By Kristin Boza
Beverly/Morgan Park’s business community is growing in extraordinary ways, giving us places to shop and dine, and investing in our neighborhood. With these investments, expansions and enhancements, the commercial landscape is improving every day. Neighborhood residents can do their part to support these businesses by putting their money where their heart is: right back into our own neighborhood.
“With the ease of online shopping, a brick and mortar business must provide a needed product and also a positive shopping experience,” BAPA board president Maureen Gainer Reilly said. “When businesses invest in their property, staff and product, it directly affects their bottom line.”
Gainer Reilly also notes that area residents must make the choice to support the businesses that make our neighborhood a home. “I often hear South Siders lament that we need more shops and restaurants. But for that to happen, we need to make the ones here a smashing success!” she said. “The next potential business owner sees the support for existing businesses and decides to open that cool new shop, cafe or restaurant. Plus, the math works. For every $100 spent at a locally owned business, $70 stays local. But that drops to $40 for every $100 spent at a national chain.”
Local businesses not only pour money into the local economy through sales, but as employers. As Gainer Reilly points out, small businesses are more likely to hire local people.
Here are some of the local businesses that are not just opening up shop, they’re investing heavily in our neighborhood.
Bookie’s Moves to Western Avenue
Bookie’s owner Keith Lewis desperately needed to expand shelf space in his popular new and used bookstore. He scouted properties for a year before deciding on 10324 S. Western, formerly occupied by two businesses.
“The spaces were separated and I found out that they were only combinable with a doorway, as there was a brick wall between the two storefronts. This wouldn’t be a perfect situation for most stores; however, for me, a wall means more wall bookshelves,” Lewis said. He worked with a bookstore shelving company to optimize the space. “We also made sure that the fixtures are all spaced out enough to make the whole store wheelchair accessible.”
Sharing a quote from Neil Gaiman’s “American Gods,” Lewis best explains his desire to make Bookie’s better than ever: “What I say is, a town isn’t a town without a bookstore. It may call itself a town, but unless it’s got a bookstore, it knows it’s not foolin’ a soul.”
“I want this community to have a great bookstore,” Lewis said. “A bookstore can be a place that sells books, or it can be a place that sells books, promotes literacy, and gets involved in the community. I want to be the latter. I want Bookie’s to help grow the neighborhood and be a destination bookstore, one to which people will travel to shop.”
By taking a risk and investing in the community, Lewis hopes the community will respond in kind. “We have a lot of people who shop local, but there aren’t enough. There needs to be a concerted effort to invest in the community. Good, strong small businesses need to strive alongside various corporate entities, and it will take the people who live here to make that happen,” he said.
Open Outcry Brewing Co. on Tap
The buzz about Open Outcry is reaching a fever pitch, and owner John Brand is anxious to open its doors. Brand always wanted his own business and decided Beverly/Morgan Park was the place. “I think this is an amazing neighborhood and I don’t think there’s too many places that are still like this with our sense of community and pride,” Brand said. “The support and encouragement I’ve gotten has been pretty humbling, and I saw a good investment opportunity too. If I invest all this money, it’d better be in the neighborhood where I live and raise my children.”
Before moving here, Brand and his family lived downtown. They missed being able to load up their kids in the stroller and walk to eating options. Open Outcry will be a family-friendly destination. “I really wanted a place where it seemed socially acceptable to bring kids; our chef is even creating a kid’s menu,” he said.
Brand is also teaming up with other local businesses to offer workout classes (with Beverly Barre), terrarium building (with The Geranium Guild), a book club (with Bookie’s and the Beverly Arts Center), and a running club end point (with Running Excels).
“Small, locally owned businesses add to the vibrancy and viability of any neighborhood,” Brand said. “You have folks investing in their community and we try very hard to understand what the community is asking for and then deliver it to them. There’s no way a big box or chain is able to deliver on that.”
Tranquility Salon Co. Infuses Creativity into Walden Parkway
As the anchor of Walden Parkway, Tranquility Salon Co. has continuously contributed to the unique atmosphere found in the picturesque area. Meg’n Barba and Katie Schickel are co-owners of the salon.
“The two factors that we owe our continual success to are reinvesting and reinventing,” Barba said. “The salon is a platform for us to understand what people want to see in our neighborhood. Walden Parkway is a really cool nook, a hidden gem.”
When The Blossom Boys closed their business, Barba and Schickel were immediately interested in what would go into the space, ultimately deciding to take it on as an extension of their salon. “If you don’t keep evolving with what’s new and what people see going on in other places, people won’t stay here,” Barba said. “Our investment is seeing to it that the potential [of our block] becomes a reality. We want this block to evolve and cater to the neighborhood and bring things that people want and will use.”
Barba intends for the shop to be an open ended creative space. So far, Tranquility has hosted two music events under their Beverly Music Initiative’s Backyard Project. “We wanted to get the ball rolling to shine a light on great musicians — both local and beyond — and bring it right to our neighborhood. It’s the perfect setting to bring people together in a common place that is not a bar,” Barba said. “We wanted to provide a space for the neighborhood to have good music and try to raise money to turn our backyard into a sustainable venue.”
Barba is set on making Tranquility about more than just hair. “It’s not just a salon to us, we want to create greater ways to bring people together in our space. You don’t necessarily need to come here as a client, but you can still be a part of it,” she said.
Details are pending, but Tranquility plans to host the High Point Festival as part of a community-wide bike ride on July 29. The party will include a live concert in the backyard.
99th and Walden has undergone a lot of changes. B-Sides Coffee + Tea will open in August at 9907 S. Walden. Sweet Freaks, another Walden Parkway staple, moved to 9927 S. Wood St. to expand their offerings and produce all of their goods on site. Replacing Sweet Freaks on Walden is Capsule, a clothing store expected to open in September.