News about 53rd St. in Hyde Park, Chicago

Jojayden

53rd Street entrepreneur uses men’s fashion store to help South Side boys “G.R.O.O.M.,” build confidence

Reported by Patricia Andrews-Keenan

Just over a year ago, Wale Nubi opened Jojayden on 53rd Street to sell custom-made shoes and clothes for men interested in fashion, style and quality. Nowadays, he uses his stately Hyde Park storefront shop to do much more.

Late last year, Nubi, a former IT consultant who began his retail business as a “side hustle,” teamed up with the leader of a fledgling nonprofit that focuses on helping young men develop self-esteem and confidence, in part, through etiquette, dress and appearance.

“I saw that kids on the South Side were often discriminated against because of how they dressed,” said Nubi.  “No one was telling them about the right way to present themselves to avoid negative encounters, especially with the police, and they often didn’t have role models to help them distinguish right from wrong.” 

Nubi, a father of two young sons, knew he wanted to do something to support youth of color both in Hyde Park, and across the city. He found a kindred spirit in Carlos Duncan, who—influenced by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s call to action for citizens to actively engage in mentoring programs—had started a program called “From Gents to Gentlemen” a year earlier. In December 2016, Duncan formed the G.R.O.O.M. Mentoring Group to operate his program, and Nubi joined the organization’s board.

Earlier this year the pair led 10 boys ages 11-18 through a seven-week program, teaching them basic grooming skills such as how to tie a tie, as well as social skills and character-defining habits like looking a person in the eye while offering a firm handshake, keeping their heads up, walking with integrity, being prepared and managing their time, and always using proper manners. They also taught the youth about designing shoes. The mentoring group meets at Jojayden, 1457 E. 53rd Street.

“Meeting Wale opened things up for us to be able offer the program to more kids and help them hone some of those skills,” said Duncan, who met Nubi through a mutual friend who knew of both men’s interest in mentoring youth. Prior to offering the seven-week program at Jojayden, Duncan shared his insights with youth in one-hour, one-time presentations at schools or through other programs.

The vision for G.R.O.O.M.—which stands for “Getting Results Out Of Me”—is to reduce the stigma placed on young African-American males by “grooming them into productive citizens” who are prepared to restore their communities and cities.  Duncan and Nubi want to help more young men see how they can positively reflect what they are on the inside by how they present themselves on the outside. 

Upon completion of the program each student received a custom suit from Jojayden. 

“Many of these young people have never worn a suit, much less a custom-tailored one,” Nubi said while working with the youth earlier this year.

One of those young people was 16-year-old Devinar Billingslea, who participated in the program along with his 11-year-old brother, Demarco.  In addition to getting his first suit, Devinar said he was excited about the different people he met through the program, including professionals who spoke to the students.

“I am more confident because of the program. I learned how to be myself and stand up for myself,” said Billingslea, who added that he needed a male figure in his life and that he is now pushing his friends to get involved with G.R.O.O.M.

Billingslea’s mother, Fatima, said she can see a difference in both of her sons’ confidence levels and that they are no longer afraid to speak in public. “They come home excited about the program,” she said. “I’m so glad they were able to participate.” 

To help pay for the new suits and to give the students a chance to show off what they learned, Nubi and Duncan co-hosted a fundraiser at Jojayden in March called “Walk in a Gent’s Shoes.” They coached the boys in designing shoes from scratch, and some of their shoes sold for upwards of $300 per pair during the fundraiser.

Nubi and Duncan envision the ripple effects of positive change the G.R.O.O.M. program can have. They hope to expand their reach to 1,000 students by the end of 2017 by working within Chicago Public Schools. G.R.O.O.M. is also partnering with an organization called Lipstick Saints to bring some of the lessons it teaches to girls.

At the end of the program this spring, students participated in a graduation event and received awards. The top three awards: the Engaged Gent Award for exception participation, the Sir Award for showing good manners, and the Intelligent Award for academic excellence.

Duncan, the father of a teenage son and an adult daughter, cites his life experiences and lessons learned in barbershops, churches and other important institutions in African American communities, as the guiding force behind G.R.O.O.M. He says the main thing he wants youth who go through the program to understand is that “daily discipline plus good decisions equal a better life.”

The next session of the program at Jojayden will begin this fall.

Chicago’s Dearborn Denim & Apparel to open first-ever retail store in Hyde Park on May 20

Rob McMillan, a resident of the South Loop and founder of Dearborn Denim & Apparel, will open the online retailer’s first-ever brick-and-mortar store in Hyde Park at 1504 E. 53rd Street on May 20, in between Modern Cooperative and The Silver Room.

The opening of the store is part of the University of Chicago’s effort to bring new retailers to 53rd Street – particularly soft goods and apparel – creating a diverse mix of local and national retailers, as mentioned by participants in recent community focus groups.

At a time when “shop local” and “made in America” are becoming increasingly important to conscientious shoppers, Dearborn Denim & Apparel is a rarity – offering denim jeans for men and women designed and manufactured at the company’s factory in the Garfield Park neighborhood.

The jeans are made from premium stretch denim loomed in Georgia from West Texas long staple cotton, and sewn by Dearborn’s local Chicago staff of 15 employees. McMillan sells directly to customers.

In announcing the new Hyde Park store, McMillan said, “This is a major development for Dearborn Denim & Apparel – until this point we’ve primarily been selling our jeans online, but our new store will allow customers to try on all the different fits and washes – experiencing the quality first-hand before making a purchase. Hyde Park is a great community, and we’re excited to become a part of it."

In speaking with McMillan, we learned that the concept for Dearborn Denim & Apparel, officially started in 2016, came when McMillan, formerly a Chicago Board of Trade bond trader, heard his wife Katy’s complaints that the expensive jeans she was buying would start sagging midday, and become unwearable after several washes. McMillan was intrigued, and recounted, “OK, what if we started making jeans in Chicago, what would that look like? So I started researching denim online, visiting apparel manufacturers, and developing a plan. When we realized we could get a great pair of jeans out the door at a reasonable price, made in Chicago, I said, I want those and I bet other people would too."

 “Dearborn Denim & Apparel offers a unique concept that can become a destination for shoppers from Hyde Park as well as throughout the city,” said James Hennessy, associate vice president for commercial real estate operations for the University. “This is truly a ‘shop small/shop local’ business, and we’re honored to have their flagship location in Hyde Park."

The store is an important new addition to 53rd Street, establishing a strong apparel presence with existing businesses such as Sir & Madame, The Silver Room, Akira, and  Jojayden.

Dearborn Denim & Apparel offers five different fits for men and women (tailored, skinny high-rise, slim, straight leg, and relaxed) in dark wash, medium wash, black at prices ranging from $59 to $65.  Khakis, shorts, and tops for women will be coming soon.

To learn more about Dearborn Denim & Apparel, visit their website.

Shop and celebrate local – Hyde Park businesses turn up the romance for Valentine’s Day

Hyde Parkers who want to stay close to home for Valentine’s Day shopping and celebrating will have lots of options on 53rd Street to make it a holiday to remember for their sweethearts.

CARDS/GIFTS/CANDY

Kilwinshas a wide assortment of candy and chocolates perfect for gift-giving. Valentine’s Day specials include chocolate-dipped long stem strawberries – six for $30 and 12 for $55 in milk, dark, or white chocolate. 5226 S. Harper Avenue.

NoteworthyNotesin addition to a selection of Valentine’s Day cards, NoteworthyNotes also has great gift options for everyone on your list, including cookies, socks, books, pillows, candles, and more. The store also offers same-day printing on select personalized items – even if you’ve waited till the last minute, you can look extra thoughtful with a monogrammed cocktail shaker, travel mug, journal, stationery, and more. Personalization is also available with more notice on pens, flashlights, phone cases, and clipboards. 5231 S. Harper Court.

Modern Cooperative look to Modern Cooperative for a selection of unique jewelry and cards for your honey. 1500 E. 53rd Street.

The Silver Room – with a great collection of jewelry, records, t-shirts, backpacks, hats, and sunglasses, you’re sure to find something special for your Valentine. Or consider a gift certificate for The Silver Room’s in-store massage therapist. 1506 E. 53rd Street.

Jojayden – if your beau or male sweetheart has an eye for fashion, you’ll want to check out Jojayden’s custom-made suits and shoes, and accessories including watches, cufflinks, bracelets, belts, socks, and more. 1457 E. 53rd Street.

Sir & Madame – shop for “classic with a twist” clothing, shoes, and accessories from the store’s namesake clothing label. 5225 S. Harper Court.

Freehling Pot and Pan Co. – keep the little ones busy and come home with delicious cupcakes at Freehling Pot and Pan’s free Valentine's Cupcake Decorating Workshop on Saturday, February 11 from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. The workshop is for children aged 5 and up accompanied by an adult, with all materials provided. 1365 E. 53rd Street.

DINING

A10 – is offering a Valentine’s Day a la carte menu or Couples Bar Special ($35 for half bottle of Champagne and choice of two snacks). The menu includes a choice of Clam Chowder or Fritto Misto and special dinners for two – “Lady and the Tramp” Squid Ink Bucatini for $30, Whole Roasted Branzino for $45, or 22-ounce Bone-In Ribeye with Lobster and Sweet Potato Hash and Truffle Béarnaise for $65. Specials are available from Friday through Tuesday, February 10-14. Call 773-288-1010 for reservations. 1462 E. 53rd Street.

Chantstop by for a before or after dinner drink on Valentine’s Day. The restaurant is offering drink specials including a PAMA Belvedere Martini for $6.00, a glass of Mark West Pinot Noir for $6.00, and a glass Moet & Chandon Imperial Champagne for $8.00, along with a complimentary long-stem tuxedo strawberry dessert. Specials are available from 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. on February 14. 1509 E. 53rd Street.

Ja’ Grillget the night started with Ja’ Grill’s complimentary rum tasting from 6-8 p.m. on Tuesday night, featuring Captain Morgan rums. Guest Host Jeremy Geiger will be sampling Cannon Blast and Loconut rum. Be sure to try the $7 Classic Daiquiri made with Captain Morgan Cannon Blast. All customers with reservations that night will receive a bottle of select bottle of wine or sparkling wine (per couple). 1510 E. Harper Court.

Porkchop – offering a special Valentine’s Day menu for $33 per person, including the choice of any appetizer, soup or salad, and 14 different entrées; along with a deep-fried brownie dessert. Entrée options include Southern Fried Chicken, Slow Smoked BBQ Chicken, Blackened Catfish Filet, burgers, ribs, and more. The menu is available from Friday through Tuesday, February 10-14. 1516 E. Harper Court.

The Promontoryenjoy a romantic dinner and a show at The Promontory on Tuesday, February 14. The second floor concert hall will host the “Valentine’s Day Love and Laughter” concert featuring R&B vocalist Michel’le, along with Just Nesh, Da Wild Cat, BLT, and Gemini Porter, while the first-floor restaurant will offer two prix fixe dining specials. Executive chef Andrew Graves will offer two tasting menus with tailored options:

  • 5:30 p.m. Seating - For lovebirds looking to attend the Michel’e concert at 7 p.m., Graves has created a three-course menu with dessert to go for $45. Offerings include Hearth Grilled Asparagus, Boneless Lamb Loin for two, and Pomegranate-Macadamia Cupcakes guests can take upstairs with them to enjoy during the concert. A package ticket including dinner and the concert is also available for $85 per person.
  • 7:30 p.m. Seating - This expanded five-course tasting menu includes two additional courses, including Capital Oysters on the half shell and salmon and mussels with celery root, mustard, confit potato, and tarragon butter. The dinner costs $65 per person with an optional wine pairing available for an additional $25.  

The Promontory will not offer the regular menu or accept walk-ins on February 14; reservations can be made here. 5311 S. Lake Park Avenue.

Yusho – offering a special “Lover's Meal” for $25 per person, featuring an Octopus Takoyaki Steam Bun, BBQ Brisket Ramen, Miso Chocolate Brownie, and a glass of Cava. A Shrimp Skewer ($5) or Lobster Tail ($10) are available as additional options. The special menu is available from Friday through Tuesday, February 10-14. Visit Yusho for your Valentine's Day meal and receive a complimentary Matcha-dusted chocolate to share with your special someone. 1301 E. 53rd Street.

ACTIVITIES

If you and your sweetie like to work out together, Core Power Yoga is hosting special Couples Yoga classes for Valentine's Day. Come by Friday, February 10 for a 6 p.m. class; Saturday, February 11 for a 10:30 a.m. class; or Wednesday, February 15 at 6 a.m. for an "Old Soul Flow" class. If you're both R&B fans stop in for special classes on Sunday, February 12 at 9:30 a.m. or Wednesday, February 15 at 6 p.m. Drop in rate is $25 per person or $22 for UChicago students, faculty, and staff. 1539 E. 53rd Street, Suite 2N.

Celebrate the Season with Hyde Park Holly-Day on Saturday, December 10

Hyde Park gets into the holiday spirit with a daylong schedule of family-friendly special events for “Hyde Park Holly-Day” on Saturday, December 10th, from 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.

Start the morning off with breakfast with Santa at Einstein Bros. Bagels at 5230 S. Harper Court, from 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. Santa will be available for selfies and posed pictures free of charge; there will not be a professional photographer available, so make sure to bring your camera or phone.

Stay close to Harper Court for the ice carving demonstration from 10 a.m. - 12 p.m. Ice carving artists from Nadeau’s Ice Sculptures, Inc. will be on site creating an original ice sculpture while you watch.

Four costumed characters – Elsa, Elena of Avalor, Wonder Woman, and Spiderman – will be at Hyde Park businesses from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. ready for photos, hugs, and autographs. Meet Elsa at NoteworthyNotes, 5231 S. Harper Court, from 11 a.m. – 12 p.m. and at Kilwins, 5226 S. Harper Avenue, from 12-1 p.m. Wonder Woman will be at Jojayden Shoes, 1457 E. 53rd Street, from 11 a.m. – 12 p.m. and at The Silver Room, 1506 E. 53rd Street, from 12-1 p.m. Meet Spiderman at The Freehling Pot & Pan Co. at 1365 E. 53rd Street from 11 a.m. – 12 p.m. and at Pearle Vision, 1200 E. 53rd Street, from 12-1 p.m. Elena of Avalor will be at Toys et Cetera, 1502 E. 55th Street, from 11 a.m. – 12 p.m. and at Treasure Island, 1526 E. 55th Street, from 12-1 p.m. Many of the participating businesses will be offering special sales while the characters are visiting in the store, so be sure ask the store employees.

As an added treat, everyone is invited to join 4th Ward Alderman Sophia King for an afternoon of caroling from 12-2 p.m., starting in Harper Court - spreading holiday cheer through the gift of song.

If you missed breakfast with Santa, you’ll have your chance to have lunch with him and take pictures at Native Foods, 1518 E. Harper Court, from 12-2 p.m.; and night owls can enjoy cocktails with Santa at Seven Ten Lanes, 1055 E. 55th Street, from 6-8 p.m.

Receive two hours of free parking at the Harper Court Parking Garage from 11/25 through 12/31 – the entrance is located on South Lake Park Avenue just south of the McDonald’s restaurant on 52nd Street. Pull a ticket when entering the garage, and if you park for less than two hours there will not be a charge when exiting.

Be sure to tag all your pictures and videos with #hphollyday to join in all the fun.

Get all the event details and learn more about other Hyde Park holiday activities at downtownhydeparkchicago.com.

53rd Street Hosts First-Ever CONNECT Hyde Park Art Festival November 18-20

For the weekend of November 18-20, 2016, Hyde Park’s 53rd Street area will host the CONNECT Hyde Park Art Festival, as mentioned on the event website, “…a three-day, multi-sited arts festival that combines visual + performing art, designed objects, film, music, fashion and literary culture.”

Developed by Eric Williams, owner of The Silver Room located at 1506 E. 53rd Street, in partnership with the University of Chicago Commercial Real Estate Operations (CREO) group, the free festival “…provides the opportunity to explore and engage with cutting-edge contemporary art and design by some of Chicago’s leading artists, designers, curators and art institutions.”

“Based on the success of Eric Williams’ Downtown Hyde Park/Silver Room Block Party on 53rd Street this July, we are excited to collaborate on this special cultural event for the community, highlighting the strength of the Hyde Park arts community as well as the vibrancy of the neighborhood,” said James Hennessy, associate vice president for commercial real estate operations for the University.

“We have nearly 100 of the city’s finest artists confirmed to participate in CONNECT, including graphic designers, painters, photographers, installation artists, furniture designers, musicians, and more,” said Eric Williams, creator of the event. “This is a great opportunity to showcase Hyde Park and celebrate all forms of art.”

Exhibition sites include the Collaboration Gallery at 1538 E. 53rd Street (near Starbucks), featuring artists and South Side institutions; the Community Gallery at 1520 S. Harper Court (near Native Foods), with “Permanent Record: Chicago Hip Hop Kulture;” the Collective Gallery at 1504 E. 53rd Street (between Modern Cooperative and The Silver Room), highlighting local and emerging artists; and the Creation Gallery at 1465 E. 53rd Street (near Rajun Cajun), with designed objects from fashion to furniture. Additional exhibition venues include the Harper Theater at 5238 S. Harper Avenue, showing the film “Shake the Dust,” produced by Nasir “Nas” Jones, documenting the transformative power of hip hop in Colombia, Cambodia, Uganda, and Yemen; Sir & Madame at 5225 S. Harper Court; The Silver Room at 1506 E. 53rd Street; Modern Cooperative at 1500 E. 53rd Street; A10 Hyde Park at 1462 E. 53rd Street; and Jojayden at 1457 E. 53rd Street.

Local artists are invited to submit their works for possible exhibition by Sunday, November 13. Artists may submit up to five pieces of art from two series of artworks; one published and one unpublished in categories including watercolor, charcoal, photography, graffiti, illustration, graphic design, collage, sculpture, or multimedia. Submissions will be evaluated by a panel of CONNECT Hyde Park curators, and selected artists will be notified via email by Tuesday, November 15, with artwork needed by Thursday, November 17 at the designated gallery space.

The event is garnering local press in the Hyde Park Herald, DNA Chicago, and was named by Time Out Chicago as one of the “9 Art Gallery Exhibitions to See in November.”

Festival hours are Friday, November 18, from 5-10 pm; Saturday, November 19, from 12-10 pm; and Sunday, November 20, from 12-5 pm. There will be an after party on opening night at The Promontory, 5311 S. Lake Park Avenue, from 10 pm -2 am, featuring jazz great, Kahil El-Zabar, with additional performers to be announced.

Parking is free in the Harper Court garage (entry on South Lake Park Avenue just south of McDonald's) from 5 pm on Friday, November 18 through 11:59 pm on Sunday, November 20 for the duration of the CONNECT event.  Parkers are instructed to pull into the garage as normal, pull a ticket, and as long as they enter and exit between those time periods, it will register as $0 being owed when they show the ticket at exit.

For more information, visit the event website and Facebook and Instagram accounts.