschool at St Helen’s and he also had helped my husband with a few construction permits while at his day job at Windy City Permits, so I was always curious to learn the story behind Joey G’s, given he seemed to be a super busy guy already! In this interview, we talk about his history in the restaurant industry, why chose mac and cheese as his featured dish, and the story around opening his restaurant and keeping it afloat during the pandemic.
He’s an all-around great guy and is just a pleasure to know and chat with. His passion and excitement for food just oozes in this conversation and he gave me several good chuckles throughout, so I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I did!
In Joe Glorioso’s Interview we discuss:
- Joe’s history in the restaurant industry in and around Ukrainian Village, including his former restaurant Joey G’s Pizza
- Why mac & cheese and why he opened it where and when he did
- Splitting his time between Windy City Permits and Joey G’s
- Some of his favorite menu items
- How he fared during the pandemic and the three things that helped him stay afloat
- Opening the expansion storefront on Western on Valentine’s Day 2020
- Providing “Hot Meals for Heroes” for the night shift essential workers during the height of the pandemic last spring and other charitable donations his restaurant has provided
- His new microwaveable mac and cheeses, including his famous “Hangover” recipe
Joe in the Media
Joe and Joey G’s has been featured in a bunch of media pieces, including Windy City Live, Chicago’s Best, a super fun YouTube show called “Number 6 with Cheese” and more – check them out below!
959 N Western Ave
Chicago, Illinois 60622