#Always Andersonville: The Podcast – Show Notes from Episode 102 with James Moriarty of Urban Renewal Brewing

Today Laura and Sara are joined by James Moriarty of Urban Renewal Brewery. Established in 2017, Urban Renewal Brewery is a craft brewery serving patrons with locally inspired beer brewed with the utmost attention to detail. You can visit their brewery located at 5121 N Ravenswood and beer fans can soon visit their new tap room space coming soon to the former Andersonville Brewing location at 5402 N Clark. Be sure to order online for curbside pick up and delivery!

Just a few of the brews available from Urban Renewal Brewery.

Just a few of the brews available from Urban Renewal Brewery.

Listen to episode 102 with James Moriarty of Urban Renewal Brewery!

  • James hosts us today from the brewery! Urban Renewal Brewery just finished packing “The Humble Gator,” their double IPA – now available. World Beer Cup would have been in April, with brewers from all over the world convening and sharing beers. This would have been their first year.
  • James started home brewing in college, and volunteered for a local brewery where he worked once graduating, with the stipulation that they would have to close at the end of the summer in 2006. He learned as much as he could, and when that brewery closed, he went to the Siebel Institute in Chicago in 2007 and studied brewing. He worked for Pennichuck Brewing in Milford, New Hampshire from 2007- 2009 until the brewery closed. He then went to Cape Cod Beer, and became a consultant and opened Henniker Brewing. In 2014, he and his family moved to Virginia as he was asked to come and expand a new brewery facility. And then, he was asked by an old partner to go to Jacksonville, FL to open yet another brewery. In addition to James’ vast network, we noticed that breweries are constantly evolving. Moving to new projects allowed James to learn more at each brewery, but moreover to be helpful to friends.
  • All this movement didn’t happen with the intent of him opening his brewery. Through his moves, James realized he loved the “start up” phase of building a brewery. Which led him to be in-house brewery consultant for a brewing equipment company, Alpha Brewing Operations, in Lincoln, Nebraska. Upon the birth of their third child coinciding with lots of international travel, in June 2017 James saw that a Turnkey brewery was for sale in Chicago. James was familiar with the area, investigated, and made plans to purchase the brewery. James’ family is from Chicago, which made it a great fit. He knew it was time for one more move, and to settle in in Chicago.
Urban Renewal's Ravenswood location interior - a beautiful space with lots of history.

Urban Renewal’s Ravenswood location interior – a beautiful space with lots of history.

  • Prior to Urban Renewal, Metropolitan had the space prior. They are federally licensed as a brewery, which took 100 days. Then, you get your state license which takes 45-60 days. James used that time to plan, clean, update, and purchase new equipment. They sold their first keg March of 2018 – they’re almost 2!
  • The term “urban renewal” – is an interesting phrase about communities being changed. Their corporate name is Wicked River Brewing, but a distillery was already using the trademarked same name. It’s a brewery within the city, and they renewed the space with new life. That’s the story, without much conflict. Go see it for yourself, it’s a beautiful space with a bow truss ceiling built somewhere between 1910-1912. Since then it’s been a lumber mill, t-shirt shop, and factory, and more.
  • James has unique experience, with his mechanical engineering and brewing background. This allowed him to manage a lot on his own. Of course, challenges always come up, like plumbing and infrastructure, but his background allows him to tackle these things. And, the customers of Urban Renewal are great. Also, they were able to begin canning and distributing right away through all of Illinois which has benefited greatly. Up next, Andersonville!
"Humble Gator" - get it?

“Humble Gator” – get it?

  • As for products, Urban Renewal is always creating something new. Urban Renewal offers lots of options. “K.I.S.S. Kolsch” (Keep It Simple Stupid) a light German ale, a touch of fruitiness, and a New England IPA called “Packy.” “Hazy River New England IPA”, is a fresh, seasonal offering. Next up: a Belgian Wit with grapefruit for spring. Then, Lazy River, a hoppy blonde for summer. In the fall, they Orion’s Milk Stout and Schwartzweather Black Lager, both darker beers. Other offerings are Resting Peach Face, Humble Gator, and others. Typically 8-10 offerings circulating.
  • With lease in hand, Urban Renewal will open at the Balmoral and Clark tap room space (formerly Andersonville Brewing). They’ll produce and serve their own beers, hopefully this summer. James brought back his old company, Alpha, for new equipment. He has a blank space to work with, with history and connections coming together.
  • Currently, at the brewery on Ravenswood you can order a wide array of beers and merchandise online. All beers are canned in 4, 16 oz. cans. They also offer growlers. During a normal season, they see about 200 visitors on the weekends, and have a great neighbor in Koval.
  • If James could swap places for one day with another Andersonville business it would be Little Bad Wolf. He loves their space, and especially their mac ‘n cheese. It’s irresistible.

Visit Urban Renewal on the following platforms:
Online: urbanrenewbrew.com
Order online at: urbanrenewbrew.shop/s/order
Facebook: facebook.com/UrbanRenewBrew
Instagram: @UrbanRenewBrew


#Always Andersonville: The Podcast – Show Notes from Episode 101 with Ellie O’Brien of Hungry by Nature

Today Laura and Sara are joined by Ellie O’Brien, owner, founder, and creative force behind Hungry by Nature. Launched in 2015, Hungry By Nature is a brand about balance and moderation. According to Ellie, it is about feeding your physical hunger with natural foods and wholesome ingredients, and about feeding your intellectual hunger to learn and to grow. You can find Ellie’s granola all over Andersonville at Ridman’s Coffee, Andersonville Galleria and at our farmer’s market or by visiting her website at shophungrybynature.com.

Ellie Laura SaraListen to Episode 101 with Ellie O’Brien of Hungry by Nature!

  • Born and raised in Minnesota, Ellie moved to Chicago after college. She took a job at Northwestern University in the medical school as a Design Engineer, a position she still currently holds. As a creative outlet, she began Hungry by Nature as a blog in 2015.One year later, she was diagnosed with Celiac Disease, and because of lack of options at grocery stores, was inspired to create more food options. Which led her to create Hungry By Nature as a food brand and gluten and grain-free snack company.
  • The intention behind the food that Ellie makes is to bring people together through eating. She remembers always enjoying home-cooked meals growing up, something that remains an important part of her life today. And, regardless of allergies, she believes good food should be accessible to everyone.

“I want to make eating good food accessible to everyone, whether they have a food allergy or they don’t, with the intention of connecting with people over shared space, over good food, allowing people to focus on what’s important.”

  • In this new creative endeavor, Ellie didn’t necessarily start with the intention to start a business. She first began with her blog, food, and food photography. Eventually she saw potential to turn it into a food business. The first recipe she posted was salted chunk cookies.
Ellie O'Brien of Hungry by Nature

Ellie O’Brien of Hungry by Nature

  • Her experience with Celiac Disease (an auto-immune disease, often hereditary). She had already been diagnosed with Raynaud’s Disease, also an auto-immune disease which heightens her likelihood of an additional diagnosis. Eventually she visited a gastroenterologist and confirmed a Celiac’s Disease. There is a wide-range of severity and symptoms, and several family members are affected. Once cutting gluten from her diet, she almost immediately began to feel better.
  • Some resources Ellie turned to were other food bloggers. At diagnosis in 2016, the landscape of information and products had greatly grown. At diagnosis she also began The Whole 30 for the first time, and found a really great community.
  • The first iteration of granola began as the first recipe on Ellie’s blog. She made it for herself and posted photos online. People raved about it, and at her husband’s suggestion, decided to sell it.
The latest flavor of Hungry by Nature grain-less granola, Lemon Blueberry.

The latest flavor of Hungry by Nature grain-less granola, Lemon Blueberry.

  • Let’s talk granola butter. Sara has always hated peanut butter but loves Ellie’s granola butter! It’s amazing. It is essentially a fancy mixed nut butter, with cashews, pecans, walnut, almonds, sunflower seeds, and coconut. It’s essentially her granola, just ground down. It’s addicting because there’s a little maple syrup and coconut oil added. It’s consistency is drizzly. Ellie’s favorite way to eat it is drizzled on George’s vanilla ice cream, and baked into paleo blondies. It was first tested at the Andersonville Farmers Market last summer.
  • Sara mentions that she came across Ellie’s posts while exploring the Whole 30 community on social media, and noticed that Ellie tagged the Andersonville Chamber of Commerce from a networking event she attended for the Chamber. Everything came full circle, from experiencing Hungry by Nature first online, and then in person. “Moving here, and being a part of Andersonville and this community was literally life-changing for the business.” At her first Third Thursday event, Ellie met Rick from The Guesthouse and he placed an order that day, an incredible example of support from fellow businesses.
  • Different flavors of granola are now offered, after approaching and working with Whole Foods and their suggestion to elevate visibility through more products. She learned a lot about the complex process of offering food through larger markets. She settled on a citrus lemon-blueberry and chocolate cherry. And of course, her original flavor – maple cinnamon. Hungry by Nature features local sourcing, dairy-free chocolate, and cherries from Traverse City, MI. Listen closely for her “2 minute elevator pitch”!
Hungry by Nature "Granola Butter." It's so good.

Hungry by Nature “Granola Butter.” It’s so good.

  • Ellie works out of a shared kitchen, renting from another gluten free baker in the city. The space has no gluten at all, and has had a very easy experience. The shared kitchen route has been great for them as a small business.
  • Ellie’s week looks like a day job at Northwestern, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Tues and Thurs are in-store demos, phone calls, and fulfilling orders. Sometimes they’re lucky and get into the bakery during the day, but usually 1-2 nights. Also, her husband recently joined the business. They self-distribute and take care of that process as well. There is no standard week.
  • Ellie has a strong presence on social media, with a great blend of personal and business. She is very good at it, and she has a self-described “love hate” relationship. It’s a powerful tool, and it’s so much work. “It’s a powerful way to reach more people, the awareness and the way you can spread your brand on social media is unbelievable.” She doesn’t have a detailed strategy, but is planning a “behind the scenes” campaign in March. People might like the food, but so many tend to connect with Ellie and her story as a person. She is the brand. Keep listening for inspiring stories!
  • Favorite highlighted recipes of Ellie’s are tacos (could eat them every day. No kidding.) She likes to create recipes simple, clean ingredients, and easy. She aims to create recipes that can be made in 30 minutes or less so she can spend more time with her family eating the food. A favorite cook book and blogger is “The Defined Dish,” and “Spice is in my DNA” with a book called “Eat More Plants.” For fancier meals, Ellie visits “Plays Well with Butter.” Her most trafficked recipe on her blog is an apple-cinnamon muffin recipe (pre-Celiac), that features Kodiac pancake mix. Also popular is coconut and cassava tortillas.
  • In free time, Ellie has gotten back to baking and cooking just for fun. She loves to read and is a book club, and just read “No Exit” by Taylor Adams. She also loves doing crafts, making homemade cards. She also loves true crime books and podcasts. If she could trade places with another Andersonville business for a day, it would be two: Lost Larson (because she dreams of being able to eat there), combined with Martha Mae.

Find Hungry by Nature on the following platforms:
Online: hungrybynature.com
Facebook: facebook.com/imhungrybynature
Instagram: @imhungrybynature
Pinterest: pinterest.com/hungrybynature

#AlwaysAndersonville: The Podcast – Show notes from Episode 100 with the Andersonville Chamber Staff

This week, we celebrate our official 100th episode with a special look back at the origins of this podcast including choosing the name, discovering our partnership with Studio C, developing our style of storytelling narrative, and creating plenty of off air bloopers along the way! Plus, our Chamber staff reflects back on memorable episodes and gives a look into their roles at the Chamber.

Staff Photos

The Andersonville Chamber Staff (from left: David, Heather, Joelle, Laura and Sara) recording Episode 100 in Studio C.

“There’s nothing we can’t do if we work work hard, never sleep, and shirk from all other responsibilities in our lives.”
-Lesley Knope

Listen to Episode 100 with the Andersonville Chamber Staff!

This episode is full of fond recollections, but here are a few details and sources you may want to check out further:

We’ve gone through and talked about our favorite podcast moments, and now we are throwing it back to our listeners. We want to hear from you. What stories have inspired you over the last two years? What episodes have been your favorites? What new businesses have you discovered?  Where are you at when you listen? We are looking for listener testimonials! Please email them to us directly at info@andersonville.org

#AlwaysAndersonville: The Podcast – Show Notes from Episode 99 with Rabbi Craig Marantz and Leah Jones of Emanuel Congregation

Today Laura and Sara are joined by Rabbi Craig and Leah Jones of Emanuel Congregation. Emanuel Congregation, founded in 1880, is a Jewish Reform synagogue affiliated with the Union for Reform Judaism, and was incorporated in 1898 as “Emanuel Congregation of Chicago.” Even after 140 years, Emanuel Congregation continues to grow and emphasize their value of building community. Regardless of what reasons motivate you to pursue your religious beliefs, their goal is to have a place for everyone at 5959 N Sheridan.

Leah Jones and Rabbi Craig Marantz of Emanuel Congregation are featured on this week's episode of #AlwaysAndersonville: The Podcast.

Leah Jones and Rabbi Craig Marantz of Emanuel Congregation are featured on this week’s episode of #AlwaysAndersonville: The Podcast.

Listen to Episode 99 with Rabbi Craig and Leah Jones of Emanuel Congregation!

  • Rabbi Craig Morantz is originally from LA and is married with 2 kids. They came to Chicago three and a half years ago from Connecticut, seeking a new “mojo.”
  • Leah Jones has lived in Chicago since 2002, and studied for conversion at Emanuel Congregation. She has been President of the Congregation since last year, and runs a company called Natiiv, which facilitates and plans staff retreats. Leah was a born-and-raised secular Christian. Because of a romantic interest, she decided to learn more about Judaism. She studied and read about it a lot, which eventually led her to Emanuel Congregation. Leah explains, “Converting usually takes a full year –  to live it and learn it. Or, it could take longer. We welcome but don’t proselytize. In collaboration with your Rabbi, you go before rabbi and clergy, who question/judge your readiness, and make a contract (mikvah) to the Jewish people. If you are in a relationship with a Jewish partner, they will not ask you (to convert) – it’s up to the person to investigate.”
  • The history of the Synagogue is that it was founded in 1880 by 18 Russian families as small a orthodox synagogue, then embraced reformed Judaism. The chapel is spiral shaped, which allows it to have a window. Rabbi Craig says, “It allows us to look outside…serves our mission, it’s welcoming but also outward facing…good neighbors, a collective force for good.” He describes their community as offering “audacious hospitality…inclusivity.” When you visit Emanuel Congregation, you’ll find that there are a lot of doors, literally. The main entrance is right off their parking lot. Guests are buzzed in by security, with services in the large sanctuary or chapel just past the sanctuary. Leah shares their vision for the future, “When we look to the future, 2030, we want a space that can accommodate everyone on the holiest days of the year. Bring more energy and people into the building. For 2030, our goal is to be a nationally known venue for really outstanding secular programming that is deeply rooted in Jewish values. Cultural arts, healing, spiritual renewal, faith, justice, hope, and peace.
The Chapel facing the lake at Emanuel Congregation.

The Chapel facing the lake at Emanuel Congregation.

  • Coming up on March 27, 28 and 29 is “140 reasons to celebrate 140 years – Legacy Weekend 2020.” The Guest of honor will be the Congregation, and the celebration will include Shabbat, a Havdalah Dance, and Tikkun Olam Mitvah Day. Join them and learn more here. #140reasons “It’s really important that anyone that is part of our experience feels like they belong in it. They’re not just a spectator, not just a witness. They certainly can choose to be that, but we want to be inviting enough to bring people along. There’s nothing better than music and creativity, and we have that in large supply,” says Rabbi Craig. This comes into play in many different ways, through their religious school, on Sundays and many community events.
Join Emanuel Congregation as they celebrate their 140th anniversary!

Join Emanuel Congregation as they celebrate their 140th anniversary!

  • Sara asks about those seeking wholeness, authenticity and place…what does Rabbi Craig say to those who ask if “Is this a place for me?” and what can they expect? Rabbi Craig shares,  “We try to engage the community in meaningful ways with the spirit of invitation, and very rarely, if ever, expectation. People are smart and they know what they want, and it’s important that we help them make a good choice for their spiritual direction, community, or seeking God or wholeness, whatever they need.
  • Practical things they do at each service is welcome people with music, or “nigunim” or songs without words. These are important because they lend melody into the experience, and anyone can verbalize along with a simple sound. It’s a great transition from the parking lot to the service. This musical invitation gradually draws people in to connect.
  • You can see the schedule of services here. Friday night services are at 6:30PM, and they first have a Pre-Oneg snack, or nosh. Saturday services are at 11AM, and often include Bar or Bat Mitzvah families, and open to the public. Also, Saturdays are opportunities to study with Talmud Class (oral law) at 9am, and Torah Class (5 books of Moses Genesis thru Deuteronomy) with Emeritus Rabbi Zedek. There are many ways to connect during Shabbat.
All are welcome!

All are welcome!

  • Purim is March 9 and 10. What is it, and what can people expect? In a nutshell, Leah explains, “Purim is the story of queen Esther, who married into a non-Jewish Persian royal family. The King’s top advisor was anti-semetic and decreed all Jews be killed. Esther unveiled herself as a Jew, and shenanigans followed to sway the King and his adviser Haman to change their mind. Esther sways the King, the decree is reversed, and Haman and his sons are killed.” She says with humor, “Purim is one of many holidays where they tried to kill us, failed, so we celebrate by eating.” “The whole Megillah“, phrase common referring to Esther’s story, sometimes using a “spiel,” (a farce play) to tell the story. Every year they try to tell the story in a new and interesting way, last year adapting the music of Grease. They’ve also parodied The Beatles before. This year, 3 events – Children’s Purim Carnival planned by junior youth group teens on March 8, Shabbat-a-Tot program for toddlers, and March 14 Piano Bar Purim sing along. “Spiel is the word!”
  • Leah and Rabbi Craig talk about a specific food enjoyed in celebration of Purim, hamantaschen –  a cookie pastry in the shape of a triangle, that reminds us of Haman’s (boo- bad guy!) tricorn hat. The cookie can be filled with poppy, chocolate, raspberry, etc.


  • When asked, “In these times, what gives you hope?” Leah replies, “What keeps me from sinking into nihilism is that I really believe that Judaism is a powerful technology for living your life in the world.” Leah was recently at a retreat, and some of the Torah they studied was Ecclesiastical, focusing on the concept that “Two are better than one.” She further shares that “Judaism forces us to be in community – some prayers require a certain number of people. I cannot imagine what my life would be like today if I had not found Judaism 15 years ago. In community, there is hope.”
  • Rabbi Craig shares as well that “Judaism, in a way, is counter-cultural. What I mean by that, is it calls on us to be rugged individuals, to be responsible. But, I don’t think it’s possible to do everything alone, that we can do together.”
  • And last but not least, when asked which Andersonville business they would trade with for a day and why, Leah shares that she would choose Octavio. She recently visited on Taco Tuesday, and had a good view of the kitchen and its tortilla making machine, and would like to learn how to use it. Rabbi Craig would choose his friends at Cheetah Gym, a place he loves. It is a spiritual place for him – a place to refresh his mind and body, and be with people who are taking care of themselves. Leah comments it’s important to be in strong physical shape at Emanuel, since they have five Torah scrolls of varying weights. You don’t want to drop one during hagbah (opening the Torah scroll, and then lifting it above your head to show you’ve read from Torah today). Leah wants to learn hagbah but doesn’t want to drop one!

Find Emanuel Congregation on the following platforms:
Online: emanuelcong.org
Facebook: www.facebook.com/EmanuelCongregation
Twitter: @emanuelcong

#Always Andersonville: The Podcast – Show Notes from Episode 98 with Briana DeBolt and Chamere Orr of A Full Living

Today Laura and Heather are joined by Briana DeBolt and Chamere Orr, local food influencers for the healthy lifestyle brand, A Full Living. As creators of delicious low-carb at-home recipes and Chicago foodies who love to travel, Briana and Chamere focus on showing their followers how to live a fulfilled life without breaking the bank. They combine their talents for marketing and photography to showcase delicious, globally inspired low carb and keto friendly recipes on their site afullliving.com. We recently invited Briana and Chamere to explore our first ever Coffee and Hot Cocoa Crawl during Hygge Fest, and we are excited to work with them again this month to showcase a few of the local restaurants participating in the 4th annual Andersonville Restaurant Week, kicking off this Friday and running February 21 – March 1.

Briana DeBolt and Chamere Orr of A Full Living are featured on this week's episode of #AlwaysAndersonville: The Podcast.

Briana DeBolt and Chamere Orr of A Full Living are featured on this week’s episode of #AlwaysAndersonville: The Podcast.

Listen to Episode 98 with Briana and Chamere of A Full Living!

  • We’ll start off with Briana and Chamere’s background and how they met. This episode is recorded on Valentine’s Day, and we can just tell you, they are the cutest couple ever. They have a “millennial love story” and met on Tindr. After both being on the app for a while and deleting it a few times, they found each other. Briana was drawn to Chamere’s interests in yoga, dancing, and photography, and that “he looked like a really genuine person.” They hit it off right away. Their first date was at Millennium Park, walking around with Chamere’s camera. They hung out all day, went to a show that night, and ordered takeout. Briana shares she was both grossed out and impressed with how much Chamere could eat. Chamere shares he was very nervous on that first date, “I was sweating on the inside,” but that they really vibed.
  • Briana is the oldest of four kids, with busy parents who weren’t great cooks (sorry). From a young age, she started watching the Food Network and began experimenting with cooking. When college came around, she initially started in culinary school. But, she found that she enjoyed cooking but not necessarily the food industry setting. After college, she took a job in software marketing and kept cooking as her side passion. She would cook for her friends, they would ask for recipes, which led her to starting a blog. And then she met Chamere, which was the push she needed to start pursuing sharing her food world with others. She grew up in Traverse City, MI but has lived in Chicago for the last 7 years.
  • Chamere shares that ever since he was young, he was into artistic things like dance and painting. In high school and college he began exploring photography more, excited about making beautiful images, often inspired by films, Tumblr, Flickr. His first camera was a Canon, and began taking photos whenever he could; still life, portraits, street, anything. When he met Bri, he had never shot food…yet. When he and Bri began creating recipes together, Chamere began getting into the nitty gritty of food photography, considering closely texture, color, and light. Then, he started bringing street photography influences to his work. “Bri makes all these beautiful dishes and I get to eat them, taste test them, and shoot them every morning, so it’s good!” In the beginning, Bri shares that she needed a lot of help with her food photos, and that Chamere’s style has improved a lot as well. Street photography elements that Chamere brings to his food photography are story telling, narrative. He likes to emphasize color and abstraction, bringing in elements of the surrounding environments and the people eating the food. Chamere tries new things everyday, and is excited to see where his photography will be a year from now.
A Full Living's Blood Orange Serrano Ginger Fizz

A Full Living’s Blood Orange Serrano Ginger Fizz

  • The Chamber started working with Briana and Chamere two years ago in 2018 for Andersonville Restaurant Week. At that time, their brand was called Pantry Grubs, but has since changed names to A Full Living. We’ll be honest, we may have read “Pantry” as “panty,” and apparently are not the first people to say that…hence one reason they decided to change their name. Pantry Grubs was very food specific, but A Full Living includes more about their lives, travel, and other lifestyle elements. “A Full Living means living a fulfilled life, your best life,” Briana says.
  • Travel-wise, last year Briana surprised Chamere with a birthday trip to Mexico City. She found a crazy good deal on a Southwest credit card with points and a companion pass, and worked her dad to rack up points so she could surprise Chamere. Chamere may have shed a tear or two when Briana surprised him with the trip and says, “I did. I was super excited, because that’s one of the nicest things anyone has ever done for me.” They have also been to Norway for a wedding, and Thailand. “We want to go anywhere and everywhere…and eat all the food.”
  • For Andersonville Restaurant Week on February 21 – March 1, we asked Briana and Chamere to visit a couple of participating restaurants and preview their featured menus. The night before this podcast was recorded, Chamere and Briana set up in Uvae Kitchen and Wine Bar for a preview tasting and photo shoot. Uvae will offer a $30 three-course prix fixe, with each course offering four different options and 3 oz. wine pairing per course. They tried the duck liver pâté and a salad to start, with “really amazing, perfectly cooked” mango chutney scallops for the main course. Chamere ordered a pasta dish, served with mushrooms and ricotta cheese. For dessert, they ordered apple cinnamon bread pudding and panna cotta. Briana says, “I want to go back for Restaurant Week!” View the full Restaurant Week menu here.
  • They also previewed and enjoyed Oda Mediterranean Cuisine’s exclusive Andersonville Restaurant Week menu. Chamere shares it was such a pleasant experience, as they got to meet Tamte, the owner. The offering includes Georgian cheese bread served on a skewer, which they describe as a “foodie’s dream, with cheese for days…one of the best things we’ve eaten.” Appetizer platter hummus, baba ganoush. A flavorful Georgian eggplant with walnuts and pomegranate dish. “Everything is made with love, and you can tell,” says Briana. They also tried Georgian wine, which is very on-trend right now. It’s a beautiful amber color, and offered at $30 per bottle for Restaurant Week. For entree, they had a combination platter, served with salad and hummus. “Fantastic, I can’t wait to go back.” You can view Oda’s menu here. “Uvae and Oda are two really great, really beautiful spaces that would be really good for date night, or going with your friends or family. Friendly owners and staff who make you feel really welcome.”
  • At Uvae and Oda, Chamere had a large lead light and they got the shot, but it is super stressful! They are very conscious and careful to be as discreet as possible. Exploring the nuances between shooting food in their own kitchen vs. shooting in a restaurant, Chamere shares that he likes to use mainly natural light, and sets up by a window whenever he can. In restaurants, especially at night, it can be nerve wracking to set up a lightbox when everyone is eating. Part of their “Full Living” philosophy is to be healthy, but to also fully enjoy each experience. This means not requesting edits to menus or dishes, and planning special meals, dining out, and trying new things as a part of healthy living.
  • Outside of Restaurant Week, are there any favorite Andersonville restaurants dishes? Chamere immediately answers Little Bad Wolf, the Wolf Burger. He celebrated his birthday there twice, and loves that restaurant. For Briana, Vincent is a favorite. As a weekend local Uber driver (she’s given 9,500 rides!) Briana recommends Vincent to her passengers often. Her Favorite Vincent dish? It’s hard to pick. Maybe the pate? “It’s to die for.” She loves that the restaurant is always trying new things, even down to the decor.
  • Just a few weeks ago, Briana and Chamere took on Full Cup Route on our first ever Coffee & Hot Cocoa Crawl. Favorites were Ridman’s Coffee at Lawrence and Clark, which they enjoyed for their beautiful space and abundant natural light – a great place to work and photos. They visited Kopi Cafe for the first time, which is warm and cozy, living up to its reputation for being a truly international cafe. They discovered Lost Larson’s back patio and enjoyed the fire pit as well.
  • The mastermind behind most of the recipes is Briana. “We’ll be driving, and she’ll be spouting off eighty different ideas. It’s constant, it’s all her, that’s her domain!” says Chamere. Briana didn’t used to consider herself a creative person, but then realized that her creativity shines through her food. She tries not to use dyes and use natural ingredients. If she doesn’t know how to do something, she watches YouTube to figure it out.
A Full Living's Low Carb Turtle Cheesecake (no sugar!)

A Full Living’s Low Carb Turtle Vanilla Cheesecake (no sugar!)

A Full Living's Jalapeno Popper Chicken Skillet

A Full Living’s Jalapeno Popper Chicken Skillet

  • Partners in both life and business, their lives have been enhanced by one another. (Queue romantic Mary J Blige tunes). It’s definitely given me a lot of confidence in starting another business, just being OK with the unknown and doing something with Bri that isn’t always certain. Some months are good, some months are not. But it’s a lot of fun, and it’s made me pick up a lot of skills like local design, coding a website, more photography skills, and a lot of marketing.” “Being with somebody, and working with somebody every day that I can really rely on – he’s such a hard worker, and he always comforts me. Being able to rely on him is just really really nice. I’m really grateful for that.”
  • Another hobby of Chamere’s is his music, and he recently released an EP. House, hip-hop with ambient, jazz, video games, and films are all influences. He has gone by the artist name Minus One (one less thing you’re missing out on.) He’ll go by Chamere going forward. You can find his photography on IG as well, under @minusoneofficial.
  • If Briana and Chamere could trade places with an Andersonville business for a day, it would be Little Bad Wolf for Chamere so he can learn how to make the Wolf Burger: a three patty with house-made pickles, fried onion straws, egg and bacon. “A delicious, well-made burger.” Briana would love to be at Vincent for a day, with their fun cocktail and menu offerings. She would love to see their creative process, and adds that she is especially a fan of their mussels. “They are always reinventing the wheel, but at the same time making you feel at home.”

Visit A Full Living on the following platforms:
Online: Afullliving.com
Instagram: @afullliving
Facebook: www.facebook.com/afullliving
Twitter: @AFullLiving
Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/afullliving



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 jscillia@andersonville.org. 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:
    Online: www.valeriefriedlander.com
    Facebook: www.facebook.com/TheUnlimitedMom
    LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/valerie-friedlander-cpc-eli-mp-7a13463/
    Twitter: www.twitter.com/theunlimitedmom

#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:
Online: www.odachicago.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/odachicago
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.

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Online: www.mena.travel
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