They are fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, husbands, wives and partners, chefs and bakers, entrepreneurs and mentors, educators and dreamers, creative forces and agents of change. Friends, neighbors and valued community contributors. The much-talked-about beauty of Chicago is not just a credit to its architecture, landscape, the abundance of art—both commissioned and gifted by nature—and striking lake and river views, but in the diversity of the businesses and their owners that stand side-by-side in service to their neighborhoods. We’ve assembled just a short list of black-owned businesses to honor Black History Month, as an acknowledgment of the importance of these lives to the success of the city of Chicago.
Little Diner's Crew
Driven by their own passion for experiencing restaurants that introduce them to new flavors using quality ingredients, husband and wife duo D.C. and Alayna Crenshaw created Little Diner’s Crew, a dining club for kids that partners with an eclectic mix of the most popular restaurants in Chicago.
The stimulus for the concept was a desire to share their love of food exploration with their two boys, after a brief stint on the dreaded mac-n-cheese and chicken tender circuit. The mission of LDC is 3 fold. They want to provide kids the opportunity to try new foods from around the globe, give chefs a forum to educate kids about the food they eat, where it comes from and how it’s prepared and, lastly, they want to bring families together to enjoy a unique dining experience.
Sip and Savor
Caffeine is a crucial ingredient to any parent's day. Caffeinate your day with a tea, mocha, latte or blended drink—and add in a pastry or small bite sourced from a local bakery—from one of Sip and Savor's three locations in the Bronzeville, Hyde Park and Rosenwald neighborhoods.
Trez V. Pugh, III, CEO of this southside favorite known for exceptional quality and flavor, also works full time for the U.S. Government and mentors at-risk kids through Becoming a Better Man (BAM). Through BAM, he models and emphasizes the mentality that rising to the challenge of creating change is far more rewarding than going into business for the sole purpose of making money.
Humanitarian and Grammy-award-winning Chance the Rapper is a native Chicagoan who has succeeded in his mission to have a life-changing impact via his SocialWorks non-profit that empowers Chicago youth through the arts, education, and civic engagement. During Covid-19, SocialWorks helped using a three-pronged approach: creating a hyperlocal resource guide, conducting an inspirational Open Mike challenge (with a $500 weekly prize for eligible students), and producing a webinar series titled SWorkshops. Viewers can stream SWorkshops using the link or via social channels on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or YouTube.
Kido is a south loop kid's shop with a focus on positivity that sells books, clothes, puzzles and toys owned by husband and wife duo, Doug and Keewa. Along with the responsibilities of the store, Doug is a visual artist specializing in graffiti and murals and Keewa is a performing artist who sings jazz and plays characters. And, their kids are ridiculously adorable.
Give Me Some Sugah
A potato chip cookie? Uh, yes, please. Lenore Lindsey is a South Side native who believes the secret to success is to do what you love, which led her to open Give Me Some Sugah in 2008. She's famous for her potato chip cookie, but also loves anything lime and keeps things interesting (and savory) with an ever-changing line-up of homemade soups.
The Rink was first opened in 1974 by then-husband and wife duo Carmen Clark and Nate Simpson. The idea was born from a desire to bring entertainment options a little closer to home, as they were always driving to the suburbs for a family night out. Although it has recently changed ownership, the new owners, Ramona and Curtis, are committed to keeping this Chatham neighborhood staple as it's always been. A place that's boiling over with positive energy with a laser-focus on community building. Note: They just got a new floor and commissioned a new mural right before Covid shutdowns, so pay them a visit!
Mikkey's Metro Grill
Mikkey Halsted is a father, husband and culture creator who has 15 years of music industry experience, having worked closely with Kanye West, Jermaine Dupri and Cash Money Records. With the help of his Master's in Education, he also mentors Chicago's youth. Mikkey Metro Grill focuses on burgers, wings and shakes using all-natural ingredients and they even have vegan options!
LiteHouse Whole Food Grill
Any parent can relate to the challenge of attempting to make everyone happy at dinnertime. It's almost an impossibility. Eric Nance has a wife who's vegetarian, a daughter who is meatatarian and his other three kids (and him!) are somewhere wedged in the middle. When his wife went on a reading spree and started to focus on understanding what they were putting into their bodies, she ended up throwing away everything Eric liked to eat. So, he went on a mission to create a solution before he starved. And that is how LiteHouse Whole Food Grill came to be. With a mission to be "always friendly, always whole, always organic and always really really good".
Studio One Dance Theatre
Studio One Dance Theatre is well known on the southside for their outstanding program that offers tap, ballet, modern, jazz and more. Executive Director and Founder Pamela Avery strives to create an environment that nurtures the individual student, while also providing technical training. Dance students learn how movement is a form of communication that can tell a story and evoke an emotion, which is a life lesson they can use no matter the career path they choose.
Little Black Pearl
If you haven't read up on Little Black Pearl, their work is extremely inspirational—especially for those with an interest in the arts. Their mission is to counter the hurdles lept by urban youth by providing a safe environment for expression, social growth opportunities and positive role models. Their programming includes Little Black Pearl Art & Design Academy, which is a 9-12 grade arts-focused high school that encourages students to engage their natural curiosity.
They also run Carver 47, a cafe, art gallery and catering host which serves fresh juices, smoothies, breakfast, lunch and take-home options that utilize seasonal and local foods, named to honor the life of Dr. George Washington Carver.
The Stork Bag
Chicago mom, Ericka Perry, created the Stork Bag after searching online for a care package to send her pregnant best friend who lived in Florida. When she didn't find anything that fit the bill, she created her own and a business was soon born. The Stork Bag care packages target specific needs based on where a mom is in her pregnancy or post-pregnancy, and they even offer rainbow care packages for moms who have lost a baby.
Mimi's Tot's Closet
Mimi's Tot's Closet sells seriously cool threads and some of the sweetest outfits for infants and toddlers you'll ever see. They are located inside Mimi's Vanity Room, which hosts sassy spa, paint and slime birthday parties—they also have a mobile spa service for at-home parties!
B. True Fitness
A good way to take the focus off all the uncertainty in the world is to channel the energy into something positive. Like, taking control of your health and fitness. Bryce True's B. True Fitness in the western suburbs conducts one-on-one training and boot camps (socially distant boot camps while that's required) that allow you to exercise some control in a time where so much seems out of your hands.
Mariano's Black History Month Programming
Mariano's is honoring Black History Month with a line-up of events celebrating influential members in the Black food community. Throughout the month of February, sign-up for virtual cooking events featuring Chef Lamar Moore, Chef Brian Jupiter of Ina Mae Tavern & Packaged Goods and Frontier Chicago, Itiona Scott of Essie Marie's Dressings & Marinades, and Chef James Sanders of Dirty Birds Southern. More Info.
PRODUCTS TO LOOK FOR AT MARIANO’S
AHF Body Chemistry
Born and raised in Chicago, Arnett Faulkner began researching and paying close attention to the ingredients in skin-care products when her son was born with severe eczema and she was subsequently diagnosed with breast cancer. Her research led her to the conclusion that pure essential and plant-based oils and natural ingredients are best for nurturing the skin. After sharing homemade products with friends, she yielded to the calling and created AHF Body Chemistry, a line of natural and organic whole body products.
This family-owned bakery opened its first location in the suburbs of Chicago in 1990 because a woman recognized the cakes, pies and puddings her mom made really were the absolute best. Anything that tasted that good, had to be shared. Those original recipes are made the same as they were generations ago and they're known for rich, lush layer cakes in flavors like caramel, lemon and coconut.
Essie Marie's Dressings & Marinades
Itiona Scott grew up on the South Side of Chicago, the second youngest of 14 children. Her happiest memories were those made in the kitchen, watching her mom cook, from scratch with zero need to measure. Itiona had a drive and passion for entrepreneurship from a young age, but losing her mom unexpectedly from heart disease at the age of 15 inspired a life-long devotion to healthy eating. Leapfrogging on the unwavering support she received from her mom as a child, Itiona started Essie Marie's Dressings & Marinades, which put a heart-healthy spin on her mom's best recipes.
For a list of black-owned book stores in Illinois, and around the country, read our story Read This: Black-Owned Indie Bookstores to Support Today.
Follow @seasonedandblessed on Instagram to learn about more black- and brown-owned restaurants to support. If you have more businesses you’d like to add to Red Tricycle Chicago’s list, please e-mail our Chicago Editor at email@example.com.
— Maria Chambers
Featured photo: Little Diner’s Crew