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 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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:
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.
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.
- 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.
“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.
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.
- 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:
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 Foursided.com.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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 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.
- 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!
- 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 swedishamericanmuseum.org. 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:
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.
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.
- 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.”
HARRY POTTER SPOILER
“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 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.
- 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.
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 lakeshoredentalstudio.com or on Facebook.
Visit Uncharted Books on the following platforms:
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
This week Laura and Joelle are joined by broker and real estate consultant, Ellen Baren. If you are interested in buying or selling in Chicago or the Northern Suburbs, working with Ellen you can expect a solid knowledge base of neighborhoods, homes and schools. Ellen’s grasp of the history and market along the lakefront and surrounding neighborhoods is unique. As one client said, “Ellen is stellar. She maintains a vast array of personal relationships that allow for organic and effective advertising. She sold our place in weeks…in the dead of winter! She was also a clear, concise communicator who made the process easy.”
Ellen Baren, realtor and real estate consultant, recording #AlwaysAndersonville: The Podcast at Transistor, Studio C.
Listen to Episode 87 with Ellen Baren!
Here are some references from Episode 87 that you may want to check out:
- Ellen grew up in Elmwood Park and Oak Park, and attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, studying photography, a skill that has proven valuable in her real estate career. For the last 19 years, she has lived in Rogers Park. She worked in sales for a long time at Second City where she learned valuable project management skills, while also receiving her real estate license. She has worked for a few real estate companies, but most recently has been with @Properties for 13 years.
- She puts lots of care in preparing a home for sale, and approaches it step-by-step. Ellen uses her design background to stage homes with what is already within them, and works to de-clutter and maximize the space with the most aesthetically pleasing compositions.
- Ellen is certified as a Seniors Real Estate Specialist, Certified Negotiation Expert, and Green Realtor. As a Green Realtor, she’s attuned to what green technology is available, and what is most cost efficient. For example, weighing the benefits and costs of certain kinds of water heaters, or whether to replace vs. insulate your windows. She likes to use what you have, and reduce the amount of waste that simply replacing something can cause. As a Senior Real Estate Specialist, this means she has extensive knowledge and experience working with people over the age of 55, and addressing their concerns and needs, whether it be health and/or family situation. Serving homeowners who have been in their home for decades is often emotional, and Ellen takes into consideration the time and care needed to serve people well. Ellen is soon to receive her designation as a Pricing Strategy Specialist as well. This will allow her to have more insight and knowledge in pricing and strategy for higher price-point properties.
One of Ellen’s current listing in Uptown, at 4834 N Kenmore.
- Ellen has many stories of connecting with her clients, many of whom now feel like friends. She realizes that sometimes the circumstances around a home sale are very personal, and takes great care to be empathetic and caring throughout the process. “With kindness and care, that’s how you handle something like that,” she says. “Over and over, I’ve come to realize that we’re working with people – they’re not making a small purchase, these are people’s lives that we’re talking about. I’ve learned to be a support for people who are going through these things, and really help them.”
- Ellen has many amazing stories and testimonials, which you can find at www.ellenbaren.com.
- Home buying can be complicated, and there are so many people involved. Ellen helps through every step, which includes so many people! The buyers, sellers, their attorneys, mortgage professionals, assistants, appraisers, inspectors, and so on. Keeping track of all of them, and who they are working with is something Ellen does well.
- In Ellen’s opinion, if it is financially accessible, it is always better to own. There is a pride of ownership and sense of security that you may not have as a renter. In weaker markets, like in 2007, it is less likely for a homeowner to be displaced due to lost income that someone who rents. In stronger markets, like today, owning allows you to build equity and you receive a tax deduction for the interest (up to 10K.)
- Ellen’s homebuyer tips:
1. Go to Ellenbaren.com!
2. Get your finances in order.
3. Make sure you have a pre-approval letter.
4. Once you know your budget, start looking!
A Rogers Park property, sold by Ellen Baren.
- Ellen has sold over 150 properties, and she doesn’t necessarily have a favorite kind of property she like to sell, but rather she loves helping people and getting to know them, and serving them with her expertise. She has connected with so many, and has been able to personally connect. “Selling real estate, it’s not just selling houses and negotiating, it’s really getting to know people.”
- Ellen loves her job for so many reasons, she gets to work with amazing people, and it touches on so many different aspects – marketing, finance, management. She also gets to view really amazing properties, just for fun sometimes. Penthouses, high rises, it’s fun to see the architecture, art, and luxury!
- Advice to up and coming realtors: Research and interview and a few different companies to see which is the right fit for you, and find an office that provides training, who throws the best holiday parties…just kidding! She feels very lucky to at @Properties and enjoys its culture very much.
- If she could trade places with an Andersonville business for a day, it would be Women & Children First because she has watched them grow ever since they were under the train tracks on Elston, and then on Halsted. And, Hopleaf! With her background in entertainment, she’d have fun for a night there. But overall, she loves Andersonville and has enjoyed watching it grow. It’s relaxing, friendly, and high-quality.
Find Ellen Baren – Realtor and Broker on the following platforms:
This episode is brought to you by Foursided, the one-stop shop for cards, gifts, and vintage 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 Foursided.com.
This week, Joelle and Laura are joined by Mark Bires and Trey Elder of Jerry’s Sandwiches. Known for their extensive beer and whiskey selection, great music, beautiful outdoor patio space, and humor, Jerry’s has been serving curious, thoughtful sandwiches in Andersonville since 2012 at 5419 N Clark. Jerry’s is also a featured stop for this weekend’s Andersonville Viking Pub Crawl!
Mark Bires and Trey Elder of Jerry’s Sandwiches recording #AlwaysAndersonville: The Podcast at Transistor, Studio C.
Listen to Episode 86 with Mark Bires and Trey Elder!
Here are some references from Episode 86 that you may want to check out:
- Mark Bires is Owner, Executive Chef, Bookkeeper and more at Jerry’s and has been in the food business his whole career, and with Jerry’s since 2002 when it opened as a small sandwich counter. Trey moved to Chicago originally in the music industry, then worked for Intelligentsia coffee, helped friends open their own food places, and after eating at Jerry’s consistently was asked by Mark and Mindy (owners) to come on board. Trey handles whiskey, music, cocktails, and filling the store.
- Jerry’s opened in 2002 on Madison Street, and Mark remembers that it was around the exact same time as the Democratic Convention. For the convention, Madison was redone, and the West Loop was starting to grow. So, they decided to open there. The concept for the name was that reflected their Jewish heritage, but didn’t want to use their actual name. So they landed on Jerry’s and joke that it’s really named for Jerry Garcia. It was originally “Jerry’s Sandwiches and Deli” but eventually they just used the name “Jerry’s.”
- Many of the sandwiches are named after customers and celebrities. Mindy (Mark’s wife), has the “Mindy F” – blackened chicken, avo, cheddar and chutney. Others are Annie O, (for Annie Oakley, but also their original staff housekeeper.) Customers still can make their own creations. There are about 60+ options on the current menu. At one point there were 100! It got a little out of hand. The Harlan is the most popular, a fried chicken sandwich. Half Acre Daisycutter and Krankshaft Metropolitan. Mark tends to like the specials, Trey likes The Rachel (for Rachel Carson), turkey, avo, pesto. You can view the full menu here.
A little bit of everything at Jerry’s.
- They chose Andersonville as a location because Mark and Mindy used to visit for dinner, and as they were viewing second spaces, they looked at (former) The Stargaze on Clark. They decided to go with the space, and fully renovated. They dug a basement, and updated the back patio. Originally they envisioned opening in 4 months, and it took a year. Then, they opened in Lincoln Square four years ago. They were the first tenant there. Recently, they converted and added Geraldine’s in January 2019 next to Jerry’s in Lincoln Square. It allowed them to utilize the space and hire a pastry chef, Eileen Kerbal. The pumpkin cheesecake comes highly recommended! There are plans for pastry at the Andersonville location too
- Jerry’s offers catering and event space rental. This is really their background, as they used to do weddings. They currently can cater to groups of about 20-30 is ideal. Their goal perhaps someday is to acquire more space to offer for larger parties. They’ve done small weddings, and acoustic music events. Their former Wicker Park location had music 7 nights a week. And interesting fact: Music -wise, they only play full albums, featuring Americana for the most part – rock, jazz, blues. Both their food and music is rooted in what people like.
Before Jerry’s, there was Stargaze.
- Change in the restaurant business over the years has been dramatic – case in point, their former location on Division. They watched restaurants clear out. There are many more small concepts now, in contrast with larger businesses like Lettuce Entertain You. For example, someone like Parachute. Mark shares, “There’s such dynamic dining now. You’ve got to really be sharp – and we’re aware of this. You have to know what you want to do, focus on it, execute it properly, and make sure it’s something your customers want.”Trey adds, “The word foodie hasn’t been around that long. There are whole YouTube and Food Network channels dedicated to food. The general public’s perception of the food that they eat is different. Obviously chains still exist, but in cities people are less interested in chains. Food trends in the 70’s and 80’s would be 5 years or so, and now they’re 6-9 months. People look at the way they eat a lot differently than they used to.”
- Jerry’s is participating in the 3rd Annual Viking Pub Crawl this coming weekend on November 16. When asked, “Why do you think people like this so much?” Because people like dressing up, whether they admit it or not! Chicago might have a bad rep for pub crawls – bud we do it right. The right people and attitude has everything to do with it. Andersonville has a very chill pub crawl, and it’s relatively weather-proof! This year’s offer is a cocktail, along with Solemn Oath “kidnapped by vikings” beer.
- Mark’s biggest advice for restaurateurs, “Work in the business for as long as you can. You need to see what unique element you can bring to the table – or something you have a passion for that you can deliver and execute really well. This goes for any industry. Wait for your eureka moment, and be hands-on. You have to be there for all the details because it’s such a hyper-competitive industry.”
- If they could trade places for a day with another Andersonville business, Mark would pick Gethsemane Garden Center – he loves to doodle in the garden, would love to be the gardener in a hat. Trey would pick Woolly Mammoth Chicago. He loves it’s eclectic stuff and their history. If you’re listening – he’d love to hang out!
Find Jerry’s Sandwiches on the following platforms:
This episode is brought to you by Meetinghouse Tavern, located at Clark and Winnemac where you can enjoy free pool, darts, skeeball and more. Or, play one of the dozens of board games. They have daily specials to quench all thirst, plus Thursday night karaoke and the Sunday Social Variety Show. Never a cover! Find out more on Facebook.
This week, Heather and Joelle are joined by Jill Knobeloch of GrapeSeed Designs and Aville Cowork. Jill works to blend a company’s voice, culture, and unique character to create a truly authentic representation of brand. She helps small to medium-sized businesses establish and grow their brand image through consistent, clean, and professional visual applications.She is also starting a new coworking space right here in Andersonville will Aville Cowork.
Jill Knobeloch, owner of Grapeseed Designs and Aville Cowork recording #AlwaysAndersonville: The Podcast at Transistor, Studio C.
Listen to Episode 85 with Jill Knobeloch!
Here are some references from Episode 85 that you may want to check out:
- Jill grew up in Colorado, and attended RIT in Rochester, NY where she earned a BFA in Graphic Design with minors in German and Russian, and then lived in Southern California for a while, and landed here in Chicago in 2015. She started GrapeSeed Designs in 2011. “A grapeseed is a small, bitter, harsh thing that can grow into a wide variety of things. And when it comes to branding, it starts out as this small thing, and if you nurture it, it can grow into anything you want.”
- Jill goes beyond defining branding as just a logo or color scheme. It’s your voice. The way you show up. Your character within the world. She focuses on tying together the visual and written description of your business. When working with clients, she gets to know them, their culture, how they work day-to-day, and make sure it’s represented in a truthful way.
- Jill enjoys niche industries. A client that particularly stands out is a company that builds and maintains draft lines (for beer) for bars and restaurants in Chicago. YOu don’t typically think about what it takes for the beer to go from the cooler to the tap in a way that is clean and safe. She got to go on site and learn about beer, how to maintain it, and what needs to be considered when installing bars. She got to know their culture, and saw how passionate – aka – “nerdy” – they were about their beer, their tech, and their overall brand.
- Most clients come to her needing a website, but don’t have much in mind beyond that. The difference with Grapeseed Designs is that Jill not only designs everything, but writes cohesive copy as well. A 3-6 month engagement with a client is optimal, it allows her to be creative and strategic. The first 80% of what she does is focus on user experience, and making sure that telling a business’ story is effective and clear. The rest is design and web development, of which she does both. “I’m doing all of the writing, all of the design, all of the coding development.” So, she’s maybe just a little nerdy, too. With a background in coding, she is able to customize a website to be suited exactly to a client’s needs.
- Jill has a new venture, Aville Cowork. Her design work allows her flexibility, and Jill works from home. But with that, she noticed that sometimes working from home is challenging – in can be isolating, difficult to find and connect with community, and distracting. So, she began working from co-working spaces a couple of years ago. There has been a boom of co-working spaces in the last decade, especially in downtown areas. But Jill noticed a deficit on the northside and aims to fill it.
- With the goal of serving and connecting with the Andersonville community, and after almost 16 months of looking for the right space, Jill aims to open Aville Cowork soon! Stay tuned for updates! The best way to get updates is to visit avillework.com and follow on Instagram.
- Outside of GrapeSeed Designs and Aville Cowork, Jill cultivates a love of horses, specifically volunteer work at therapeutic riding centers. She grew up with the Western discipline, then on to English, and Dressage. She participated in gymkhana events that included pole bending, barrel racing, and even stock events. After college Jill continued pursuing therapeutic riding and instructing. Even after moving to Chicago, she has continued being involved in therapeutic riding with Freedom Woods in Skokie.
Freedom Woods in Skokie.
- In addition to horseback riding, at the early age of 5, Jill fell in love with hockey, and is now an active hockey referee. She played in school, and eventually began refereeing. That was 19 years ago! Refereeing hockey has opened the door to many opportunities. She worked all through high school in Colorado, continued through college in Rochester (the job was perfect for a student – super flexible and made good money), and while still in college began officiating at the collegiate and national level. Once in Southern California, she was fast-tracked and received her international refereeing license. In 2011 – she got her license and started Grapeseed Designs! He held her international license for 6 years, and got to referee in Mexico. She now focuses on collegiate hockey, specifically NCAA Division 1 & 3 hockey.
- If Jill could trade places with another Andersonville business for a day, being the animal lover that she is, it would be Jameson Loves Danger. She would steal all the puppy kisses she can. She hopes to have a shop dog in her Aville Cowork when it opens!
Find GrapeSeed Designs and Aville Cowork on the following platforms:
Online: grapeseeddesigns.com & avillecowork.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/grapeseeddesigns & www.facebook.com/avillecowork
Instagram: @grapeseeddesigns and @aville.cowork
This episode is brought to you by Meetinghouse Tavern, located at Clark and Winnemac where you can enjoy free pool, darts, skeeball and more. Or, play one of the dozens of board games. They have daily specials to quench all thirst, plus Thursday night karaoke and the Sunday Social Variety Show. Never a cover! Find out more on Facebook.
This week Laura and Joelle are Today we are joined by Caitlin Botsios co-owner of Helix Chicago located in Andersonville’s north end. Helix offers a full selection of Halfwit coffee and espresso drinks, iced drinks, tea drinks as well as a full breakfast and lunch menu at 6237 N. Clark.
Caitlin Botsios, Co-Owner of Helix Cafe with Laura recording #AlwaysAndersonville: The Podcast at Transistor, Studio C.
“It’s something we run into a lot – youth not even knowing what is possible. Looking where we (Helix) are in Andersonville, we help youth ask and learn about what it actually means and takes to run a business. Our mission is to expose youth to as many opportunities as possible.”
Listen to Episode 84 with Caitlin Botsios!
Here are some references from Episode 84 that you may want to check out:
- Caitlin grew up in Omaha, NE, never imagining she would be a small business owner. She attended Loyola, with a focus on education, with particular focus on systemic problems and solutions. From there, she moved to rural Mississippi to teach, where she experienced first-hand their need for more teachers. Missing urban life, she moved back to Chicago and taught on the Southwest side. It’s there that she began actively asking questions like, “What are we teaching kids? What learning opportunities exist in the city that youth are exposed to?” She then ventured into coaching teachers, helping them to learn how to leverage community assets available to them.
- During this period, she kept coming back to this recurring idea that “Small businesses can be change agents in education.” With her college roommate Sean, from Loyola Business School – and the Loyola Limited program, they explored what small businesses do well, what they don’t, and how they leverage education. In July 2018 she and Sean partnered together and opened Helix Chicago, a place that hires and develops Chicago youth, aiming to be an asset to the community.
- More about the Loyola Limited Program. Students identify a business need on campus, develop it, and open it. Sean was part of this program, and opened a pizza shop on Broadway during his college years. Other friends opened a hotel, a bar, bike shops, etc. The businesses are completely student run and employed. Eventually, they program expanded to partner with After School Matters, helping to employ and mentor high school age students. It’s from there that Caitlin and Sean began to discuss the needs of high school students and employment.
- From idea to opening Helix Chicago, Sean and Caitlin began by finding a location, then determined what the business would be – a cafe. Community connections and need brought them back to the Edgewater/Rogers Park/North Andersonville. They opened in North Andersonville, hoping to bring the area together, serve a need, and provide a place for people to go.
Helix Cafe, located 6237 N Clark.
- Helix Cafe partners with Halfwit Coffee, as well as their designer. The idea for the name Helix came from how people, small businesses, and schools are the DNA of every neighborhood. They also partnered with the same general contractor who did The Guesthouse. The space is meant to be versatile – serving as work space, a cafe, but also larger event space. It’s warm and inviting, with big windows. They are located by Raven Theatre, and have been really well received by the neighborhood. They’re close to Senn, Northside Catholic, and so much more.
- Speaking of Raven Theatre, beginning this season, Helix is collaborating with them to do a pop-up dinner series, featured on opening nights for shows. They will feature local chefs, and be served supper club style. Look for more info – these begin in November!
- Let’s pretend for a moment: You’re a teenage student looking for employment. What does the process look like when applying with Helix? Believing that everyone should be personally and professionally developed, they understand that each person comes to Helix in a different space. Helix focuses on elements of employment in their cafe, and 3 hours of each employee’s day is dedicated to learning business skills. They include punctuality, cash handling, and customer service, to name a few. From there, they will begin to help focus on helping each employee define their path – what they might like to do with their professional life going forward, and what that could look like. They talk about foundational skills, like planning for success, conflict management, and working through differences, etc. They have one-on-one and group sessions. Marketing, operations and finance are three areas where the youth then become more involved – identifying problems, and coming up with solutions. The arc for Helix is: learn your job, develop foundational skills, decide what your pathway for the future is, and get support through real world, team experience.
Helix volunteers providing resume and interviewing assistance at the 48th Ward Youth Job and Opportunity Fair.
- Helix has a couple of full-time employees who help with management and programming, alongside Sean and Caitlin. They hope to grow and offer mentoring from the youth who “graduate,” to be able to help newcomers. They have great customers too, who have stepped in to share their experiences with youth and support the Helix mission.
- The range of ages in the youth program at Helix are 16-24. At the peak, there were 13 youth. This past summer they had a partnership with CPS, as well as an ongoing partnership with After School Matters and internship. The map of youths ranges far throughout the city, some traveling in over an hour to get there.
- Since May 10 Helix has had 56 community events! One of them is: Intercambio (Mondays at the Cafe from 6-8PM) is a collaboration between Helix and Centro Romero, is an interactive language exchange and open to anyone. It’s all ages! More upcoming events are: Civic Saturday – Prescription Drug Pricing, Sustaining Healthy Habits workshop, and Local Mompreneurs Mini-Expo & Meetup.
Intercambio at Helix.
- Helix Cafe’s menu changes for the cold weather season include soups, warm sandwiches, a new spin on a pumpkin latte, and a collaboration with Twidley Bits to offer vegan lattes featuring apple butter and brown sugar, pralines, and candy bar drinks for Halloween. Helix also now offers catering! One of their youth employees was recently promoted to Director of Catering. Offerings include: breakfast – pastries, coffee, tea, breakfast tacos, as well as lunch and dinner featuring sandwiches, wraps, and veggie platters. Need to book? Check out Catering on their website!
- If she could switch places for a day with any other Andersonville business, it would be hands down Women & Children First – she’d just read books all day. Also RAYGUN, since she’s from Nebraska and always would drive through Des Moines, she’s excited there’s one here in Andersonville representing Midwest pride.
Find Helix Cafe on the following platforms:
This episode is brought to you by Meeting House Tavern, located at Clark and Winnemac where you can enjoy free pool, darts, skeeball and more. Or, play one of the dozens of board games. They have daily specials to quench all thirst, plus Thursday night karaoke and the Sunday Social Variety Show. Never a cover! Find out more on Facebook.
This week, Laura and Joelle are joined by Nick and Selene Idell, of Alley Cat Comics. Alley Cat, founded in 2011 can be accessed by a narrow gangway around the corner from George’s Ice Cream and is a place where anyone and everyone is welcome. As life-long comic book fans, Selene and Nick have made it their mission to share their passion for all things comics and graphic novels. You’ll find something from practically every universe there at 5304 N Clark – in the rear.
Nick and Selene Idell of Alley Cat Comics, recording their #AlwaysAndersonvlle podcast episode.
“Comic books are like a soap opera, if you die or get in a coma, you have an identical twin that comes back. Wolverine never dies! Everything is going to be fine.”
-Nick and Selene Idell
Listen to Episode 83 with Selene and Nick Idell!
Here are some references from Episode 83 that you may want to check out:
- Nick and Selene grew up together in Roscoe, IL and went to high school together. They got together, stayed together, and 16 years later, here they are. The beginnings of their shop began when Selene issued an ultimatum to Nick – either open a shop or get rid of all the boxes comic books that were piling up in their house. They had been living in Andersonville for about 6 months, and saw the “For Rent” sign. They initially were interested in the Potbelly space, but when that wasn’t available they explored the back garage space. Nick didn’t love it right away, but Selene did. It was like a Bat Cave! Nick and his dad remodeled and added the metal work, poured concrete, built custom drawers, shelves, almost everything there you see.
- Nick and Selene have a daughter who attends Peirce, who greatly influenced the way they shaped the shop. At the time when they opened, not many shops were suited for kids so they focused on offering a wide variety for all ages. In case you didn’t know, most novels have a graphic novel version. Nick mentions Frankenstein, Journey to the Center of the Earth, etc.
- The name Alley Cat came after they found the location, and was suggested by a random customer at one of their former jobs. Crime Alley (bad connotation), and Hobbit Hole (didn’t want to get sued) where names that didn’t make it. They both love cats, had a black cat when the store opened, whom the sign is modeled after.
Custom shelves at Alley Cat Comics.
- With the resurgence of superheroes in the last 15 years or so, comics and graphic novels have steadily grown in popularity. People come in and ask for comics and graphic novels for movies or shows they recently have seen, and get hooked. Selene and Nick share that “Comics are basically soap operas! Which is why they work so well for tv.”
- Customers who loved comics as a kid come back and get back into it as adults. “I love that they are always putting comics in the trade paper-back form (a collection of issues printed as one book.). The comic book world has fine-tuned the way comics are issued, making it easier to jump in at any point in a series and enjoy it, which is maybe a result of binge culture (like Netflix.) Selene has started to notice that many indie comic book companies have started releasing issue #1, and then an entire trade.
- In other countries, most comics are released with the full issue, digests or novels. We’re one of the only ones to release them one issue at a time. Maybe that will change in the US. A popular tv/comic crossover is Riverdale and Archie comics – discuss!
- Nick and Selene approach first time comic book customers with joy – it’s Selene’s “favorite thing ever.” They show the things they love, ask questions about what kinds of stories and reading they like, and then jump in with lots of recommendations. Lots of time they start with Image Comics, which start at $9.99 for trade paper backs. It allows you to try our a few different story lines. Nick typically recommends comics/graphics he loves and owns.
- Some of Nick’s favorites are: superhero book Invincible by Robert Kirkman who does The Walking Dead. Also, a comic series by Joe Hill, Stephen King’s son, called Locke and Key which is recently slated for Netflix. Nick likes everything – Superman, Spiderman, Watchmen, Blankets, Scott Pilgrim, manga.
- Selene likes anything by Jason Aaron – Thor, Southern Bastards, The Goddamned…VERY adult, fyi! Another favorite is Snot Girl by Bryan Lee O’Malley (who also did Scott Pilgrim.) Selene would describe herself as a “devourer” of comics, and reads them for the story. She enjoys intense and complex stories.
- Marvel and DC – which can be contentious – Nick is a fan of both. He remembers first picking up The Infinity Gauntlet in a gas station. Then, as a teen, he was into Image (indie comic book movement.) Do indie industries struggle? Not really, there are months where they sell more comic books than Marvel/DC. Marvel and DC do an impressive job at bringing in new artists, and paying attention to trends.
- In referencing the importance of female-identified readership and comic book characters, Selene shares that she thinks the readership has always been there, but now the voice of those readers is louder. She does notice that there aren’t many women who work in comic book shops in Chicago. It was definitely very male-centric in the 90’s and less so now. In smaller cities, Selene notices the “boys club” mentality towards women in comic book shops more – like questions of “What is she doing here?”, just generally less-inclusive. Nick has seen it too, the “comic book test.” For example, if someone is wearing a Wonder Woman t-shirt, they would be asked “Do you know Wonder Woman’s mother’s name?” as if women have to prove they know enough to be in the store.
- storyline in Thor, where Thor was deemed no longer worthy of his power, and it was granted to a woman. Selene and Nick tend to brush off negativity, and they know that storylines often come back around to a “status quo.” And, that they are fantasy. Not real. Everything is going to be ok. “Comic books are like a soap opera, if you die or get in a coma, you have an identical twin that comes back. Wolverine never dies! Everything is going to be fine.”
- C2E2 is the big Chicago comic book convention is, according to Nick, “exactly what a comic book convention should be. It’s half industry, movie industry, and a gigantic artist gallery.” Last year, it was over 100,000 people. It’s great for people watching – especially cosplay.
Cosplay at C2E2.
- Speaking of cosplay, what is the difference between cosplay and LARP (Live Action Role Play)? Cosplay is a person dressing up as their favorite character or amalgamation of that character, and LARP is cosplay and actual combat/acting combined – think costumes and Dungeons and Dragons in real life. Nick and Selene used to LARP at Tuckabatchee Girl Scouts Camp in Ottawa, IL.
- With Halloween coming up, come on out to Alley Cat on Saturday, October 26 for Trick or Treat and Halloween Comic Fest. Comic Fest is a national comic book store holiday, where comic book publishers provide books so stores can distribute them. Anyone who comes in gets 3 free comic books, and at the end of the afternoon they hold a costume contest. Cheetah Gym used to host trick or treat, and so Alley Cat jumped in!
Halloween 2018 at Alley Cat Comics.
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This episode is brought to you by Meetinghouse Tavern, located at Clark and Winnemac where you can enjoy free pool, darts, skeeball and more. Or, play one of the dozens of board games. They have daily specials to quench all thirst, plus Thursday night karaoke and the Sunday Social Variety Show. Never a cover! Find out more on Facebook.