News about 53rd St. in Hyde Park, Chicago


New Harper Court boutique, Sir & Madame, to host holiday event with KOVAL Distillery and local baker, Justice of the Pies

Sir & Madame, the recently opened Harper Court boutique owned by Hyde Park couple Brian and Autumn Merritt at 5225 S. Harper Court, will be hosting a special holiday event on Sunday, November 22, from 12-4 p.m., teaming with Chicago distiller KOVAL; award-winning local baker, Justice of the Pies; and Always Hungry Chicago, a resource for gourmet food fans to learn more about diverse cuisine “off the beaten path” in the city. Sir & Madame had a pop-up location on 53rd Street in late 2013/early 2014, and their permanent Harper Court location is the culmination of a goal to stay in the neighborhood where the couple grew up and formed a family.

The Merritts collaborated with Maya-Camille Broussard from Justice of the Pies and Chicago’s KOVAL Distillery to create two specialty pies – the "Sir" pie is a KOVAL bourbon-infused pecan pie topped with a rich chocolate sauce, and the "Madame" pie is an apple pie topped with streusel and homemade KOVAL bourbon-infused caramel sauce. Justice of the Pies recently participated in the South Side Pie Challenge, winning first place in the Sweet Potato/Pumpkin category, and second place in the Fruit category.

Merritt commented, “We’re thrilled to be back in Hyde Park with the permanent launch of Sir & Madame, and this event is a great opportunity to work with some of our favorite people and brands. We invite everyone to visit the store to experience our ‘classic with a twist’ design vision.”

Customers may order the limited edition “Sir” and “Madame” pies (or any of the other pies from Justice of the Pies) until Friday, November 20, and the pies will be ready for pickup at the event on Sunday, November 22 – just in time for Thanksgiving. Orders may be placed at

The event will feature pie slices for purchase, a limited number of special gift bags, and KOVAL bourbon punch.

Faces of 53rd Street: Bella Tronou

By Rosalind Cummings-Yeates

Bella Tronou exudes a warm, bubbly essence. Even as she attends to an unhappy customer at Hyde Park’s Harper Theater, her manner is unruffled and pleasant. By the time she hands the clamorous patron passes for a replacement movie, the woman is smiling and laughing, like she has been infected by Tronou’s easygoing spirit.

As general manager of Harper Theater, Tronou manages 13 employees and is in the theater six days a week. The 25-year-old enjoys all the responsibility, including dealing with unhappy customers. “I like helping out customers,” says Tronou.  “If I can make them happy, I'm happy.”

Happiness and a better life were the ultimate goals for Tronou and her family when they moved from Togo, West Africa, to Chicago 15 years ago. As a fourth grader, Tronou was excited about making a new life. Some of the adjustments she made in her new country were easy. “We lived in Edgewater and I had a teacher who spoke French, and there were a lot of kids from different countries,” said Tronou, who speaks five languages, including French, Mena, Ewe, and Efon. “School had more freedom in America. In Africa, it was very serious. You couldn't say whatever you wanted to, to the teacher or not do your homework.”

After graduating from Sullivan High School, she enrolled in Everest College for the medical assistant program but quickly discovered that she wasn't cut out for medicine. Still, she earned her medical assistant diploma then enrolled at Devry for a business administration degree with a concentration in management. Working her way through college, she landed a part-time job as an usher at the 400 Theater in the Rogers Park neighborhood.

“I was working another job overnight at Misercordia as a direct service professional, trying to pay down my student loans,” she said. Even while juggling school and two jobs, Tronou was a hard worker and was quickly promoted from usher to shift supervisor at the theater. She quit the Misercordia job and was promoted again to assistant manager of the theater. “Within five months, I went from usher to assistant manager,” said Tronou. “I was in charge of the internal and external cleaning of the theater and I ended up sucking at that job,” she recalled. Her manager decided to fire her, but Tony Fox, the theater's owner, decided that Tronou’s work ethic made her worth another chance. So he demoted her instead.

“When she was twice demoted, I met with her and said, ‘Okay, Bella, you have two choices. You could feel sorry for yourself and quit, or improve on what you need improving on and re-earn another promotion,’” recalls Fox, who now also operates Harper Theater.

“He helped me understand what I needed to do,” Tronou said. “I was thrown into (the assistant manager) position without proper training. In 2012, I was promoted, demoted and almost fired all in one year,” she said. Rather than become discouraged, Tronou, back to being a regular shift supervisor, worked harder and harder. Soon, in 2013, she was promoted to assistant manager again, this time helping the general manager with day-to-day operations. She also helped with marketing, social media and events. Plus, this was her senior year at Devry, so she worked three days and went to school three days.

In 2014, she traveled to Bordeaux, France, for Devry's international studies program. When she returned, Fox asked her if she'd like to work at Harper Theater. “I thought I was going to help the manager. Then they fired all the managers, and I filled in while they were trying to find someone,” she said. “After two weeks, Tony said, 'I've seen how you work, the job is yours.' It was pretty scary and exciting at the same time.”

Taking her hard won success in stride, Tronou credits her father as motivation. “I look up to my dad,” she said. “He was in the military but went to school too. He earned the highest degree in Africa, equivalent to a PhD.  He's pretty smart and I try to push myself like he did.”

After graduating last summer, Tronou has turned her focus toward the Hyde Park community. After living most of her life in Edgewater and Rogers Park, she's absorbing the neighborhood's characteristics and will move to Hyde Park this month. “The residents are more involved in their community here. They love walking down 53rd and hanging out. Hyde Park never disappoints.”


"Faces of 53rd Street" is a new twice-monthly series that profiles business owners, employees, and shoppers who contribute to the vibrancy and mix of activities in Hyde Park's 53rd Street commercial corridor. If you'd like to recommend a familiar face on 53rd Street for a profile, write to us at

Harper Court’s Ja’ Grill on WTTW’s “Check, Please,” tonight at 8 p.m.

Hyde Park’s popular Jamaican restaurant, Ja’ Grill, is one of three Chicago restaurants featured on tonight’s WTTW’s “Check, Please” program, airing at 8 p.m.

Located in Harper Court at 1510 E. Harper Court, Ja’ Grill was the recommendation of Chrishon Lampley – Kenwood resident, vintner, and founder of the “Love Cork Screw” lifestyle brand with six wine varietals, wine-inspired candles, and cigars. Lampley chose the restaurant as her top pick, mentioning, “Ja’ Grill is a part of the neighborhood. I grew up in the North Kenwood area, and to believe that Hyde Park has these fantastic restaurants in it – a lot of people don’t know – and Ja’ Grill was the perfect, perfect restaurant to come into the area.”

The other reviewers mentioned Ja’ Grill’s “huge, generous portions,” “vibrant, diverse clientele,” and “very attentive, friendly wait staff.”

Ja’ Grill owner Tony Coates wants guests to feel like they’re actually in Jamaica when they’re at the restaurant – “the only thing they’re not going to get is the beach,” he joked.

In describing Hyde Park, “Check, Please” program host Catherine De Orio mentioned, “It’s always been this really beautiful, vibrant neighborhood, but that particular area (53rd Street) is just becoming a restaurant enclave.”

Lampley, a Kenwood resident since 2003, continued describing Hyde Park, particularly 53rd Street, saying, “It’s on fire, it’s on fire…to see the acceleration again (in Hyde Park) – of just the restaurants, the lounges…you want to just walk. I used to always think, ‘Oh, I have to go north’ to enjoy different restaurants and enjoy different vibes and bars…but now I can just go to 53rd Street and go up and down the street.”

You can view the entire Ja' Grill episode segment here.

Faces of 53rd Street: Kris Braaten

Located at 1512 E. 53rd Street, Bonne Santé Health Foods has a history on 53rd Street that goes back more than 40 years. Owner Kristofer Braaten is the second generation of this family-owned business.

Braaten, 51, spent a period of his childhood in Europe, where his father, who was a professor at Hyde Park’s Lutheran School of Theology for more than 30 years, worked on his theological studies. When the Braatens returned to Hyde Park in 1969, his mother, LaVonne, was unable to find the healthful, chemical-free foods she had become accustomed to in England. In 1971, she opened Hyde Park Health Foods at 1360 E. 53rd Street. The store closed when LaVonne expanded to four locations in Chicago’s south suburbs, but she missed the Hyde Park community and reopened here in 1984 as Bonne Santé Health Foods at 1457 E. 53rd Street.

After taking over the family business in 1992, Braaten moved the store to its current location at 1512 E. 53rd Street in 1999. Today, Bonne Santé (French for “good health”) is a neighborhood gem, with 16 local staff members who are well educated in the store’s extensive stock of supplements and herbs, alternative groceries, freshly prepared foods, teas, energy bars, homeopathic medicines, beauty products, cleaning supplies, and an extensive juice bar.

We asked Braaten about his family’s multi-decade legacy on 53rd Street:

What is it like to be part of a family business?

Being able to continue what my mother built years ago brings an enormous sense of pride and responsibility for the valued customers who have looked to Bonne Santé as a true source for healing and alternative choices for their health.

Who are your customers?

Our customers come from every age group and include many people from Hyde Park, the North Side, South Side, and south suburbs.

How do you promote your business?

All of our business promotion is on a very local level, mainly through churches, not-for-profit groups, and University of Chicago activities. I believe that when you put out an honest and good product, customer word of mouth is the best source of advertising.  

What area of your business is experiencing the most growth?

We have been preparing fresh foods from our kitchen for the past two years now, making hot, fresh, healthy lunch foods for all the workers in the neighborhood. Our lunch service has become so popular that we have had to hire extra people to keep up with the demand.

What do you enjoy most about 53rd Street?

I grew up a few blocks from the store, and since then I have appreciated the eclectic and electric environment this diverse neighborhood brings.  There are few places in the world where you will find such an interesting mix of people and cultures. I have many conversations with customers and have enjoyed learning from them over the years.  I do hope that they have learned things from my wonderful staff and me over the years as well.

What is your favorite part about being a Hyde Park business owner?

Owning a business that promotes good health is incredibly rewarding.  To see the people of Hyde Park and surrounding areas come in and trust what we have to say and give them choices that can be difficult to come by brings a tremendous sense of pride and accomplishment. I count my blessings each day to have been given the chance to be part of an ever-changing and interesting industry on 53rd Street. I live in Bucktown now, but I’m always running errands around Hyde Park, and you can often find me at the Midway Plaisance ice rink with my daughter in the winter, or the UChicago tennis courts in the summer.

Faces of 53rd Street: Anthony Beach

by Rosalind Cummings-Yeates

Anthony Beach beams with pride as he strolls around the lobby of Hyatt Place-South/University Medical Center. It's not just because he is general manager of a property that regularly boasts high ratings and high occupancy for its 131 rooms. It's not just because the hotel has helped draw more people to the 53rd Street corridor, boosting business for the shops and restaurants surrounding Harper Court. The underlying cause for Anthony's pride is that, as a Hyde Park High School graduate who grew up in the Englewood neighborhood, he takes particular pleasure in knowing that his work contributes to the economy in his local community.

Beach started in his position before the hotel opened in 2013 and played an integral part in its opening operations, including hiring employees, obtaining licenses, and implementing Hyatt processes and training and development. The hotel has 39 full- and part-time employees, and 69 percent of them are from nearby South Side neighborhoods.

“I was the first employee. I take pride in seeing the outcome of what we are and how it began,” Beach says of his role as general manager of Hyatt Place-South.

Noted for a casually chic ambience and a lobby filled with local art, Hyatt Place-South has grown over the past two years into a cornerstone of the neighborhood, attracting travelers and locals alike. But when Anthony was growing up in Englewood, his dreams had nothing to do with hotels. “I wanted to be a cop. I wanted to be in law enforcement,” recalls the 40-year-old Beach, who has lived on the South Side his whole life.

Inspired to make a difference in the struggling community around him, he signed up for the U.S. Army Reserve and worked in chemical warfare. Taking advantage of the GI bill, he enrolled at South Suburban College with an eye towards joining the police force. He graduated from South Suburban College with an associate’s degree, but by the time he finished his bachelor’s degree at the University of Phoenix, he had also gained hotel experience at the Marriott in Oak Brook, Ill., and at the Inn of Chicago. When he landed at the legendary Palmer House hotel, he discovered that his talents might not lie in law enforcement.

“I was promoted quickly, from front desk manager to supervisor. I was progressing so quickly that I realized that I was making more and doing more than I would as a police officer,” he recalls of his 10-year career there.

Not that he gave up on helping his community. “We've partnered with Kenwood Academy High School for internships. Chicago Vocational High School sent students here to shadow us. We sponsor events. We give certificates for raffles,” Beach notes. “We try to support what we can. Our eyes are open to help.”

Indeed, whether it’s neighborhood regulars sipping coffee at the lobby cafe, or baby showers and book club meetings being held in the conference spaces, the Hyatt Place-South has become a welcoming spot for local residents. And Anthony Beach wouldn't have it any other way.

Soon-to-open Hyde Park location of Einstein Bros. Bagels to host job fair this Thursday and Friday, October 15th and 16th

The Hyde Park location of Einstein Bros. Bagels at 5230 S. Harper Court is opening in November, and to staff its open positions, is hosting a job fair this Thursday from 1-6 p.m. and Friday from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Open positions include Baker, Barista, Cashier, Line/Prep, Shift Leader, Assistant General Manager, and General Manager. Einstein Bros. Bagels offers competitive wages, 401(k) with company match, holiday pay, and employee discounts. Some job offers may be made on the day of the event.
The Hyde Park restaurant location has been designed with “exceptional service and comfort in mind – delicious food, contemporary design, technology tables, free Wi-Fi, Cable TV, and even a fireplace” according to Dee Robinson from Robinson Hill, a concession management company based in Chicago.
Potential applicants unable to attend the event are encouraged to submit a resume and cover letter to or visit

Anthony Bourdain’s “Parts Unknown” television program to film at 53rd Street’s LiteHouse Whole Food Grill restaurant this Sunday

You can imagine LiteHouse Whole Food Grill owner Erik “Rico” Nance’s surprise when CNN called early this week to get his approval to visit the restaurant this Sunday, October 11, to film a “Parts Unknown” television segment with Anthony Bourdain, the respected chef, best-selling author, and multiple Emmy-winning television personality.

Located at 1373 E. 53rd Street, the LiteHouse will be featured on an upcoming Chicago episode at the suggestion of Lupe Fiasco, the well-known Chicago Grammy-nominated rap artist, record producer, and entrepreneur, who will introduce Bourdain to the restaurant’s menu of healthy salads, wraps, bowls, burritos, tacos, nachos, pizzas, and more.

CNN had sent producers to the restaurant at the end of September to look at the space, but Nance was not there at the time, so their subsequent call came as a very exciting surprise to him.

Fiasco is a long-time customer of the LiteHouse, and in addition to being a fan of their healthfully prepared food, he values the restaurant’s community-minded mission in feeding 20,000 homeless and less fortunate people since the business opened in Hyde Park nearly three years ago. Nance opened the restaurant “…with the hope of bringing healthy fast food to his community in the most wholesome way,” according to his website. He makes it a practice to hire the homeless as well as recovering drug addicts and says these individuals have been some of his best employees.

Nance “treats everyone as if they were the President,” and serves about 20-30 free meals a day to the hungry and homeless, who order from their regular menu with the rest of the customers. Customers who want to support this mission have the option to “go premium” and add $2.50 to their bill to defray the cost of the free meals.

A resident of the South Loop, Nance spent all his summers in Hyde Park with his aunt and has great affection for the area. The restaurant is closed on Saturday during the day for religious observances, and during that time he opens the space for community events including motivational speakers, spiritual yoga, a “Dance Against Violence” program, as well as family events such as weddings and baby showers. The restaurant reopens at 7 p.m., staying open until midnight.

CNN will be at the restaurant from about 9:30 a.m. until approximately 1:30 p.m. on Sunday. The LiteHouse will be open for regular business and customers and fans are welcome to come in and watch the filming as space permits. For those who want to stay longer, Nance is holding about 15 seats that can be reserved by contacting the restaurant through its Facebook and Instagram accounts.





Rajun Cajun reopens on September 17 after interior design refresh

Rajun Cajun, at 1459 E. 53rd Street, will reopen on Thursday, September 17th after a temporary closing for an interior design refresh.

Owned by Hyde Park resident Trushar Patel, Rajun Cajun has been open for business since 1993, and has been featured in Chicago magazine, the Chicago Reader, and “Chicago’s Best Food Challenges” on WGN-TV, among others. After 20+ years, Patel thought it was a good time for an interior spruce up, coinciding with the completion of the renovation of the Doerr Building, of which he is a tenant.

Rajun Cajun closed on July 3, and Patel kept his customers up-to-date on the restaurant’s Facebook page with photos of his progress during the 11 weeks of the renovation project.

Patrons will find new tables and seating, lighting, tile-work, and wood paneling, as well as a custom-designed wall mural. Rajun Cajun is so well-loved by its customers that they often send Patel postcards from all over the world, describing the menu items they miss the most, and these postcards have been incorporated into the wall mural. If you’ve sent Patel a postcard in the past few years, you might just find it as part of the design.

“I’m very happy to be reopening,” said Patel. “ I have missed all my customers, and I think they will say that the wait was worth it once they come back to see the restaurant.”

“Rajun Cajun has been offering its many customers an authentic taste of India as well as the American South for over 20 years,” said James Hennessy, associate vice president for commercial real estate operations for the University. “The new interior design is a fresh look for one of Hyde Park’s most favorite restaurants."

An official ribbon cutting ceremony is planned in the coming weeks.


Season finale of Harper Court Wednesday night Summer Music Series features Jose “Papo” Santiago with Bossa Tres on September 30

The University of Chicago, in collaboration with Eric Williams, owner of The Silver Room, is hosting the season finale of the open-air summer music series in the courtyard area at Harper Court at 5235 S. Harper Court just off 53rd Street.

The upcoming event is a Salsa/Brazilian Music Night on September 30, from 6-9 p.m. with Jose “Papo” Santiago and Bossa Tres. Salsa dance instruction led by Roger Noel will take place from 6-6:30 p.m., with Bossa Tres playing from 6:30-7:30 p.m., DJ Kimani Rashaad spinning from 7:30-8 p.m., and Santiago playing from 8-9 p.m.

Santiago, a native of Ponce, Puerto Rico, studied music at Universidad Interamericana de Puerto Rico before being recruited by bandleader Joe Rodriguez to play baritone saxophone with him in Venezuela, Colombia, Peru, and New York. Santiago moved to Chicago in the late 1980s, where even as a newcomer, he was soon recognized by the most influential local musicians in the city. He is an expert musician in Afro-Caribbean, jazz, and experimental combinations of forms. In addition to mastering the saxophone, Santiago is an accomplished flutist, vocalist, composer, and bandleader. Santiago released his CD, “Infraverde” in 2012, and the song, “Viva Chicago” became the official theme song of The Latin Street Salsa Congreso 2012.

The Bossa Tres Quintet, who will be performing in the upcoming Hyde Park Jazz Festival, includes Marcos Oliveira, Dill Costa, Bruno Alcalde, Jack Zara, and Luis Ewerling. They bring an authentic taste of Brazil to their live performances in and around Chicago and pride themselves on their heritage and ability to play songs that demonstrate the diversity and intensity of Brazilian music.

The series began with a Steppers Night on July 29 and a Jazz Night on August 26. Each event has had approximately 700 people in attendance, some even bringing candlelit picnics and outdoor furniture, similar to concertgoers at Ravinia.

“The response to the Harper Court Summer Music Series events has been overwhelmingly positive,” said Eric Williams, owner of The Silver Room. “People in the community have really been enjoying the setting in Harper Court, and we’ve seen that the venue is the perfect place to celebrate a summer night with great music, friends, and fun.”

Food and beverages will be available for purchase from Harper Court restaurants, and paid parking is available in the Harper Court parking garage, the surface lot on Harper Avenue, as well as on the street.

Harper Court is a mixed-use retail development with businesses including ULTA Beauty, VILLA, AT&T, Chipotle, Nancy Krause Floral Design and Garden Antiques, Red Mango, Native Foods, Porkchop, Ja’ Grill, the Hyatt Place Hotel, and LA Fitness, with Sir & Madame and Einstein Bros. Bagels opening in the near future.

For more information about the series, please go to

Furniture and home accessories store Modern Cooperative set to open in Hyde Park this fall

Hyde Park design enthusiasts will have reason to celebrate when Tiffany Paige and Mike Biersma open the second location of their much-loved furniture and home accessories store, Modern Cooperative, in Hyde Park in late October 2015. They “…mix the old and new, the high and low, the fun and the serious” – a promising combination for shoppers looking to decorate a dorm room, apartment, or house.

The store tagline, “Where vintage modern meets handmade,” is an apt description of Paige and Biersma’s philosophy for the store, which comes from their love of the mid-century modern design aesthetic as well as their commitment to local and handmade design.

The Hyde Park location will feature the same hand-picked combination of mid-century modern and vintage Danish furniture, modern Scandinavian-inspired home décor accessories, and art pieces from more than 75 local artists that has made their Pilsen store an award-winning shopping destination, mentioned in The New York Times, Travel + Leisure, The Boston Globe, Chicago magazine, Chicagoist, Chicago Social, and more.

The store will be located at 1500 E. 53rd Street, previously occupied by the women’s clothing boutique, Anastasia. Modern Cooperative will also include space currently occupied by Lively Athletics at 5241 S. Harper Avenue.  After opening in April 2015, Lively Athletics will now be moving across the street to 1457 E. 53rd Street, next door to the recently renovated Rajun Cajun restaurant space, a Hyde Park landmark.

Paige’s background includes photography and metal smith work at the Savannah College of Art and Design, a stint as a flight attendant, a degree in visual communications at the Illinois Institute of Art, and brand management at United Airlines, working closely with clothing designer Cynthia Rowley on a proposed uniform project – all leading to the formation of the Modern Cooperative store concept.

The original Modern Cooperative location at Thalia Hall in Pilsen has been charming locals as well as destination shoppers since its opening in 2013. The store expanded to become the one of city’s largest vintage modern boutique, and has been recognized as “Best New Home Shop” by Time Out Chicago in 2012, a winner of the Time Out Chicago “Love Chicago Awards” (South Side) in 2014, and “Best of Chicago” 2014 in Chicago magazine.

“Having lived in Pilsen for over 10 years, we have so much love for the South Side of Chicago, so opening our second location in Hyde Park simply made sense to us,” said Paige. “We’ve always loved Hyde Park for its rich history and wonderful architecture, and have a lot of customers there already. We love that the 53rd Street shopping district is energetic, culturally diverse, and comprised of so many unique and successful small businesses – and we are very honored to be part of it.“

“Home furnishings is a retail category frequently requested by the community, and Modern Cooperative is a locally-owned, independent leader in the space,” said James Hennessy, associate vice president for commercial real estate operations for the University. “The opening of Modern Cooperative will be a great resource for students, employees, local residents, and visitors – anyone looking for interesting, well-designed home décor and accessories with a story to tell – and we’re very happy to welcome them here."

And, if we’re lucky, their two adorable dogs, Joplin and Queso, will be joining them at the store.


Upcoming Harper Court Wednesday night Summer Music Series features the Kahil El’Zabar Quartet with Corey Wilkes on August 26

The University of Chicago, in collaboration with Eric Williams, owner of The Silver Room, will host the second event of its open-air summer music series in the courtyard at Harper Court on Wednesday, August 26, from 6-9 p.m.

The upcoming event is a Jazz Night with jazz great Kahil El’Zabar and DJ Duane Powell.

El’Zabar has played with legends such as Dizzy Gillespie, Cannonball Adderley, Stevie Wonder, Donnie Hathaway, Pharoah Sanders, Neneh Cherry, Nina Simone, Ntozake Shange, David Murray, Nona Hendryx, and Lester Bowie, to name a few, and will be performing with his quartet featuring Denis Winslett on alto saxophone, Junius Paul on bass, and Corey Wilkes on trumpet.

A native of Chicago, El’Zabar is considered by his peers to be one of the most prolific innovators of his generation, with more than 60 well-received projects, numerous international awards as a musician and composer, as well as the scoring of major feature films and theatrical productions. He holds a doctorate in Interdisciplinary Arts from Lake Forest College, and has been an Associate Professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the University of Illinois at Chicago. He served as past chairman for the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), has been a panel member for the National Endowment of the Arts, and the National Task Force on Arts in Education.  He was named “Chicagoan of the Year” in 2006, and was knighted by the Counsel General of France, and christened as a “Chevalier Medal of Letters” in 2014.

Trumpeter Corey Wilkes, also a Chicago native, has established himself as one of the best improvising trumpeters in the modern era. Having the skill and maturity to approach mainstream repertoire of jazz standards with his own unique sensibilities, he combines them with his deep appreciation of hip-hop. Wilkes has played with jazz masters such as Wynton Marsalis, Roy Hargrove, James Moody, Kurt Elling, Von Freeman, Greg Osby, Roscoe Mitchell, Marcus Belgrave, Clark Terry, Harry “Sweets” Edison, Mulgrew Miller, and many more. It is truly an honor to have this caliber of musicians on the Harper Court stage.

The series began with a Steppers Night on Wednesday, July 29, with approximately 700 people attending, and will close with a Salsa/Brazilian Music Night on September 30, from 6-9 p.m. with Jose “Papo” Santiago and Bossa Tres.

Food and beverages will be available for purchase from Harper Court restaurants, and paid parking is available in the Harper Court parking garage, the surface lot on Harper Avenue, as well as on street.

Harper Court, located at 5235 S. Harper Court just off 53rd Street, is a mixed-use retail development with businesses including ULTA Beauty, VILLA, AT&T, Chipotle, Nancy Krause Floral Design and Garden Antiques, Red Mango, Native Foods, Porkchop, Ja’ Grill, the Hyatt Place Hotel, and LA Fitness, with Sir & Madame and Einstein Bros. Bagels opening in the near future.

For more information about the series, please go to

Chicago chalk artist to create artwork at Hyde Park Summer Sidewalk Sale on Friday and Saturday, July 24th and 25th

When most kids think about sidewalks in the summer, they think about drawing on them with sidewalk chalk, and in honor of the Hyde Park Summer Sidewalk Sale, Chicago chalk artist Amanda Paulson will be on the 1500 block of 53rd Street creating scenes of Hyde Park in chalk Saturday, July 25th from 12-4 p.m.

Paulson will be at the Courtyard Shops of Hyde Park near 55th Street and Lake Park Avenue on Friday from 12-4 p.m. She’ll be working on 4’ x 4’ panels on a rolling easel, and may be moving positions as the day progresses. To involve kids in the process, she will also have buckets of sidewalk chalk, and kids are invited to get creative alongside her on the sidewalk.

Paulson has a Painting degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and has created chalk art for clients including the City of Chicago, Google, LinkedIn, PepsiCo, United Airlines, and Allstate Insurance, as well as many neighborhood festivals.

The Hyde Park Summer Sidewalk Sale includes over 30 businesses on 53rd, 55th, and 57th Streets, and takes place from Thursday through Saturday, July 23-25th, from approximately 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

For more information about the Hyde Park Summer Sidewalk Sale, please go to

Hyde Park Summer Sidewalk Sale on 53rd, 55th, and 57th streets scheduled for July 23-25

A Hyde Park-wide summer sidewalk sale at businesses on 53rd, 55th, and 57th Streets begins Thursday, July 23 and runs through Saturday, July 25, from approximately 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. each day.

Over 25 businesses will be participating, including major stores such as Akira, New Balance, Walgreens, Elston Ace Hardware, VILLA Shoes, and more; independent boutiques such as The Silver Umbrella, The Silver Room, Belle Up Boutique, Anastasia, Lively Athletics, Comfort Me, and others; and Hyde Park favorites such as Bonne Sante Health Foods, Hyde Park Records, Freehling Pot & Pan Company, Wesley’s Shoe Corral, Toys et Cetera, Cornell Florist, First Aid Comics, 57th Street Books, and many more.

The University of Chicago organized the event, with each business in charge of its particular offerings, displayed on the sidewalk in front of the store. Some businesses will be offering goodie bags and samples, while others will be offering discounted merchandise. Several businesses will be offering food samples or food for sale, with Bonne Sante Health Foods offering smoothie samples and Hyde Park Produce Market selling watermelon slices on Thursday and hot dogs on Friday.

For more information about the event, go to

Harper Court to host Wednesday night Summer Music Series, kicking off with DJ Herb Kent on July 29

The University of Chicago, in collaboration with Eric Williams, owner of The Silver Room, is hosting an open-air summer music series in the courtyard area at Harper Court at 5235 S. Harper Court just off 53rd Street, with three events scheduled for July 29, August 30, and September 30.

The series begins with a Steppers Night on Wednesday, July 29, from 6-9 p.m., hosted by radio legend Herb Kent (The Cool Gent) and DJ Calvin Haynes. Haynes will spin records while Swan provides dance instruction from 6-7:30 p.m. Wallace E. Goode, Jr., president of the Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce, will present Kent, a graduate of Hyde Park High School, with a key to Hyde Park in honor of his 70+ year long radio career and many other accomplishments at 7:30 p.m. Kent will close the event by spinning his favorite “dusties” from 7:40-9 p.m.

The second event is a Jazz Night on Wednesday, August 26, from 6-9 p.m., with jazz great Kahil El’Zabar and DJ Duane Powell. El’Zabar has played with legends such as Dizzy Gillespie, Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, and more, and will be bringing his band with Denis Winslett on alto saxophone, Junius Paul on bass, and Corey Wilkes on trumpet.

The series closes with a Salsa/Brazilian Music Night on September 30, from 6-9 p.m. with Jose “Papo” Santiago and Bossa Tres. Salsa dance instruction led by Roger Noel will take place from 6-6:30 p.m., with Bossa Tres playing from 6:30-7:30 p.m., DJ Kimani Rashaad spinning from 7:30-8 p.m., and Santiago playing from 8-9 p.m.

Since launching The Silver Room on Hyde Park’s 53rd Street in April 2015, Williams has proven to be an inspired creative resource for the neighborhood, and the organization of the summer music series in conjunction with the University of Chicago has been a great opportunity to combine his passion for music with his community event planning skills.

“The 53rd Street area, particularly at Harper Court, has become an epicenter for retail and dining activity, and the courtyard area is a great place for the community to come together, as we’ve seen with the Farmers Market,” said James Hennessy, associate vice president for commercial real estate operations for the University. “The Harper Court Summer Music Series is a new way for the neighborhood to come together and enjoy this vibrant space, and we’re very excited about it.”

“A big part of my store is the event aspect,” said Eric Williams, owner of The Silver Room,“ and I’m really happy to be able to partner with the University to curate these three events for the community. Harper Court is a wonderful resource, and I can’t wait for music lovers and dancers to fully experience it.”

Food and beverages will be available for purchase from Harper Court restaurants, and paid parking is available in the Harper Court parking garage, the surface lot on Harper Avenue, as well as on street.

Harper Court is a mixed-use retail development with businesses including ULTA Beauty, VILLA, AT&T, Chipotle, Nancy Krause Floral Design and Garden Antiques, Red Mango, Native Foods, Porkchop, Ja’ Grill, the Hyatt Place Hotel, and LA Fitness, with Sir & Madame and Einstein Bros. Bagels opening in the near future.

For more information about the series, please go to


New pet boutique, Sprocket & Stone, to open on 53rd Street on July 22

Hyde Park resident, artist, and animal lover Sophie Phillips is set to open her new pet boutique, Sprocket & Stone, A Paw Shop! on July 22 at 1013 E. 53rd Street between Ellis and Greenwood Avenues.

The store will carry healthy dog and cat food and treats; all natural shampoos, conditioners, and supplements; designer-made collars and leashes; toys; a small gift section for pet lovers; and custom pet collages created by Ms. Phillips. The store will feature brands such as Orijen, Acana, Pure Vita, Primal, Fromm, Stella & Chewy’s, and more, with an emphasis on small businesses and products made in America.

Ms. Phillips was born and raised in Brussels, Belgium, and pets have always been an important part of her life—at various times she’s had cats, dogs, rabbits, hamsters, and horses. Ms. Phillips, her husband, Brian, and their 11-year-old son, Miles, currently share their home with three cats  (Alley, Arthur, and Cutie) and two dogs (Sprocket and Stone).

We spoke with Ms. Phillips to learn more about her background and plans for Sprocket & Stone:

You’re originally from Belgium – how did Hyde Park become home for you?

I moved to New York in 2001, met my husband, Brian, who is from the South Side of Chicago, and together we moved to Hyde Park from Brooklyn. We wanted to be part of a community that still had a small neighborhood feel, is close to the lake, and most importantly, diverse. We love Hyde Park; it is a beautiful neighborhood with so much to offer, and our 11-year-old son currently attends Ray School.

How did you decide to open a pet boutique?

When we adopted our first dog, Sprocket, we completely fell head over heels for him and invested a lot of time in researching different training methods and nutrition programs. I wanted to share our knowledge and passion with other pet “parents,” so I founded Premier Pet Concierge, offering dog walking and cat sitting services to approximately 30 clients in Hyde Park, Kenwood, Woodlawn, and Bronzeville.

Over the past three years, I’ve built a loyal clientele and really involved myself into the field, helping clients with nutrition advice, vet referrals, and anything related to the wellbeing of their fur kids. One dog led to another, and Stone became the newest addition to our four-legged family – both dogs were my inspiration to start Sprocket & Stone. I’ve worked in the hospitality industry for over 20 years, was brought up by a family of small business owners, and I’ve always been a people person and an entrepreneur at heart – combining these skills with my passion for animals led to the concept of Sprocket & Stone, A Paw Shop!

How did you select Hyde Park as the location for your business?

I visited two locations in Hyde Park, and as soon as I stepped into the second location, I felt it in my heart that that was it—it was the perfect size, the energy felt great, and I was inspired right away. My plan is to do a soft opening first, with a grand opening in September.

Our community is growing and changing. Sprocket & Stone will be more than just another pet store; it will be a destination. I will continue to provide outstanding pet care services, along with healthy dog and cat delicacies, cool gear and accessories, and a small art and gift section in a fun, friendly and welcoming environment – all here in the heart of beautiful Hyde Park.

What can you tell us about your logo?

The goal of the logo was to incorporate my dogs and to use the American and Chicago flag colors and style in the design. I also wanted something that was pet-related but cool enough to really stand out as the image of a retail boutique with a bit of vintage character. The name, “A Paw Shop,” was a play on words from “pawn shop.” The decor will reflect the logo, with an eclectic mix of vintage, wood, metal, and recycled materials.

What can you tell us about your custom pet art?

I create customized, one-of-a-kind pieces available to order, and the process starts with the selection of various clippings and inspiring quotes from magazines according to color, shape, and size, which are then applied to a high-quality gesso board to create totally unique, vibrant, and funky pet artwork. Each collage is then protected by a liquid glass resin that gives it depth and texture.

Business hours are planned to be 10 a.m. – 6:30 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, 11 a.m. - 5 p.m. Saturday, and 12-5 p.m. on Sunday. You can reach Sprocket & Stone at,, and @sprocketandstone on Instagram.