News about 53rd St. in Hyde Park, Chicago

Families enjoy ice carving demonstrations for the second week of Hyde Park Holiday Nights

The windy weather at Harper Court last Thursday night on Dec. 10 did not deter Al Martinez, the ice artist from Nadeau’s Ice Sculptures in Forest Park, from crafting an impressive ice carving of a penguin standing on a block of ice.

Families and people walking down 53rd Street got a chance to see the artist at work between 4-5 p.m. as he started with a rectangular block of ice before sculpting it with different power tools into a detailed, three-dimensional penguin. As he cut away sections of ice, he delighted several children by etching miniature penguin designs into slabs of ice, which he gave away to a boy and a girl. People also enjoyed the pre-carved holiday tree sculpture lit from within with colored lights near the entrance to the Harper Court office building, as well as a holiday snow globe sculpture with a winter scene and snowflakes frozen inside near Native Foods.

The fun then moved on to The Courtyard Shops at Hyde Park Shopping Center from 6-7 p.m., where the ice artist carved a gingerbread cookie on top of a house; and displayed a pre-carved Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer sculpture; as well as a snowman.

The activities were part of Hyde Park Holiday Nights, the three-week holiday event on consecutive Thursdays – 12/3, 12/10, and 12/17. The event kicked off with holiday caroling on Dec. 3, and will end with characters inspired by the movie, “Frozen,” making appearances at eight local Hyde Park shops on Dec. 17 from 5-7 p.m.

For the full event schedule, visit the event website.

Al Martinez from Nadeau's Ice Sculptures carving a penguin
Al Martinez from Nadeau's Ice Sculptures carving a penguin - photo courtesy of K. Hull
A few lucky kids got their own hand-etched souvenirs
A few lucky kids got their own hand-etched souvenirs - photo courtesy of K. Hull
Snowglobe ice sculpture at Harper Court
Snowglobe ice sculpture at Harper Court - photo courtesy of K. Hull

NoteworthyNotes opens at Harper Court, with ribbon cutting scheduled for Thursday, Dec. 10

Harper Court’s latest retailer, NoteworthyNotes, will celebrate its grand opening on Thursday, Dec. 10, with an official ribbon cutting taking place from 6:00-6:15 p.m. The stationery and invitations store, at 5231 S. Harper Court, opened for business on Nov. 20.

Owned by the University of Chicago Booth School of Business alum Cindy Rudman, NoteworthyNotes launched in 2000 in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood, and moved to its storefront location in Lakeview in 2010. The retailer has become a trusted resource for custom wedding, mitzvah, and party invitations, as well as personalized stationery, self-inking stamps, holiday cards, and much more.

In addition to traditional stationery items, NoteworthyNotes is a source for personalized gifts with speedy turnaround times – including tote and cosmetic bags, key chains and luggage tags, clipboards and pens, water bottles and travel mugs, coasters and cutting boards, and many other items. The store offers unique gifts for everyone from babies, kids, and teens to business colleagues, teachers, family, and friends. Rudman and her team are happy to make suggestions for the perfect gift.

NoteworthyNotes also offers embroidery services to add a name, monogram, or initials to many of the store’s products. Customers may even bring in items purchased elsewhere for personalization.

“I am excited to bring NoteworthyNotes to Hyde Park, the first place I lived when I moved to the United States,” commented Rudman, a Montreal native. “I am eager to meet members of the community and tailor the offerings at the Hyde Park location to their needs.”

“NoteworthyNotes is a niche retailer with a history of success with personalized gifts and stationery,” commented James Hennessy, associate vice president for commercial real estate operations for the University. “It fills an unmet need in Hyde Park and can become a specialty shopping destination for area residents, students, and visitors.”

NoteworthyNotes opening graphic - courtesy of NoteworthyNotes
NoteworthyNotes opening graphic - courtesy of NoteworthyNotes

Vue53 to host VIP Grand Opening on December 8 – rental applications now being accepted

Vue53, the new 13-story, mixed-use residential and retail building currently under construction at 1330 E. 53rd Street, recently opened a temporary leasing office at 1453 E. 53rd Street, and is hosting a VIP Grand Opening event for the community on Tuesday, December 8, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The event will take place at the leasing office, giving people an opportunity to see full-scale mock-ups of the apartment room sizes with furniture, meet the Vue53 staff, and learn additional information about the building and its leasing process.

Vue53 will feature 267 units, including furnished and unfurnished 1 bedroom/1 bath units, three different 2 bedroom/2 bath units, and two different studio apartment layouts. Amenities include a 24-hour front desk attendant, 24-hour fitness center, modern clubhouse with complimentary Wi-Fi, business center and study lounges, game room with pool tables and flat-screen television, multiple outdoor sundecks, secure bike storage, optional in-building parking, and more.

The best way to apply for housing is via the website. On the site, applicants will click on “Sign a Lease” at the top of the page. There is a $50.00 application fee and a $150 administration fee due at that time (if a lease is not signed within 72 hours, the administration fee will be refunded).

Vue53 also includes 28 affordable housing units, and interested applicants should contact the leasing office for more details.

Peak Campus thrilled to welcome this exciting project to our growing portfolio,” said Bob Clark, President at Peak Campus.  “We believe this is a great addition to the 53rd Street corridor and will soon be part of the neighborhood’s unique cultural fabric.  Our team looks forward to serving our new residents and the local community with an unmatched customer experience and a cutting-edge feature and amenity package.” 

 

Vue53 VIP Grand Opening graphic - courtesy of Vue53
Vue53 VIP Grand Opening graphic - courtesy of Vue53

Faces of 53rd Street: Fylynne “Lynne the Laundry Lady” Crawford

In 2007, after selling some South Side apartment buildings they co-owned, Fylynne Crawford and her husband Darryl were shopping for a new business venture. Through a laundromat broker, they learned that Kimbark Coin Laundry, located at 1218 E. 53rd Street since 1963, was for sale. The couple had close ties to Hyde Park, so they bought it. That’s when Fylynne Crawford, who goes by the name Lynne, became “Lynne the Laundry Lady.”

Crawford, 57, uses videos, photos, and posts on the laundromat’s Facebook page to pitch herself as an expert on tackling tough stains from items such as gravy and barbeque sauce. As owner operators, Crawford and her husband spend about 40 hours a week in the laundromat. She recently spoke to the 53rd Street Blog about her business and involvement in the community.

Q. How has the business grown or changed through the years?

Crawford: We bought Kimbark Laundry in 2007, but the store has been a staple in Hyde Park since 1963. Since we bought the business, we’ve added a drop-off laundry service, a dry-cleaning service and a pick-up and delivery service. We have 50 washers and 34 dryers, and we have two employees. As a neighborhood business, we have a couple of target markets.  First, we want to reach those residents that don’t have access to a washer and dryer in their house or apartment. Second, with our drop-off service we’d like to reach those people who don’t have the time or the inclination to do their laundry.

Q. What are your connections to Hyde Park?

Crawford: We have been very connected to Hyde Park in our business and personally over the years. My husband and business partner, Darryl Crawford, was a Hyde Park resident for 20 years. He lived in a building just across the street from Kimbark Laundry. He was also a member of the Local School Council and served as a coach for the American Youth Soccer Organization league.

Since our ownership of Kimbark Laundry, we have been involved with local community groups at various times, including the Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce, the Hyde Park Kiwanis Club and the Hyde Park Kenwood Community Council. We have also volunteered on various political campaigns for local elected officials.

Q.   Why did you decide to start putting videos online?

Crawford:  The idea came from a customer who is a videographer, Marvin Evins. From his coming to the laundromat, we started talking and he offered to film a commercial and put it on YouTube. We filmed here at the store. We also promote the laundromat through our website, Facebook page, Google ads, flyers in the neighborhood, and signage in the windows.

 

Q. In the past Kimbark Laundry has had community-focused events inside the laundromat. Do you plan to continue or restart those efforts?

Crawford: We have used Kimbark Laundry to help encourage neighborhood children to read through a program we call Wash & Read. We had prominent Hyde Parkers, including Toni Preckwinckle and Barbara Flynn Currie, come in to read to the children of our customers. It was a rousing success. Also, during various elections, we did weekly voter registration drives to encourage civic involvement in the political process. We have not done these kinds of events recently, but we would like to do more in the future.

 

Q. What do you want customers and prospective customers to know about you and Kimbark Laundry?

Crawford: We want customers and prospective customers to know that Kimbark Laundry is here to serve the community. As a small business, we want and need the support of our neighbors. My goal is to get to know our neighbors.

 

Faces of 53rd Street is a twice-monthly series that profiles business owners, employees, and shoppers who contribute to the vibrancy of Hyde Park's 53rd Street retail corridor. If you would like to recommend a familiar face on 53rd Street for a profile, write to us as 53rd@lists.uchicago.edu.

"Lynne the Laundry Lady." Photo by Darryl Crawford
Inside Kimbark Laundry, 1218 E. 53rd Street in Hyde Park. Photo by Darryl Crawford

Einstein Bros. Bagels launches at Harper Court, with grand opening on Thursday, December 10

The Harper Court location of Einstein Bros. Bagels, staffed with over 50 people from the local community, opened on Monday, November 23, to a very enthusiastic reception from Hyde Park residents, workers, students, and visitors.

Situated at 5230 S. Harper Court, behind the Hyatt Place Hotel in the Harper Court mixed-use development, Einstein Bros. Bagels is open from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week. The restaurant offers a full menu of bagels, breakfast and lunch sandwiches, sweets, and beverages, as well as catering options.

The Harper Court Einstein’s location celebrates its grand opening on Thursday, December 10, from 4-8 p.m. Guests receive a 10% discount on purchases during this time and are eligible for raffle prizes including free coffee and bagels for a year. The Harper Court private street area will also feature an ice carving demonstration from 4-6 p.m. as part of Hyde Park Holiday Nights, the three-week holiday celebration on December 3, 10, and 17. To show its support for the local community, Einstein Bros. Bagels will be hosting a “Hot Chocolate Welcome Station” at each of the three events, with free hot chocolate and sweets while supplies last.

Gary M. Pahl, brand and operations manager for Robinson Hill USA, the owner/operator of the Harper Court Einstein Bros. Bagels location, stated, “We could not be happier with the welcome we have received from Hyde Park. We’re very proud of this new restaurant and the operations team we have selected, and are confident that once people come in they’ll love the friendliness of our staff, food options, double-sided fireplace, and seating area with plenty of outlets and Wi-Fi access.”

“The opening of Einstein Bros. Bagels is an important milestone for Harper Court as well as the entire 53rd Street area,” said James Hennessy, associate vice president for commercial real estate operations for the University. This location has strong visibility and will be a welcome asset for so many people – whether workers at Harper Court, guests at Hyatt Place, students, families, and more.”

"Friends & Family" opening day at the Harper Court Einstein Bros. Bagels locatio
"Friends & Family" opening day at the Harper Court Einstein Bros. Bagels location
The Einstein Bros. Bagels staff in action on opening day
The Einstein Bros. Bagels staff in action on opening day

“Happy Hyde Parking” promotion returns for a second year

Based on its success during the 2014 holiday shopping season, the “Happy Hyde Parking” promotion at the Harper Court parking garage has returned for a second year.

Beginning last week with Black Friday on November 28, through Thursday, December 31, shoppers receive two hours of free parking when they park at the 200-space garage, accessed on the west side of Lake Park Avenue, just north of 53rd Street. Regular parking rates will apply after the initial two free hours. No validation or coupon is needed.

The University of Chicago is providing the benefit in coordination with parking operator LAZ Parking as an added convenience for shoppers visiting Hyde Park businesses as well as attending neighborhood holiday events.

“With the opening of new Harper Court businesses including Sir & Madame, NoteworthyNotes, and Einstein Bros. Bagels; 53rd Street businesses such as Modern Cooperative; as well as the three-week Hyde Park Holiday Nights events on December 3, 10, and 17,” said James Hennessy, associate vice president for commercial real estate operations for the University, “two hours of free parking is a great incentive to take advantage of all the activity downtown Hyde Park has to offer this holiday season.”

To bring more visibility to the promotion, large-scale window signage was installed on the southeast and northwest corners of the Harper Court building as well as the entrance to the parking garage.

"Happy Hyde Parking" signage of east side of Harper Court building
"Happy Hyde Parking" signage of east side of Harper Court building
"Happy Hyde Parking" signage of south side of Harper Court building
"Happy Hyde Parking" signage of south side of Harper Court building

“Hyde Park Holiday Nights” will offer three weeks of family fun December 3, 10, and 17

The Hyde Park neighborhood will have plenty of holiday activities for the entire family with the first-ever “Hyde Park Holiday Nights” taking place on three consecutive Thursday evenings in December.

The first week includes holiday caroling on Dec. 3, from 6-9 p.m. with four different singing groups, including costumed Victorian performers from Lola Bard Productions from 6-9 p.m.; two University of Chicago a cappella groups – the women’s ensemble, “Men in Drag,” and the men’s ensemble, “Run for Cover” from 6-7 p.m.; as well as the South Shore Opera Company of Chicago from 7-8 p.m. Strolling carolers will sing along the north and south sides of 53rd Street and at The Courtyard Shops at Hyde Park Shopping Center. More detailed times and locations for each group of carolers will be available at the welcome station at Harper Court on the night of the event.

On Dec. 10, Nadeau’s Ice Sculptures will offer two ice-carving demonstrations, with the first one taking place at Harper Court from 4-6 p.m., and the second one at The Courtyard Shops at Hyde Park Shopping Center from 7-9 p.m.  Leading up to the event, local community members are invited to vote for the ice carving selections they would most like to see via an online survey. Choices include a dancing bear playing a horn, a gingerbread person on a house, a winter polar bear with scarf, a penguin on an iceberg, an ice skater, or a snowman with hat and scarf. Votes will be counted until Dec. 7, and the top two choices will be carved at the event.

Characters from the popular movie “Frozen” will be visiting Hyde Park businesses on Dec. 17, from 5-7 p.m. Due to popular demand, there will be two Elsa characters, as well as Anna, and Olaf.  Elsa #1 will be at Toys Etcetera at 1502 E. 55th Street from 5-5:45 p.m. and at Wesley’s Shoe Corral at 1506 E. 55th Street from 6-7 p.m. Elsa #2 will be at Bellē Up Boutique at 1504 E. 53rd Street from 5-5:45 p.m. and at Lively Athletics at 1457 E. 53rd Street from 6-7 p.m.  Anna will be at Einstein Bros. Bagels at 5230 S. Harper Court from 5-5:45 p.m. and at Kilwins at 5226 S. Harper Avenue from 6-7 p.m. Olaf will be at Ancien Cycles at 1558 E. 53rd Street from 5-5:45 p.m. and at The Freehling Pot and Pan Co. at 1365 E. 53rd Street from 6-7 p.m.

On each of the three event nights, the newly opened Einstein Bros. Bagels will host a “Hot Chocolate Welcome Station” at Harper Court, with complimentary hot chocolate and sweets while supplies last.

All three events are free, and the Harper Court Parking Garage will offer two hours of free parking from November 28-December 31. Shops will stay open late with special offerings, so plan to make a night of it.

Hyde Park Holiday Nights is a partnership of the University of Chicago Commercial Real Estate Operations group, Downtown Hyde Park, and the Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce.

For additional event information, click here.

Hyde Park Holiday Nights Graphic
Hyde Park Holiday Nights Graphic

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 http://justiceofthepies.com/.

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

Limited edition "Sir" and "Madame" pies by Justice of the Pies
Limited edition "Sir" and "Madame" pies by Justice of the Pies - photo courtesy of Justice of the Pies
KOVAL whiskey selection
KOVAL whiskey selection - photo courtesy of KOVAL
Sir & Madame, Hyde Park
Sir & Madame, Hyde Park

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 53rd@lists.uchicago.edu.

Bella Tronou
Bella Tronou, 25, is the general manager for Harper Theater in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood. Credit: Yeates
Harper Theater front facade
Harper Theater at 5238 S. Harper Avenue; credit: Rosalind Cummings-Yeates
Harper Theater concession counter
The concession area inside Harper Theater; credit: Rosalind Cummings-Yeates

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.

Ja' Grill Artwork and Logo
Ja' Grill Artwork and Logo
The Ja' Grill Bar - courtesy of Time Out Chicago
The Ja' Grill Bar - courtesy of Time Out Chicago
Chrishon Lampley - photo by Ramzi Dreessen, Chicago Sun Times
Chrishon Lampley - photo by Ramzi Dreessen, Chicago Sun Times