Contributor Content Submission Now Open for the 2020-21 Andersonville Neighborhood Guide

IG_Transit Tees

Photo by Transit Tees

The annual Andersonville Neighborhood Guide is a coffee-table quality publication with an editorial approach to showcasing Andersonville and its businesses in a photo-forward manner.  Guides are distributed locally, to downtown Chicago tourism destinations and hotels, and are mailed to out-of-state visitors who request copies in advance of travel. Last year for the 2019-20 edition of the Guide, we were proud to dedicate a large editorial section of the book to neighborhood contributions, featuring photographs, short stories and interviews from those that call Andersonville home.

This year, we are excited to  once again seek contributor submissions from local residents, writers, artists, and photographers, whether professional or hobbyist. We are looking to showcase the neighborhood from a local or visitor’s perspective. This contributor content request is open to all ages. People of color, women, persons with disabilities, and persons who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, gender non-conforming or intersex are encouraged to submit.

We do have some ideas for this year’s editorial content. Read on to learn more!

Anticipated release of the 2020-21 Andersonville Neighborhood Guide is May 2020.

We are looking for the following:

  • New this year – Pets of Andersonville: We know we have a ton of pet lovers living here, and we’d love to feature yours in photographic glory! We are looking to put together a Shop Dogs of Andersonville Editorial feature followed by a Pets of Andersonville feature from our local residents. Please submit a high res photo of your pet, preferably photographed out and about in Andersonville, along with your pet’s name and favorite Andersonville business to visit. 
Charley at Transit Tees. Photo by @chicagodoodleduo

Charley at Transit Tees. Photo by @chicagodoodleduo

  • New this year – The Andersonville Experience: Based on results from our 2019 Andersonville Consumer Survey, we know many people visit Andersonville for the “Four Hour Experience.” This means, they come to shop, eat, and experience our entertainment/nightlife, all in the same day. In an effort to illustrate this concept, we are collecting written submissions/quotes about your Andersonville Experience. How do you spend your ideal four hours here? What are some of your favorite businesses? Your submission can be a written quote or statement only or also include accompanying photos.
  • Andersonville Neighborhood Photography
    • We know many of you LOVE taking photos of our iconic Water Tower, Dala Horse, Puppet Bike, local shops, streetscape, and more. Submitted neighborhood photos will be considered for the cover of the 2020-21 Guide as well as interior features. All photos chosen for publication will credit the photographer on our Guide table of contents. 
  • Andersonville stories or editorial features, both fiction or nonfiction
  • Andersonville specific Illustrations, graphic design, or artwork. 


    • Submission Form: All applicants must complete the entry form here. If you are choosing to submit a written Andersonville Experience, the form is the only thing we need!  
    • Photo and Artwork: If your submission includes photography or artwork, please email  print-ready high resolution images in jpeg, PSD, EPS, or TIFF format sized at 300 dpi to For cell-phone photographers who may have captured the perfect shot of Andersonville, but aren’t sure of the size or quality, please submit to us the original photo file at full-size, unedited.   
    • Written Content: If your submission includes written content, please submit proofread and edited work in a PDF format with author(s) credit. 
    • File Format: Label all submitted files with your name, title of the work, and numeration (lastname_firstname_title_1).
    • Deadline: The Andersonville Chamber of Commerce will accept submissions through March 16, 2020. 

Due to a possible large number of submissions, we cannot guarantee inclusion in the Guide or a response as to why your submission was not included for this year’s edition.

Andersonville Chamber of Commerce fosters a vibrant environment in which Andersonville businesses can thrive by attracting a diverse customer base; providing business support services and advocacy; and engaging in business attraction, long-range planning, and economic development.


#Always Andersonville: The Podcast – Show Notes from Episode 97 with Cornel “Junior” Ladan of Cas Hardware

Today Laura and Sara are joined by Cornel “Junior” Ladan, owner of Cas Hardware located at 5305 N Clark. Cas Hardware and Junior have been a neighborhood institution since 1978 and they will finally close their doors this Saturday, February 15 after 41 years. We hope you enjoy this interview with Junior, Sara and Laura, on-location at Cas Hardware and will join us in saying goodbye this Friday, February 14 at 3pm.

Cornel "Junior" Ladan of Cas Hardware is featured on this week's episode of #AlwaysAndersonville: The Podcast.

Cornel “Junior” Ladan of Cas Hardware is featured on this week’s episode of #AlwaysAndersonville: The Podcast.

Listen to Episode 97 with Cornel “Junior” Ladan!

  • Cas Hardware and Junior are an icon of Andersonville. In 41 years of business, Junior has never missed a day of work. In 1970, Junior emigrated to the States from Yugoslavia. In 1978 he became the owner of Cas Hardware, purchasing the business from a friend. The beginning was hard, and Junior shares that he remembers his young daughter helping in the store after school, cutting keys. For a few months, his wife worked elsewhere, but then came to the business and has been there ever since.
  • Junior shares that Andersonville was a lot different back then. The street was different, and not as busy. Slowly, everything began to change for the better. The Alderman Marion Volini used to stop by with her son Mike, and they would make keys and bring in their lamps. After that, the streets and sidewalks were improved. And now, it’s a good place to live and shop. Cas only recently began repairing lamps, about 5 years ago. He first started repairing them for free here and there, but people shared his service with their friends and began bringing in more and more business, including antique lamps. Junior has a relationship with stores all around the city, and in Andersonville has worked with Brownstone Antiques, Andersonville Antiques, and Scout, repairing and restoring antique lamps. He even has businesses from Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana who bring their lamps to Junior. Even after Cas closes, Junior will continue to fix lamps. He’ll keep the same telephone number and you can call to make an appointment.
  • So many of us have had keys made at Cas. At a certain point, Junior started counting how many Cas made per month, and sometimes they would make 1,000 to 1,300 per month. Laura asks if Junior knows where everything is now? In the beginning, he didn’t know where everything was. Junior shares some history about Cas, it was originally opened by a man named Casmir in 1954 at the corner of Halsted and Cornelia. He then bought their current building in 1973. When Junior closed the deal with Casmir, Casmir said he’d stay around to help Junior learn about the business, but when he handed over the keys, Casmir left for Alabama. 40 years later, Casmir rented an apartment in the neighborhood and actually worked 2-3 days a week for Junior.
Hang a key as a thank you to Cas and their decades of service at the "Key to our Hearts" temporary installation at Clark and Berwyn.

Hang a key as a thank you to Cas and their decades of service at the “Key to our Hearts” temporary installation at Clark and Berwyn.

  • When thinking of memories, Junior shares that just likes to fix things. Anything electric, like vacuum cleaners, clocks. Even if he doesn’t know how to fix something right away, he will try. Prior to Cas, Junior worked as a janitor and with plumbing and electrical and learned a lot.
  • We ask if there is an Andersonville business that Junior misses the most? He shares that he misses the older people who have passed away. Junior fondly recalls meeting up with friends on a daily basis; George the Beer Man, a Hungarian friend, and a few others at Clark and Berwyn. Junior was the “Mayor of Berwyn,” and gave names to his friends as well. Everyone shared stories, mostly about food – goulash, paprikash, and food their mothers made. One friend, Ben, came everyday. And now, Ben’s son visits Cas Hardware. Junior knows all the businesses and is friends with so many.
  • Part of the reason Cas Hardware is closing is that Junior and his wife need to help take care of his mother-in-law, 91 years old. He can’t run the business, respond to customers in the way that he would like, and take care of her.


  • We can’t imagine an Andersonville without Cas Hardware. From the Chamber of Commerce and everyone we represent, we will miss Cas Hardware, and thank you for serving this neighborhood. Cas has kept our doors locked and lights on, literally, for 41 years.
  • “Thank you for everything, the people that are there for me, the Chamber, the Alderman, and everyone who has come to help when we needed something. I’m going to miss the people from this neighborhood. But I’m going to visit them, I promise that. I’m not going to Florida or Arizona, I’ll stay around here.”
  • In parting ways, Junior shares that everything he worked for allowed him to put his kids through high school and college. Coming from a childhood that included persecution and hardship under communism, Junior’s father came to the States in 1966 in search of a better life for his family. On January 10, 1970, Junior, his wife, and their 19 month old daughter took a train to Vienna. In April of that same year, they arrived in Chicago. That was the beginning. He scrubbed floors at 500 N Michigan Ave for 6 months, became a janitor, and saved money. “Thank you for the interview, I wish everybody good luck and to be well. So, thank you.” 
“Thank you for the interview, I wish everybody good luck, and to be well, so, thank you.”

“Thank you for the interview, I wish everybody good luck and to be well. So, thank you.”




#Always Andersonville: The Podcast – Show Notes from Episode 96 with Life Coach Valerie Friedlander

This week Laura is joined by Valerie Friedlander. Valerie is a Certified Life Leadership Coach specialized in helping highly-motivated, social-justice oriented women create a life of impact AND enjoyment. Clients have called her a little love-vitamin for your soul, a mindset magician, and a motivational unicorn. Valerie can help you uncover your subconscious mindset blocks and create alignment between you, your goals, and how you achieve them.

Valerie Friedlander, certified life coach, is featured on this week's episode of #AlwaysAndersonville: The Podcast.

Valerie Friedlander, certified life coach, is featured on this week’s episode of #AlwaysAndersonville: The Podcast.

Listen to Episode 96 with Valerie Friedlander!

  • Valerie is originally from Tennessee. She is married, has two boys, and moved to Chicago five years ago. Her background is in corporate management. A self-described person who “followed the rules,” Valerie thought that she had it all – a spouse, a good job, two kids, and and a house in the suburbs. She followed a certain path, one that was influenced by society, family, and generations of tradition. She worked at managing the “life she wanted,” but realized she often found herself feeling like she wasn’t happy or good enough. This led her to explore options.
  • In 2015 she decided to follow a path of career coaching. She maintained her day job and got certified as an iPEC Professional Coach and Energy Leadership Master Practitioner. When beginning the program, she somewhat unexpectedly connected with a spiritual component, which helped her to self-realize what steps she wanted to take to move forward in life. Raised in the Quaker tradition, Valerie was able to connect her training as a career coach with aspects of her faith tradition.
  • Valerie addresses a common struggle that people have, negative mental circles. She talks about confronting this by shifting the way we think  – for permanent, good, change. “All feelings are valuable. ‘Thinking positive’ is not just about thinking happy, it’s about looking for what you want instead of sitting, staring at the problem.”
  • Laura and Valerie chat about each having two kids, with very different personalities and reactions to situations. They discuss how their emotions differ in different situations. Laura remarks that it’s helpful to approach her child’s day past just the binary, each day is more than just “good” or “bad.” Valerie adds that it’s helpful to assess why you’re having the kind of day you are, then you can create a mental reminder for acting “as if” you are having a good day. This is shifting focus so you’re working on what you want.
  • Touching on judging others by how they look, appear, and how that can set up for failure, Laura asks Valerie if she posts often to social media. Does she show her truth or lies on social media? Valerie started her business online, after only being in the city for about a year. However, after a year, she realized that a different approach was best for her. So, she then looked inward and used the tools she had, that she encourages others to use as well. She remarks it’s a lot easier to do this for others and help them see their right path that it is to do for oneself! Realizing she was getting in her own way, she hired a life coach for herself. “Coaches coaching coaches,” if you will. Continuing her online business, but also reached outward utilizing local in-person workshops.
  • Valerie offers One-on-Ones, DIY Flow Program. She begins her process with an Energy Leadership Index Assessment (recognized by Forbes), or Mindset Assessment, which allows her and her client to see what their goals are, and how much time approximately it will take. Assessments help identify patterns in one’s thinking, and whether they are helping or holding a person back. Once that’s done, she works with clients anywhere between 1 and 3 months. First month is momentum, second month is sometimes regression, and third is sustaining success. From there, people might stick with maintenance meetings for support, accountability and encouragement. Her Create Your Flow program,developed from these maintenance groups (videos and exercises made to explore who you are, and being able to uncover and shift rules and develop healthy actions in thought and action.) “Any time you can give yourself more options, then you have access to more choices. When you have access to more choices, you’re able to engage more consciously and create something.”
  • Similar to science, question, get curious, and take information and determine what worked and what didn’t. You have to take the time to choose an experiment, engage and assess. Specific workshops that Valerie offers are Retrain Your Brain – understanding framework that you can utilize to start making shifts. Other workshops dig in further, as well as collaboration. Coming up this month, Valerie offers sessions with a sex and intimacy coach to reboot and revitalize intimate relationships and its dynamics, both with individuals and couples. Another workshop will be “Setting Intentions in Chocolate,” at Helix Cafe, which will be creating your intentions, and then rolling them out in truffles, and consuming it. Which combines ritual and tangible.
Finding simple joy in a daily cafe au lait!

Finding simple joy in a daily cafe au lait!

  • Valerie’s work as a life coach differs from a traditional psycho-dynamic therapist is largely the clinical component. Also, her work more so identifies patterns and validates, helping to explore shifting focus and taking action. She is less past-experience oriented, and certainly, she recommends her work along with traditional therapists. She adds that we often need a team and community of support. “I’m here to hold your agenda and help you stay accountable to that agenda.”
  • Whether it’s dishes, laundry, or some other never-ending task that can weigh on a spousal relationship, Valerie remarks that it’s in these situations too that one can take a step back and identify what needs to change. “Stress is necessary for growth, it’s just how much stress you have in your life and how you’re utilizing the stress effectively to move yourself forward, or whether it’s breaking you down because it’s too much.”
  • Since 2015, Valerie’s own change and growth stemmed from her training program. She had a new way of looking at her life, a way to “show up” where she didn’t feel like she was failing. She was better able to handle and react to, and advocate for herself difficult situations, like a boss who caused serious stress every week. The next step in growth was that she decided to be an entrepreneur and look for help to achieve her goals. Challenges there included navigating a new system of finances, and re-evaluating what financial security looked and felt like.
  • As Valerie gives examples of every day family and relational stress, she remarks on her training that “With all of this work, it’s helped me show up more true to myself, while allowing the people around me to be more true to themselves and have their life as much as I’m owning my life. Together we’re able to come up with more creative solutions.” It doesn’t always work, but when it does, it’s so cool!
A fulfilling side hustle and hobby for Valerie is face painting.

A fulfilling side hustle and hobby for Valerie is face painting.

  • A totally different hobby Valerie has is that she is a face painter. A need came up at a block party, and she really enjoyed it. It was such a great feeling that she pursued it further. She uses non-toxic professional paint meant for skin, and face painting has turned it into a really fun side hustle, energizing other areas of her life, helping her to be well-rounded. In a comparable exercise, she has clients write down their top 5 values, along with their actions, and match them to one another. This helps people realize they need to honor their actions with their values. For Valerie, face painting is part of that process, nurturing her whole self. Also, she loves lattes and regularly enjoys making a cafe au lait every morning. Other personal hobbies include collecting unicorns – who might someday magically learn to do the dishes.
  • If Valerie could trade places with another Andersonville business for a day it would be Hamburger Mary’s, because they have so much fun. She loves the dresses, the music, and the singing (she’s all about karaoke.) Being a server would be great! Valerie’s go-to karaoke song is “It’s My Life,” by Bon Jovi. 

    Find Valerie Friedlander Coaching on the follow platforms:

#Always Andersonville: The Podcast – Show Notes from Episode 94 with Tamte Meladze of Oda Mediterranean Cuisine

This week Laura and Sara are joined by Tamte Meladze of Oda Mediterranean Cuisine. Oda showcases the flavor of the Ottoman kitchen and brings together the eclectic food traditions of Turkey and neighboring countries including France, Italy and Georgia while indulging Chicagoans in an overwhelmingly delicious authentic culinary experience at 5657 N Clark.

Tamte Meladze of Oda Mediterranean Cuisine is featured on this week's episode of #AlwaysAndersonville: The Podcast.

Tamte Meladze of Oda Mediterranean Cuisine is featured on this week’s episode of #AlwaysAndersonville: The Podcast.

Listen to Episode 94 with Tamte Meladze!

  • Tamte and her mother are originally from the country of Georgia, and her step-father is from Turkey. Tamte arrived in the US at the age of 19 in November 1, 2001, and immediately began working at the family restaurant, Turkish Cuisine. She is from Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia.
  • Before opening Oda, as mentioned above, Tamte’s family ran the restaurant Turkish Cuisine located at 5605 N Clark for 15 years. At the time of opening in 2001, there were very few Turkish restaurants in Chicago. Similar dishes in Turkish cuisine to other Mediterranean countries are kabobs, hummus, mezes, falafal, and baba ganoush to name a few. Tamte shares that Turkish cuisine doesn’t incorporate very much fat or oil, and is very healthy. Turkish breakfast consists of different kinds of jams, cheeses, dried fruits, nuts, honey and eggs, and Turkish Tea. Our kind of breakfast!
  • The family opened Oda in 2019. The word “oda” has many meanings, most notably, oda were poems of admiration in ancient Greece. The family began with Turkish cuisine, and then began adding other dishes like mousaka (eggplant casserole) and beef stroganoff. In Turkish, “oda” means “room,” and in Georgian it refers to a vintage house, and in Greek it’s a word of admiration. They use it to mainly describe a welcoming, cozy room or house. “The word oda has meaning of all the languages we speak!” says Tamte.
A meze platter at Oda, including hummus, babaganoush, dolma, ezme, atom, eggplant roulades, and soslu patlican.

A meze platter at Oda, including hummus, babaganoush, dolma, ezme, atom, eggplant roulades, and soslu patlican.

  • We ask what is it like to live so locally – owning a business, living, and sending your kids (ages 4 & 8) to school, all in Andersonville? “I have everything around. I am a Peirce parent and the restaurant is literally a half a block away. Everything else; if you want ice cream, a sandwich, or clothes – everything is around, we love Andersonville! We’ve been here since the day we came to Chicago.” Tamte and her family were drawn to Andersonville because it was in the city and close to downtown but not directly in it. As a local family restaurant, it’s the right location for them.
  • The menu at Oda features traditional items like hummus, mezes and kabobs. The Georgian influence comes through as well, like in their wine tasting event earlier this year. Oda features specific Georgian dishes, one being khachapuri, a dough and cheese dish. They feature dishes with lots of walnuts and pomegranates.
  • Georgia is considered a birth country of wine, dating back 8,000 years. The Georgian process of wine-making involves burying huge vessels underground, which gives it a distinct taste and color. It’s often referred to as Amber Wine, or Orange Wine because the process uses white grapes with skins on, which gives it a unique amber color. Oda’s wine menu can be viewed here, and they have plans to bring in more Georgian wines. Tamte describes the taste of Georgian wine as being more dense, very different, and lots of fruity and nutty influence. You’ll have to come in and try it!

    A variety of wines featured at Oda.

    A variety of wines featured at Oda.

  • Tamte’s favorite dish is beef stroganoff, a dish she grew up on – her mother’s staple. Oda also offers a vegetarian mushroom stroganoff variation.
  • Over the years, Tamte’s favorite story is from Oda’s first Mother’s Day. They had a full house, and the lights went out in Andersonville. They were so scared everyone would leave, so Tamte’s mother ran to Jewel and purchased candles. They had 6 chefs in that day, and they cooked by candle and flashlight. Everyone stayed, and it was the most romantic mother’s day they have ever had! The convenience of Andersonville is amazing – everything you need is here, in walking distance.
  • For someone new to Turkish cuisine and perhaps a timid eater, Tamte recommends an appetizer platter which allows you to taste a little bit of everything. Oda offers gluten free options, including Georgian bread. Combination meat platters have chicken, lamb, and beef. And obviously rice and salad! For seafood lovers, Tamte recommends chargrilled octopus. Delish!
Char-grilled octopus at Oda.

Char-grilled octopus at Oda.

  • Tamte’s advice to someone opening a restaurant is that you have to love the business, and have an idea of what you do. It was easier for her to feel comfortable and confident because her mother and father were both chefs. And, it is important to find a good chef who will cook the way you want. “If you want to do something, everything is possible. It’s Chicago. We love Andersonville,” Tamte shares, “When we opened Oda, everything was different. We didn’t have a liquor, or a patio license, and the Chamber has helped.”
  • Tamte travels back to Georgia every year, as her sister, extended family and friends are there. Tourism is rising there with winter and summer resorts, wineries, with many European and American tourists. She has noticed more customers come in to Oda and share that they have plans to visit Georgia.
  • Tamte’s kids are the next generation, and they spend lots of time in the restaurant, aka “Bebo’s (grandma) Restaurant.” Their favorite dishes are the cheesy bread and chicken kabob – a classic kid staple!
  • If Tamte could trade places with another Andersonville restaurant for a day (in all her spare time of being a parent, her full-time data management job as well has running Oda), it would be Toys Et Cetera, the perfect place to find a high-quality, educational and fun birthday present. If Tamte switched places with another Andersonville restaurant, it would be Piatto Pronto.

Visit Oda Mediterranean Cuisine on the following platforms:
Instagram: @odachicago

#Always Andersonville: The Podcast – Show Notes from Episode 93 with Giselle Laborde and Steven Sanchez of Mena Travel

This week Laura and Heather are joined by Steven Sanchez and Giselle LaBorde Sanchez of Mena Tours and Travel. Established in 1965, Mena Tours and Travel wants to share the world and bring you the best cruises, vacations and packages. Their friendly, knowledgeable agents will work hard to bring you the best at 5209 N Clark now on the 2nd floor.

Giselle Laborde and Steven Sanchez of Mena Travel are featured on this week's episode of #AlwaysAndersonville: The Podcast.

Giselle Laborde and Steven Sanchez of Mena Travel are featured on this week’s episode of #AlwaysAndersonville: The Podcast.

Listen to Episode 93 with Giselle Laborde and Steven Sanchez!

  • Giselle Laborde has been in the travel business her whole life, and before her, her father was in the travel business in 1965 in Lincoln Park. She has memories of helping put together travel brochures at 5 years old. Later in high school, she worked in her family’s agency in the summers and during school vacations. Giselle’s husband, George, was originally an accountant, and her father brought him in to the travel business. With his accounting background, George brought new ideas, and helped Mena Travel expand into multiple locations.
Giselle with her grandfather in the early Lincoln Park location of Mena Travel.

Giselle with her grandfather in the early Lincoln Park location of Mena Travel.

  • Steven (Giselle and George’s son), has been involved in the business his entire life. From an early age, Steven has always helped out in the office, whether it was answering the phone, helping with collateral, and general office upkeep. After college, and after compelling conversations with family and a realization that the industry was changing in the digital age, Steven decided to go into the family business.
Giselle Laborde and her son, Steven Sanchez of Mena Travel.

Giselle Laborde and her son, Steven Sanchez of Mena Travel.

  • At one point, Mena travel 17 agencies in the Chicago-land area, with nearly 300 sub-agents buying tickets from them. That was the business model in the 80’s and 90’s, the more locations you had with ticketing, the better. Steven often asks George if he has any regrets about the business, and he replies that he regrets not opening more locations during that time. It was a volume-driven industry, pre-online sales. The more airline tickets you sold, the more commission you received as well as better positioning within the airlines. Now, their business model is completely different.
  • While many travel agencies have not been able to adapt in the digital age, Mena Travel has found ways to evolve and find new avenues for revenue. Giselle shares that many of Mena’s “Most of our agents in the office right now have been with us for over 15 (some 20) years. They are true travel agents. They really love what they do, they’ve traveled. We’ve become specialized, evolving from mostly ticketing to providing travel services and a complete product…like a concierge travel service.” In addition to ticketing, hotel, and transportation planning, Mena makes complete experience plans. They often make dinner and spa reservations, as well as finding points of interest for clients.
  • What drove Giselle’s father to open the business and what brought them to Andersonville?
    George Laborde immigrated to the US right after WWII, from Cuba. He loved to travel through his editing job at Popular Mechanics, in small PanAm DC-3’s, in an age when air travel was just beginning. Later, he worked for the railroads, and then got into the airline industry selling tickets, opening a branch of an agency in Miami called “Mena Travel,” hence the name of their agency of the same name today. At the time, getting on an airplane was special and a privilege, and George loved the idea of commercializing that experience, and grew it to what is now a general family business. “We are the little engine that could,” says Giselle.
Flashback to air travel with spacious aisles and leg room.

Flashback to air travel with spacious aisles and leg room.

  • In 1988, Mena Travel opened in Andersonville to be close to Hispanic neighborhoods, as well as be a part of a community with lots of small businesses and walking traffic. Originally located on the first floor of 5209 N Clark in a very large space, Mena employed over 30 agents. Since then, Mena Travel recently moved upstairs, with Chicatolia transforming the ground floor “in the best way possible,” says Steven. Giselle adds that she loves their new upstairs space, and even though most of their clients are now online, they always welcome people to come and visit.
  • In this extremely digital age, we ask, “What is the benefit of working with a travel agent?” “Knowledge. Online, without a doubt, you can get some good deals. However, when you work with a travel agent, you benefit from the knowledge that they can give you,” explains Giselle. Also, Mena travel does the research for you, which saves you time. Steven adds that “The consumer is never going to pay more by using a travel adviser. The true value is with the consultation. All these products and packages that are promoted and listed online, we (Mena) have the same access to, but the difference is a one-on-one consultation, and that is our value-add to the consumer. If anything goes wrong, or if they have any questions about where they’re going, they can pick up the phone. If they miss a flight, they have their consultant dedicated to them and making sure their travel experience goes smoothly.” Giselle asks, “How many times have you booked something online, and then need some assistance? Maybe you want to upgrade to a king size bed or make special arrangements upon your arrival at your destination.” Those are things that can’t be done online, and require a call, and are frustrating! “It’s a lot easier to call your travel adviser and say, ‘Can you get this done? You don’t know how I get it done, but it’s done. That is the value. We can make your experience happen, without a lot of time on your part. You know what you want, have somebody get it done for you.”
  • Consultations begin with defining location, the purpose for travel, who they might travel with, and what kind of property they would like to stay in. Style of travel and budget are also very important factors in planning a client’s travel. Mena Travel is proud to have many repeat clients, which reaffirms their value. “We do not charge more than you’re going to find online, that is a misconception,” reminds Giselle. Consumers want to know how they make their money – the same way online wholesalers get commission, is the same way Mena Travel does. However, Mena offers more than just posting a product online, they consult with you through the entire process. And whether you meet in-person, or just online through Mena Travel, consulting is always there for you.
  • We ask, “What’s the biggest mistake people make when booking travel on their own?” Giselle replies, “Clicking too soon!” Even on simpler travel arrangements and small trips, Giselle still has clients who prefer to work with her or another travel adviser. As an example, Giselle and Mena Travel can help you make sure you have tickets available when you need them, and they will pay attention to the fine print and highlight important pros and cons for you. Mena connects post travel with clients, and takes notes and keeps track of experiences and feedback for future planning.
the larger Caicos Islands and smaller Turks Islands, two groups of tropical islands in the Lucayan Archipelago of the Atlantic Ocean and northern West Indies.

Contact Mena Travel and book a getaway to Turks and Caicos Islands and smaller Turks Islands, two groups of tropical islands in the Lucayan Archipelago of the Atlantic Ocean and northern West Indies.

  • Travel recommendations for 2020 are new exciting destinations. Usually occurring non-stop from Chicago on Saturdays and Sundays are new locations in the Caribbean, geared for the one-week traveler. If you’re planning for Summer 2020, American Airlines will begin flying into Prague. We are lucky to be Centrally located in the US for travel. February travel recommendations are anywhere in the Caribbean, Mexico, the Dominican Republic. Giselle shares that warm-weather direct flights from Chicago are: Cancun, Puerto Vallarta, Punta Cana, Turks and Caicos, Cayman Islands (Giselle’s personal favorite,) St. Martin, and St. Lucia, San Juan, Cabo San Lucas. And, why not consider Hawaii? Non-stop in to Maui and Honolulu.
  • Giselle is a Spain specialist, and shares that you can go to the Canary Islands. In addition to herself, Mena Travel’s advisor, Juan, has visited several resorts and towns there, and is very well-versed in traveling there. It is highly recommended!
  • A non-beach-town recommendations for the winter months is Madrid and Lisbon. Europe in general, is very affordable. Mena Travel knows where to stay, what to see, what to eat, and what music to listen to when you’re there! It’s not possible to capture everything here!
  • An overrated destination might be Barcelona. Worth it, but there are so many more places! If you want the Iberian Peninsula, consider underrated Lisbon. “The food is yummy, the wine is delicious, and the beer is inexpensive!” Also trendy and bang for buck are Croatia (specifically Dubrovnik) which will have non-stop flights soon.
Afama, Lisbon.

Afama, Lisbon.

  • Mena also specializes in South America, their original specialty. Giselle recommends Buenos Aires, Peru and its Sacred Valley. The Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu in Peru is a trip that you want to use an advisor, someone who has walked that path. Be sure to go there outside the rainy season! Juan Carlos and Giselle have been there often, and at Mena can book that for you!
  • What would you recommend to someone interested in becoming a travel agent?
    Giselle share that some schools offer travel program in their curriculum. Also there is an organization called ASTA – the American Society of Travel Advisors, who offer a course for those interested in pursuing a career in travel advising. Both Giselle and Steve share that it’s the perfect career for someone who is passionate about travel and share their experience with their clients and colleagues, work with people, and work in a sales environment.
  • If they could swap places with another Andersonville business, Steven would select 2 places, Vincent and Hopleaf. Aside from travel, Steven is passionate about culinary experiences. Giselle would like to be a bartender for a day at Scotty’s bar, Simon’s. Giselle and Steven and their family has been a long-time part of Andersonville, a gem, a great place to dine, shop, and book travel.

Visit Mena Travel on the following platforms:


#Always Andersonville: The Podcast – Show Notes from Episode 92 with Paul Lee and Abigail Watkins of Dispensary 33

This week Laura and Sara are joined by Abigail Watkins and Paul Lee of Dispensary 33. Dispensary 33 made history as the first location in the city of Chicago where one could purchase cannabis legally with a medical cannabis card. They display all marijuana goods to its customers, allowing patients to personally inspect their meds. With a large menu of flowers, extracts, edibles and topicals, this dispensary has consistently gone above and beyond to help the state’s medical marijuana patients safely and affordably access their medicine. Tomorrow, on January 1, the recreational sale of cannabis becomes legal in Illinois and Dispensary 33 is one of only three Chicago shops to get a recreational sales permit. Be sure to mark your calendars to queue up to get your weed at 9AM at 5001 N Clark.

Abigail Watkins and Paul Lee of Dispensary33 are featured on this week's edition of #AlwaysAndersonville: The Podcast.

Abigail Watkins and Paul Lee of Dispensary 33 are featured on this week’s edition of #AlwaysAndersonville: The Podcast.

Listen to Episode 92 with Abigail Watkins and Paul Lee!

  • We’re excited to talk with Abigail and Paul, and we’ll begin with learning about their background, what brought them to Dispensary 33, and their roles there. Paul started with Dispensary 33 (D33 for short) four years ago, and was living in Los Angeles at the time. His friend Richard Park (a D33 consultant) introduced him to the company and asked him to come to Chicago to help work on the application and license for D33, which led to becoming the first dispensary in the Chicago to open. Paul is the General and Operations Manager of Dispensary 33 in Andersonville.
  • Prior to the dispensary, Abigail worked at a law firm that worked a lot with regulated industries, Dispensary 33 being one of them. That’s how she became connected, and eventually moved to D33. She had no idea that working in the cannabis industry was an option, and worked really hard to make it a reality with D33.
  • Dispensary 33 has been operating as a medical marijuana dispensary since December 2015. Paul explains Andersonville was chosen as the dispensary’s location because it has a lot of its “original soul, and retained its Chicago feel.” He adds that the Chamber and Block Clubs, and Alderman were helpful in getting to know Andersonville and with selecting their location at 5001 N Clark.
  • The facility is beautiful on the outside with a unique layout inside. D33 worked with VERO Design and Perimeter Architects. The interior design and marketing work is done by Bob Faust. The goal was to create a beautiful space, as well as present the product in a way that showcases its importance. This wasn’t easy, but every product is displayed as closely as possible to the actual item you receive, along with placards with descriptions to help make the right choice. The design is always changing, and is always a process pushed by continuing to expand the products they offer. “The singular goal was to create a beautifully displayed dispensary,” says Paul.
Dispensary 33's beautiful custom-designed display cases by VERO Design + Build.

Dispensary 33’s beautiful custom-designed display cases by VERO Design + Build.

  • You’ll notice that Dispensary 33’s window signage includes films on the windows, which are required because it is a medicinal facility and for privacy. These films will stay up after the January 1 date, the reason being that D33 holds 2 licences, medical and recreational. Patient confidentiality is important, thus the privacy film on the windows.
  • As we enter the New Year, we asked Paul and Abigail what some of their concerns are, such as high demand and shortages of weed. Paul shares, “I think there’s going to be a spike in demand, because you have so many new customers coming in at once. It’s going to be difficult to service everybody at the same time, so there may be shortages on particular items. But, in Illinois, there is a really good chance at rebounding from any hit on the supply because the facilities that create them are so large, and they are very well organized. They are seeking to expand all the time. So I think you have this really good network of different cultivators that are able to expand product, make more product, and are planning to do so for next year, and are ready on a heightened level.”
  • In terms of clients they serve, D33 has a potential patient base of thousands. Abigail adds that they have around 3,300 medical card holders registered currently. A lot! It’s hard to say how many will come out in 2020. The total counts state-wide is approximately 70,000.
D33's privacy windows.

D33’s privacy windows.

  • Abigail adds that there are over 40 qualifying conditions in Illinois to be eligible for receiving a certification from your doctor for medical marijuana. People come in to D33 for many reasons. Anxiety, chronic illness, medication side effect management are just a few examples. Paul adds that “Cannabis is a symptom-based medicine, in that sense, it’s not tied to any particular disease.” One of the new conditions on the list of qualifiers is chronic pain, which can come from so many different illnesses. Another example, is stress. It is a common reason that many people might use another form of self-treatment, but cannabis is one of the most healthy. “When society starts to look at cannabis differently, it can really start to change the way that it grows and uses that plant. I’m really excited for that change, most of all.”
  • Sara notes that it’s interesting to look at cannabis as a cultural change – across our city, across our state. She asks the question, and acknowledges that this is the hardest question we have ever asked in the history of this podcast, “What would you say to folks who think cannabis is a slippery slope or gateway into drug use or addiction?”

    Paul explains that he thinks addiction is complicated, and in his limited perspective, if someone slips into addiction it’s probably due to many different factors. Exposing someone to one substance is not enough to make someone fall into an addiction. Overall, perhaps we need to redefine what addiction means. When we look, in particular into opioids, one of the worst problems in the country in terms of people abusing and dying from it, and then cannabis on the other hand has the ability to help. Recently Paul opened a letter from someone in their Compassion Care Program, (a program of 1% back to people who need it), who explained that they were able to kick all opioids and pain prescription medicine in finding alternatives in cannabis. Using this as just an example, Paul thinks cannabis can help fight addictions. Abigail would also encourage people to just come to the D33 and check it out. They affectionately refer to their staff as “bud-tenders,” like bartenders in the sense that they’re hip and fun to talk to, but very professional and comprehensive in their ability to speak about cannabis. “It’s a space where people are opening up, talking about something they never felt like they could before. I encourage anyone to come in and talk to us.”

Dispensary 33's friendly and knowledgeable staff and "budtenders" celebrated 4 years in Andersonville in early December.

Dispensary 33’s friendly and knowledgeable staff and “budtenders” celebrated 4 years in Andersonville in early December.

  • Sara remarks that “D33 was very active in advocating for the legalization of marijuana in the state of Illinois, and Governor Pritzker was on-site of the dispensary when he announced his support of taking the path towards legalization in Illinois. It’s a big deal for our state that it was done, for the first time ever in the country, legislatively, and not by a vote.” She asks Paul and Abigail to speak to that process, what was learned by the team at D33, what change is in store for our state and city? Paul says, “It was a really big honor to host Gov. Pritzker when he made that announcement. A proud moment for us to stand behind that movement.” Operationally, from Paul’s perspective, they just tried to be the best dispensary that they could, through positive client experience, extensive knowledge of the plant that is up-to-date with current research, in a sense, being a guru. The program has done very well over the last four years. It was not always that popular, but over time the program has become very successful. “Overall, it’s super successful. From my perspective, that was the best way we could have done. A lot of outreach, to let people know that it is really helping people…because, you know, Chicago definitely had this criminality element for cannabis for a long, long time. So overcoming those stigmas was an important part to bring this to a feasible thing to the city and the state.”
  • Laura points out that just because pot becomes legal, doesn’t mean that it’s unregulated. The industry is designed to grow gradually, and purchasers will need to be over 21. Abigail talks further about regulations, like quantity limits and public consumption.  She explains, “Anyone 21+ can come in, show their ID, and consult with budtenders at D33.” From there, consumption is supposed to occur in private space, home, for example. Backyards are included in that, but front porches is still up for debate. Places like sidewalks and restaurants still fall under the Smoke Free Illinois Act, which includes all smoking (cigarettes, vaping, cannabis) in the public way. In vehicles, near schools, and within assisted living and public housing, and hotels is also excluded for cannabis consumption. You can transport it in your car, but is has to be out of reach. You knowingly can’t smoke around anyone who is under 21. Purchase limits will be different for patients, Illinois residents, and out of state visitors. Anyone 21+ will be able to purchase, but Illinois residents will be able to purchase 15 grams. Listen closely here – it’s a little complicated, like a 7th grade math problem about two trains moving in opposite directions…we recommend you just visit D33. The purchase limit is 15 grams for out of state visitors, 30 Illinois res, patients allotment is about 72 grams every two weeks. Everything is determined by lab result, not just weight. This can all be explained by folks at D33.
  • Sara comments that a consumption licensing is the next step, which was a topic of discussion during a meeting with the city a couple of weeks ago. As a new industry, it will be exciting to see what happens. It’s also possible that dispensaries may integrate consumption lounges.
  • In terms of product explanation, marijuana is typically smoked among recreational consumers, but it can also be used edibles like chocolates, cookies, gummies, and cannabis infused patches. Laura asks, “What might D33 recommend for the first time pot user?” Paul recommends smoking a joint for the first-time recreational user, because you’re guaranteed to use everything in the plant, burning everything such as terpenes and cannabinoids, and it is the most traditional and cleanest way to use cannabis. It’s tried and true, and it’s going to have an immediate effect. If you don’t like the smoke, you can vaporize which is easy. If you don’t want any inhalation, he would recommend edibles, with a relatively small dosage (5-10 mg) since it’s harder to determine with someone consuming for the first time.
  • She also asks “Does marijuana go bad? How long can it last?” Abigail explains that it won’t go bad, but it will dry out, it might not taste as good, and its potency (THC) can degrade. She recommends that you store it in an airtight container with little exposure to light. Paul adds that the smell relates to its potency, similar to other herbs. The less smell, the less potency. In D33, everything is vacuum sealed.
  • D33 has, for the past couple of years, organized a community festival called “Waldo Forever Festival,” which has been on or around April 20, or 4/20 – a pot-friendly holiday. The event has drawn 6,000 participants. Abigail explains the idea for Waldo Forever Fest came from an urban legend, but possibly true story of high schoolers who would smoke together at a wall after school, around 4:20PM, and called themselves “the waldos.” For D33, it’s the biggest sale day of the year. The first year it was a way to entertain patients as they waited in line outside, and anyone else who wanted to be part of the cannabis community. Last year they featured comedians, Big Freedia, music, and food trucks. Also featured were tents for cultivators with information. It’s a great way to celebrate the day and learn about the product. D33 worked with Cannabis Alliance and D312 to make it happen.
Waldos Forever Fest 2019 held at Clark and Argyle.

Waldos Forever Fest 2019 held at Clark and Argyle.

Tomorrow is January 1, here is what you need to know:

  • What are Dispensary 33’s hours on January 1?
    6AM-9PM (Expanded hours – they open early!)
  • Where do people line up?
    D33 isn’t planning on a line, but using a texting app service, just like how restaurants use paging service with a grace period so they can service people as fast as they can. D33 used a similar process on 4/20, which worked well. There will be coupons for local businesses, which will be great to use if you have a 30-minute virtual wait in line.

  • What if I like to wait in line?
    If you like lines, then you’re welcome to wait. D33 will have have heaters and supporting local businesses are participating in celebrating the day, like SoFo Tap and Meetinghouse Tavern. SoFo Tap will be open and playing cannabis-related movies (Dazed and Confused, Cheech and Chong) during the day, and featuring cannabis-themed trivia at night. Dark Matter has donated coffee.
  • We’re sure we’ll have many Andersonville businesses come on #AlwaysAndersonville: The Podcast and say the will want to trade places with Dispensary 33. But for this show, who would Dispensary 33 trade places with for a day? Paul would trade places with Hopleaf, where he has been visiting for a long time, and loves their atmosphere, food and drink selection. Abigail loves Ridman’s Coffee at 4658 N Clark, but isn’t sure about her barista skills. She visits 4-5 times a week, and orders a cappuccino or chai latte with an espresso shot. 

Visit Dispensary 33 on the following platforms:

#Always Andersonville: The Podcast – Show Notes from Episode 91 with Lindsey Anderson of Uvae Kitchen and Wine Bar

Today Laura and Joelle are joined by Lindsey Anderson, owner and Sommelier of Uvae Kitchen and Wine Bar. Uvae offers balance, flavor, and ingenuity in their food and in their service to community. Expect the personality of each wine to inspire stories to share at 5553 N Clark.

Lindsay Anderson, Owner of Uvae Kitchen and Wine Bar recording #AlwaysAndersonville: The Podcast at Transistor: Studio C.

Lindsey Anderson, Owner of Uvae Kitchen and Wine Bar recording #AlwaysAndersonville: The Podcast at Transistor: Studio C.

Listen to Episode 91 with Lindsey Anderson!

  • Lindsey has always been in the hospitality industry, since her start waiting tables in high school. She graduated from Kendall College with a degree in Hospitality Management. She is an instructor there in their wine program, and teaches their level one sommelier certification course. She managed restaurants for 20 years, and recently decided to branch out on her own recently by opening Uvae.
  • The word uvae means “grapes” in Latin. Before landing on that name, she considered many different names, and learned a lot about trademark laws in that process. It was important their name be unique and stuck with their theme, so she landed on Uvae. The logo and design was created by Lindsay’s sister-in-law who is an artist and designer.

Uvae Purple

  • Lindsey wanted a classic design that encompassed the menu and wine list, and the interior design that can be described as “old world meets new world.” The interior has vintage elements, utilizing pieces from the original space (the former Adriatic Cafe) and including them in Uvae’s atmosphere – tin ceiling tiles on the bar, vintage furniture, and added modern elements with wallpaper and teal banquettes. After advice from her designer, Lindsey decided on bold wallpaper, perhaps one of the most striking visual elements within Uvae. It is appropriately named “Power Plant.”
  • Uvae required a full-build out, including a new kitchen. It was Lindsey’s first experience with a full build-out, and she shares candidly that she was a little naive going into the process. It was more complicated than just adding a wall, a bar, and some paint. She learned a lot about plumbing, electrical and HVAC, and is grateful she had an amazing contractor to work with, and who helped her through the whole process. It took a full year, but it was worth it. It’s beautiful!
  • Uvae is on the corner of Bryn Mawr and Clark, a great spot. Being on the corner allows Uvae to utilize its street-facing windows, and Lindsey comments that people stop to read their menus, and that events like Andersonville Trick or Treat were successful for meeting people who had never been in. It’s a bustling area, across the street from Little Bad Wolf and close to Orange Shoe Fitness, City Olive, and Winifred Grace. A lot happening in North Andersonville!
Uvae's aesthetic is "old world meets new world" in design and palate.

Uvae’s aesthetic is “old world meets new world” in design and palate.

“One of the reasons why I chose Andersonville for our location is the sense of community. It’s great to be a part of it, and be friends with the owners of Little Bad Wolf and go to Orange Shoe, and help each other out as far as cross-marketing.” – Lindsey Anderson

  • The Uvae menu consists of diverse cuisine options, similar to tapas and meant to be shared. There is particular attention to earth, sea, and farm categories. The opening chef, Chef Rafael, was very passionate about his menu, and he liked to say he ‘cooks from the soul.’ Bringing together old world and new world, he took traditional ethnic recipes and put a modern twist on them, showcasing our community, and how diverse it is. Uvae is careful to accommodate all allergies and food restrictions, so there are a lot of veggies on the menu. Unique items on the menu are vegetarian zucchini and mole. That is the dish Uvae served at Taste of Andersonville – maybe you were lucky enough to try it! The new consulting chef is Chef Charity, who carries on the task of creating wine dinners as well as curating the menu.
  • The Uvae experience is thoughtful and inviting. When you walk in the door, you can expect a dedication to true hospitality, with a warm and welcoming environment. Laura recently dined there, and was greeted as a first time guest with a glass of prosecco. The food is meant to be shared, and as a wine bar, paired with the perfect wine, in 3, 6, and 9 oz pours allowing for different pairings.
  • As Sommelier, Lindsey strives to be very approachable. “Wine should be fun, it should be an experience, and it shouldn’t be scary or snotty!” At Uvae you can choose your own wines, but also experience their pairings. One Tuesdays Uvae offers a 3-course chef paired dinner, that includes opening a bottle from the higher-end bottle list. They also offer a featured wine dinner every month, most recently on December 11 it was a five-course dinner paired with Brewer-Clifton wines.
Cocktails at Uvae.

Beautiful cocktails against unique wallpaper at Uvae.

  • The Chamber has interviewed In Fine Spirits before, but Lindsey is our first sommelier. What does it mean to be a sommelier? Lindsey explains that she has always enjoyed wine, and her first job at 404 Wine Bar (now closed) fueled her passion for learning about wine. Her approach is reflective of her education, and her overarching theme of Uvae is old vs. new, warm vs. cool climate. She likes to show people that wines can be completely different from one another based on region and for other variables. Her own personal collection mainstay includes summer rosé, red wine in the cooler months, with spicier syrahs being a current favorite.
  • Lindsey’s favorite dish on their menu is the orange duck; a roasted half duck served with goat cheese chive polenta. It’s very simple, but very delicious. A customer favorite is the sausage pie, which is a take on an elevated burger made from in-house sausage made from beef and lamb, wrapped in puff pastry served with white wine tomato ricotta smear. Decadent and perfect for sharing! Customers love building their own 3 oz flights, which allows them to try a wide variety of wines.
Sausage Pie at Uvae.

Sausage Pie at Uvae.

  • Remember that Uvae is open late on Friday, December 20 and participating in the final Late Night Andersonville. As you get in your last minute shopping, stop in Uvae and warm up with a glass of wine and share a plate. During the holidays and always, Uvae is always ready to host a private party. They are now accepting reservations for New Year’s Day brunch from 10AM-3PM, and you can reach them here.
  • Uvae’s cocktail menu features all grape-based spirits, featuring vermuth, grappa. Because they are grape-based, they are lower alcohol level allowing customers to enjoy more than one. A hot spiced syrah is on the cold weather menu, featuring a warm drink similar to a spiced wine. The winter menu runs until May. Uvae also offers brunch on the weekends, featuring dishes like brioche French toast, with your choice of bacon ricotta, caramel apple, benedicts, sandwiches and salads. Completely different than the dinner menu – come find out!
  • Advice from Lindsey to up and coming entrepreneurs, based on experience in large and small restaurants, is to remember why you wanted to go into the restaurant business. Hers being that she loves to make people happy through hospitality on a day-to-day basis, not just to her guests but to her employees as well, and providing a positive culture for everyone.
  • If Lindsey could swap places with another Andersonville business owner for a day it would be Mark Liberson of Replay and Elixir, he is genuine, enjoyable to converse with a very successful and respected in the hospitality industry. Also, his favorite dish at Uvae is the octopus! 

Visit Uvae Kitchen and Wine Bar on the following platforms:
Instagram: @uvaechicago

This episode is brought to you by Foursided in Andersonville at 5061 N Clark St, the one stop shop for cards, gifts, and vintage you’ve known since 2005 and the brand new custom framing shop at 5111 N Clark you’re going to love. Come find your holiday spirit at Foursided and


#AlwaysAndersonville: The Podcast – Show Notes from Episode 90 with Catherine Selen of the Swedish American Museum

Today Laura is joined by Catherine Selen of the Swedish American Museum located at 5211 N Clark, here to talk with us about the tradition of St. Lucia, which takes place this Friday, December 13. The celebration comes from stories told by monks who first brought Christianity to Sweden. St. Lucia was a young Christian girl who was martyred and killed for her faith in the year 304 AD. The most common story told about St. Lucia is that she would secretly bring food to the persecuted Christians in Rome, who lived in the catacombs under the city. She would wear candles on her head so she had both her hands to carry everything.

Catherine Selen, Store Manager at the Swedish American Museum recording #Always Andersonville: The Podcast at Transistor: Studio C.

Catherine Selen, Store Manager at the Swedish American Museum recording #Always Andersonville: The Podcast at Transistor: Studio C.

Listen to Episode 90 with Catherine Selen!

  • Catherine recently began working at the Swedish American Museum in October 2019 as Store Manager. She has been busy setting up their Jul pop-up shop, featuring holiday decor and ornaments (just next door to the museum.) She also handles all buying, stocking food, and managing volunteers for the store. She has a strong connection to Sweden, as her father was born there. She shares that her grandparents would always celebrate Julafton (Christmas Eve), where her family would exchange gifts, set the julbord (Christmas table), and sing songs. Catherine studied Swedish in college, and has a minor in Scandinavian Studies. With a professional background in retail, the Store Manager position at the Museum is a great melding of her experience and cultural background.
  • And now, on to Lucia. According to old Swedish myth, Lucia night was the longest night of the year, when supernaturals would terrorize the countryside. Catherine confirms that the “lucia” were supernatural, maybe evil, beings that would come and terrorize bad and/or mischievous children. The way to keep them away was to eat a lot and put out a lot of lights. Over time, the story morphed into what it is today, with the introduction of Christianity. The Catholic St. Lucia may was perhaps originally Sicilian, but was adopted into Western Sweden culture. Catherine shares that the legend is that St. Lucia appeared to starving farmers during a time of famine with food and light on her head. Now, modern tradition commonly includes the eldest daughter of the household dressing up as Lucia with a crown of lights, with Lucia attendants and star people do a procession through the house. Then, in the morning, when it’s still dark, they bring coffee and lussekatter (saffron buns) to the parents or eldest in the house.

St Lucia Lights

  • The Swedish American Museum celebrates the St. Lucia tradition every year. Groups of all ages, kid, teens, and adults, come together for the Lucia procession. This year’s procession begins at the museum on Friday, December 13 at 4:45PM, processes on Clark Street, returns to the museum for a full Lucia performance, and then on to Ebenezer Church for a service, with another procession out after the service. The Lucia wearing the crown of light will lead the procession, with attendants dressed in white, as well as star people dressed in white with star cones on their heads and wands. For more information, click here.
  • Catherine shares the crowning of Lucia in Sweden was similar to a pageant, with girls submitting entries to be crowned that year’s Lucia. The Lucia selected on Friday, December 13 here in Andersonville will be determined by a random lottery draw.
St. Lucia Procession on Clark Street.

St. Lucia Procession on Clark Street.

  • Catherine and the museum hope people come away from the St. Lucia Festival with a feeling of nostalgia for those who are familiar with the tradition, but also that everyone comes together in a celebration of light and the beginning of the holiday season. If you haven’t been to a Lucia procession, come on out. It’s a wonderful and beautiful community event.
  • Other Swedish holidays traditions include “tomte,” a magical creature who looks like a Santa-like gnome, and who speaks in a special language to children and animals, and is believed to live under floor boards. Tomte is actually a year-round character, believed to be present in every Swedish home and in forests, commonly depicted with blueberries and lingonberries.
Bring home your very own tomte.

Bring home your very own tomte from the Swedish American holiday p0p-up store.

  • On Christmas Eve, a family must present tomte with a bowl of porridge, otherwise they will cause mischief in the home. In exchange for the porridge, they give the family gifts. Tomte is accompanied by a julbock, the straw goat that you commonly see as a Swedish Christmas decorations, which you can find in the Swedish American Museum holiday pop-up store. The julbock also brings gifts, so both tomte and julbock play a similar Santa Claus role in Sweden.
Julbock, available in the Swedish American Museum holiday pop-up store.

Julbock, available in the Swedish American Museum holiday pop-up store.

  • As traditional Swedish holiday food goes, lingonberries are very popular. They are like cranberries, but smaller and sweeter. They are eaten commonly as a jam and paired with meatballs or crisp bread. It is also made into syrup, which is mixed with water or soda. Other common holiday food is lussekatter (saffron buns), rice porridge, Swedish meatballs, pickled herring, Janssen’s Temptation (a Swedish version of scalloped potatoes with anchovies). The pepparkakor cookie, like gingersnaps, are also popular and sold at the Swedish American Museum. Every Swedish home has a tin of pepparkakor on Christmas, and Catherine shares that there is a tradition associated with the cookie. If you put it in your palm and break the cookie with your knuckle and it breaks into 3 pieces, then you can make a wish.
If your pepparkakor breaks into three pieces, you get to make a wish!

If your pepparkakor breaks into three pieces, you get to make a wish!

  • At the Swedish American Museum, you will find hundreds of tomte, pepparkakor, and so much more. Particular points of interest are ornaments, angel chimes, Advent lights and stars, as well as Lucia crowns available for all ages.
  • Catherine’s favorite part of the holiday is the julbord – all the Christmas food. She loves the story of tomte, and fondly remembers reading the story every Christmas Eve. Lucia is a fun tradition, and she wore the crown every day of the holiday season.
  • If Catherine could trade places for a day with another Andersonville business it would be Foursided. Especially during the holidays and it’s huge array of holiday ornaments, spinning trees. Or, Candyality for the sweets!
  • You can celebrate Lucia this Friday, by joining us for the procession at 4:45PM at the Swedish American Museum, for more information about Lucia, you can visit the Swedish American Museum website at For more information on how to volunteer and carry a light during the Lucia procession, please click here.

Visit Swedish Amerian Museum on the following platforms:
Instagram: @swedishamericanmuseum/
Twitter: @SwedeAmerican

#Always Andersonville: The Podcast – Show Notes from Episode 89 with Tanner McSwain of Uncharted Books

Today Laura and Joelle are joined by Tanner McSwain owner of Uncharted Books, a used and rare bookstore, secret club, and event space in Andersonville at 5140 N Clark.

Tanner McSwain, owner of Uncharted Books, recording #Always Andersonville: The Podcast at Transistor: Studio C.

Tanner McSwain, owner of Uncharted Books, recording #Always Andersonville: The Podcast at Transistor: Studio C.

Listen to Episode 89 with Tanner McSwain!

  • To start off, Andersonville is known for its many shop animals, and Uncharted Books is no exception with their resident shop dog and mascot, Ramona Flowers Quimby Age 8 Adams McAdams McSwain, or just “Ramona” for short, who is joining in on the #AlwaysAndersonville: The Podcast fun with her human, Tanner. She’s a husky and rescue from Paws, and may serenade us later in the show. She’s sweet, beautiful, and she knows it.
Ramona Flowers Quimby Age 8 Adams McAdams McSwain, resident mascot

Ramona Flowers Quimby Age 8 Adams McAdams McSwain, resident mascot.

  • To kick things off, a few curated good book-based jokes.
    “What do you get when you mix alcohol and literature? Tequila Mockingbird.”
    “Why did the reader give up on Pride and Prejudice? The characters were too Austen-tatious.”

    “I just read a book called, ‘How to Survive Falling Down a Staircase,’ it’s a step-by-step guide.”

    “I found the first four Harry Potter books to be quite light-hearted and funny. The fifth one was dead sirius.” Fun Fact: Harry Potter (and JK Rowling) and Laura have the same birthday.

    “I asked the librarian if she had any books on paranoia, she leaned in close and whispered, ‘They’re behind you.’”

    “What kind of dinosaur writes romance novels? A Bronte-saurus.

  • Ok, seriously though. Tanner was born on a chicken farm in rural North Carolina, whose mother was a high school English teacher and father a farmer. He went to UNC, and then moved to Chicago on a whim, under the recommendation that “Chicago is like New York, but with nice people.” He liked it, and 11 years later, he’s still here. Now married, with a dog, and a bookstore. Prior to Uncharted, he was in publishing. He noticed big bookstores, like Borders, were closing and after lots of research, took advantage of the opening in the retail book store market.
  • He first opened Uncharted Books in Logan Square in 2012. And moved to Andersonville this past summer in July 2019. It was hard to leave Logan Square, but easy to choose Andersonville. He selected Andersonville for its culture and because it’s known to be one of the most independent/small business friendly neighborhoods in Chicago. It’s not all too different from Logan Square, and he remarks that there is a similar appreciation for their aesthetic, and curiosity and support for independent businesses overall in both neighborhoods. When asked how moving went, “It was as smooth a transition as moving 30,000 books across the city can be,” Tanner says.
Uncharted is located at 5140 N Clark.

Uncharted is located at 5140 N Clark.

  • Uncharted Books sells a highly curated selection of used books, zines, a rare titles. The collection is acquired a couple of different ways. Uncharted buys books from the public Mondays and Tuesdays, 12-6PM. The process is simple, you can bring in a book, which could be accepted for cash or store credit. “The way the curation process goes, is that we like to tell people that we are looking for books that are really good, weird, or ideally both.” Uncharted looks less for popular titles, and more for literary books, unusual titles, and anything that might make your grandparents give is the ‘side eye.’ They want that.
  • For rare books, sometimes Uncharted is fortunate to receive these directly from sellers, but Tanner is more active is seeking these out. He visits estate sales, library sales, auctions, etc. When he opened the store, the agreement was that he wouldn’t horde books at home anymore. So, he tries to only keep books that have particular personal importance.
  • Uncharted hosts many events. Monthly recurring series events and one-offs. And in fact, Uncharted has a secret room, behind a secret bookcase door that reveals “The Adventurer’s Club,” which functions as event space, rare books room, and co-working space. Events include independent author readings, lectures, interviews, open mics, a comedy show called “Congrats on Your Success,” and small community events. Typically 3 or 4 events per week, which you can see here. In particular, the co-working space is available for $99/month, which gets you access to all amenities – access to all events, a space to read, use the reference library, write, bring clients, do homework, play board games, etc. And 10% off all books. If you’d like to test it out first, you can use the co-work space for $12/hour. There is even a vintage sound-proofed phone booth!
An event at Uncharted.

An event at Uncharted.

  • A quick hello from Ramona, who very much enjoyed her new toy from her favorite shop, Jameson Loves Danger.
  • The layout of Uncharted Books is laid out based on logic, like kids books are on short cases that are accessible. On the south wall are books on occult, religion, philosophy, psychology, science. Fantasy and sci-fi are next to each other. Tanner tries to keep local writers and artists in the front, and likes to rearrange frequently as well.Among the books, Uncharted also carries collectibles, like telescopes, globes, and clocks, which lend to the adventure theme of the store. The artwork is mostly from thrift stores, flea markets, and all over.
  • When you meet Tanner, you might notice his “flair.” Buttons! He and his partners are big Disney fans, and particularly love pin trading. They have a pin trading board in the store in the kid section, where you can leave one and swap one.
  • Uncharted is participating in Late Night Andersonville on December 6 & 20. They are offering the deal of buy 2 used books, get 1 free. Other events happening at Uncharted are “Congrats on Your Success” on Thursday, December 5, “Excited Utterance” a reading series is on Friday, December 6, “Other People’s Poetry” is on Monday, December 9, and Carrie McGath’s Poetry Salon open mic on December 10, and so much more! Find it all here.
  • Does Tanner have a go-to book recommendation? Tanner has so many, and the store has staff-picks. His favorite book of all time is Treasure Island, and most recently The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson. He is also reading Tegan and Sara’s High School. Tanner keeps a small calendar notebook, which he lives by. He also has a giant notebook, where he writes (he’s an author), and works out ideas.
His favorite book? Treasure Island.

Tanner’s favorite book? Treasure Island.

  • If Tanner could trade with any Andersonville business for a day, it would Women & Children First, his favorite book store ever since he’s been in Chicago. He loves their character, point of view, and they have the best events and aspires to be like them as a book store owner.

    This episode is brought to you by Lakeshore Dental Studio located at 5505 N Clark, where they are proud to provide a modern dental experience for patients in Andersonville. Keep your smile bright this season with a free take-home whitening treatment. You can claim your gift after your first exam, cleaning and x-rays. Offer valid for new patients only, cannot be combined with any other offers. Find out more at or on Facebook.

Visit Uncharted Books on the following platforms:

#Always Andersonville: The Podcast – Show Notes from Episode 88 with Lauren Ocello of Twidley Bits

Today we are joined by Lauren Ocello of Twidley Bits. Twidley Bits is a labor of love from this former chocolatier and takes the best the season has to offer and turns them into scrumptious jams, fruit butters, pickles and plant-based cheeses that you and your loved ones can enjoy all year long. They help you put breakfast on the table, snacks on the buffet, and treats in everyone’s tummies that everyone can feel good about.

Lauren Ocello, owner and creator of Twidley Bits, recording #Always Andersonville: The Podcast at Transistor: Studio C.

Lauren Ocello, owner and creator of Twidley Bits, recording #Always Andersonville: The Podcast at Transistor: Studio C.

Listen to Episode 88 with Lauren Ocello!

  • Lauren has lived in Chicago since 1999, and began career in education and history. But, she has always loved being in the kitchen and so decided to go to the French Pastry School in Chicago and received her certificate in Bakery and Pastry, and worked as a chocolatier for three and a half years, where she produced chocolate bon bons, bars, dipped items, as well as caramels, marshmallows, and more. At the beginning of 2019, she decided to branch out on her own, and thus, Twidley Bits was born. Twidley Bits is a phrase Lauren has used for a while, and describes “fun little extra things.
  • Twidley Bits products she offers are jams, fruit butters, pickles, and vegan cheeses. From Thai-spiced watermelon rind pickles to blackberry/raspberry jam or apple butter, she offers adventurous and traditional flavors. There is something for everyone, at every age!
Twidley Bits at a recent pop-up event.

Twidley Bits at a recent pop-up event.

  • Lauren herself is a lactose-intolerant vegan, so she wanted to produce food that she can eat, and likes to eat. She noticed that vegan cheese is something that is usually either very expensive and high quality…or the opposite. She doesn’t want people to have to settle for lower-cost and lower quality, so she produces a vegan cheese that is high-quality, and moderate in price.
  • In the podcast recording session, Lauren brings her a vegan chevre (typically a soft goat cheese.) The process of making vegan cheese begins with finding a vegan cow…just kidding! There are soy and cashew based vegan cheese options, but Lauren produces almond based vegan cheese. She prefers the taste and the texture. The product demands the form of almonds, it could be almond meal for chevre and cream cheese, for ricotta she soaks slivered almonds which allows for spreading. At Andersonville Arts Week + Fest she brought garden veggie cream cheese and pickled onions. Lauren’s first event was with us at Arts Week + Fest. She featured pickled okra and fig jam as samples, which are hard to ignore and had a great crowd.
  • Just starting, the first few months have been very busy. “Start your own business if you love work and hate sleep,” Lauren jokes. “But, it’s so fun, and that’s the difference. People will say if you do something you love you will never work a day in your life. That’s a lie! You will work, and you will work so hard. But you’re doing it with absolute joy and excitement.” Lauren remarks that it’s been great to be supported and promoted by the Chamber of Commerce, pop-up events, local merchants that feature her work like Helix Cafe. In fact, Lauren will be unveiling a new vegan menu (in particular that spotlights vegan cream cheese) with Helix soon!
  • Lauren “tests” her ideas on neighbors and friends, and looks for what’s fresh, available and in-season. Over the summer season, she processed lots of produce for freezing so that she can use it year-round. And of course, winter lends itself to great citrus. To the studio, Lauren brought Koval bourbon, peach vanilla bean jam. It is a simple, fruit-first jam. Peaches, bourbon, lemon juice and granny smith apple are the only ingredients. Mmmmm delicious! Get some for yourself here on her website. Or reach out Facebook, Instagram, Twitter.
Koval bourbon, peach vanilla bean jam.

Koval bourbon, peach vanilla bean jam.

  • Lauren has cooked out of Kitchen Chicago, in the West Loop. But just recently, moved to Mindful Baking, a shared kitchen space – only 7 minutes away and just in time for the busy holiday season! They are vegan and gluten free, and a meticulously clean operation.
  • For Small Business Saturday on November 30, Twidley Bits will be at 18th at Pilsen from 10AM-10PM. Other events Lauren has coming up are the Holiday Fair at Chicago Waldorf School at Ashland and Foster, and Chicago Vegan Test Kitchen, which features vegan vendors from all over the city, featuring food, clothing, bath and beauty, and more.
  • The biggest business learning curve so far for Lauren has been stepping out from the back of the house, to preparing, presenting, and selling everything herself and just being a business. Finance, marketing, sourcing, and figuring out how to do everything to the best of her ability has been the biggest challenge. Advice to others just starting out, Lauren shares, “Go to your local chamber of commerce.” And she’s not just saying that to be nice. If you don’t know where to start, they can help with starting out, licensing, event info, etc.
  • If Lauren could switch places with any other Andersonville business it would be…Woolly Mammoth. You can find something for anybody there. She would love all the interesting and weird things they offer (like a squirrel rodeo), and of course, their shop dog Melvin. She’s brought home a lot from Woolly Mammoth (preserved octopus in a jar, a herbarium, a mask that she named Bartelby) and keeps it in a space, along with lots of books and a comfy chair, that she affectionately refers to as “Lauren Land.” She also has lots of Krampus memorabilia – in her opinion the best folklore around. If you’re not aware, Krampus is of German folklore, and is the anti-Santa. For bad little kids, the holidays don’t end with no treats or gifts. If you’re bad, you’re visited by Krampus – a goat demon. He’ll come to your house, beat you with sticks and drag you away in chains. Want to hear more? Be sure to tune in to #AlwaysAndersonville on December 5 for a special Holiday Edition of Lauren reading the story of Krampus.
Tune in on December 5 for a special holiday episode of #AlwaysAndersonville: The Podcast with Lauren and the story of Krampus.

Tune in on December 5 for a special holiday episode of #AlwaysAndersonville: The Podcast with Lauren and the story of Krampus.