News about 53rd St. in Hyde Park, Chicago

Polsky Center Fab Lab to participate in September “First Thursday” event with 3D printer demos

53rd Street’s Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation Fab Lab will participate in the upcoming September 7 “First Thursday” community event, with free 3D printer demonstrations from 5 – 8 p.m.

The Fab Lab will staff a pop-up location at The Silver Room, at 1506 E. 53rd Street, and will offer participants the opportunity to make a free light-up card using circuit stickers. Experience with 3D printing is not necessary.

“We enjoyed meeting our neighbors and demonstrating 3D printing during the July event,” said Elizabeth Koprucki, Assistant Director of the Fab Lab. “We are looking forward to more 3D printer demos and a make-and-take light-up card activity in September.”

The University of Chicago’s Polsky Center promotes the creation of new ventures and commercial partnerships. The Fab Lab is part of the center’s Polsky Exchange, a hub on 53rd Street that provides a range of resources to entrepreneurs from the University of Chicago and the surrounding community.

In addition to hosting the Polsky Center pop-up event table, The Silver Room will offer 15 percent off all purchases when you mention “First Thursday.”

The First Thursday event brings together 40+ local shops, restaurants, and entertainment venues on 53rd, 55th, 57th, and the surrounding streets – all offering discounts, deals, and special giveaways for shoppers.

For more information on the event and a full list of participating businesses and offers, visit

First Thursday graphic
First Thursday graphic

BBQ Supply Co. restaurant opening on 53rd Street November 1

Jared Leonard’s BBQ Supply Co. restaurant will be opening in the former Yusho location at 1301 E. 53rd Street on November 1, 2017.

Leonard and his wife Amanda opened their original restaurant in Chicago’s West Ridge neighborhood over seven years ago, as a way for him to express his passion for hardwood smoked BBQ. The concept has expanded to include a retail space selling sauces and rubs and the city’s only dedicated BBQ school, with more than 5,000 past attendees.

The move to Hyde Park will give diners a taste of Leonard’s favorite Texas style BBQ, with slow-smoked brisket, pulled pork, spare ribs, and sausage cooked in 8,000-lb Texas smokers over a hardwood fire. The wood is so essential to the experience that Leonard brings in truckloads of quarter-split post oak logs from central Texas to provide the quintessential flavor.

BBQ Supply Co.’s menu will also feature comfort-food sides including truffle mac and cheese, custard-filled cornbread, pit beans, Texas caviar (black-eyed peas in a vinaigrette dressing often served as a dip), house-made pickles, coleslaw, and deviled egg potato salad. Desserts include banana pudding, a skillet cookie, Texas sheet cake, apple crisp, and peach cobbler.

“After opening on the far north side in 2010, we’re excited to expand to the south side in Hyde Park, and look forward to sharing our love for BBQ with the community,” commented Leonard.

“53rd Street has become a true dining destination,” said James Hennessy, associate vice president for commercial real estate operations for the University. “BBQ Supply Co. will add another great option for barbecue fans to enjoy and we’re happy to welcome them to the neighborhood."

BBQ Supply Co. food from a recent Zagat photo shoot - image courtesy of BBQ Supp
BBQ Supply Co. food from a recent Zagat photo shoot - image courtesy of BBQ Supply Co. Instagram

7th Annual Harambee Art and Craft Music Festival comes to 53rd Street this weekend - Saturday and Sunday, August 26-27

The upcoming free Harambee Art and Craft Music Festival will have something for everyone to enjoy with a full lineup of arts, crafts, fashion, and music at Nichols Park at 1355 E. 55th Street on Saturday, August 26 and Sunday, August 27, from 12-8 p.m. both days.

The event is community supported by the Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce, Hyde Park Produce, Kilimanjaro International Inc., Pockets, and The Sit Down Cafe & Sushi Bar, and sponsored in part by filmmaker Daryl Brown, fashion design company Reinments of Power, and Allen Paintings.

Harambee, a Kenyan tradition, means “all pull together” in Swahili. All proceeds will go toward the creation of summer youth jobs and scholarships to study abroad in various countries in Africa.

Musical performers will include Bantu Man, Felena Bunn & Friends, Jazz Experience, Super Tribe, Mike Dangeroux & The Tropic, and The Talking Drum.

Festival-goers are encouraged to bring chairs.

For more information go to

Harambee Art and Craft Music Festival graphic

UChicago Local to host Hyde Park Hiring Fair on Tuesday, August 1, from 12- 4 p.m. at Harper Court

Several new restaurants and shops are slated to open in Hyde Park in the coming months, and they will be looking for workers.

UChicago Local, in partnership with 4th Ward Alderman Sophia King and 5th Ward Alderman Leslie Hairston, will host a local hiring fair on Tuesday, August 1, from 12-4 p.m. at Harper Court, 5235 S. Harper Court, in the 11th Floor Conference Center.

Candidates will meet hiring representatives from Akira, Aloha Poké Co., Bergstein's NY Delicatessen, Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales, Nella Pizza e Pasta, The Promontory, Té Amo Boba Bar, Treasure Island Foods, Vanille Patisserie, and other Hyde Park businesses.

The businesses are interested in workers with a variety of experience levels for retail/cashier, restaurant (front and back of house), administrative, and management positions.

“Staffing locally is a great way for businesses to truly become a part of the Hyde Park community, and this hiring event will be an opportunity for the many restaurants and shops to connect with talented candidates,” said Alyssa Berman-Cutler, director of Community Economic Development Initiatives in the University of Chicago’s Office of Civic Engagement.

Benjamin Rogers, manager at The Promontory, agrees. “We feel fortunate to have such a great local talent base and look forward to meeting more candidates to keep up with our growing hiring demand,” he said.

Job applicants who attend the event will receive validation for two hours of free parking at the Harper Court parking garage. The entrance is on S. Lake Park Avenue just south of McDonald’s. (A fee will be charged for more than two hours.)

Harper Court is also conveniently located near public transportation (Metra Electric to the 53rd Street Station or the 192 CTA bus). Street parking is also available.

For more information and to RSVP to the event, go to

Hyde Park Hiring Fair Graphic
Hyde Park Hiring Fair Graphic

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.

Wale Nubi, owner of Jojayden of 53rd Street in Hyde Park, with a student.
Wale Nubi, owner of Jojayden, measures a From Gents to Gentlemen participant, for a suit.
Carlos Duncan, founder of G.R.O.O.M, speaks to students.
G.R.O.O.M. founder Carlos Duncan speaks to a group of students.

30 Businesses to Participate in Hyde Park Summer Sidewalk Sale This Thursday through Saturday, July 13-15

Thirty local businesses in the retail corridors surrounding  53rd, 55th, and 57th Streets will participate in the Hyde Park Summer Sidewalk Sale this Thursday through Saturday, July 13-15, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Participating businesses will offer a variety of discounts and deals for customers. Some businesses will have tables outside their stores, and some will hold indoor sidewalk sales, depending on their location and type of merchandise.

The Saturday date of the Sidewalk Sale coincides with The Silver Room Sound System Block Party, taking place from 12-10 p.m., so shoppers will also be able to enjoy live music and other performances on 53rd Street.

Participating 53rd Street and surrounding area businesses include The Silver Umbrella, LA Fitness, Ancien Cycles & Café, Akira, Core Power Yoga, NoteworthyNotes, Sir & Madame, Porkchop, Bonne Sante Health Foods, Dearborn Denim & Apparel, Kilwins, Modern Cooperative, Jojayden, Hyde Park Records, Zberry, Freehling Pot & Pan Co., The Sit Down Café & Sushi Bar, Pockets, Kilimanjaro International, Hyde Park Property Management, Kimbark Laundry, and Pearle Vision.

Participating 55th Street and surrounding area businesses include Hyde Park Florist, Gilda’s Designer Resale Boutique, First Aid Comics, Elston Ace Hardware, Toys et Cetera, Wesley’s Shoe Corral, and Bergstein’s Deli.

On 57th Street,  Cemitas Puebla will participate.

Hyde Park Property Management, located at 5316 S. Dorchester Avenue, will be hosting the Doughnut Vault Food Truck on Saturday, July 13, from 8:30-11:00 a.m. Complimentary doughnuts and coffee will be provided while supplies last,  and customers can take advantage of waived move-in fees with the signing of an apartment lease – a savings of $400.

The Hyde Park Summer Sidewalk Sale is sponsored by the University of Chicago Commercial Real Estate Operations (CREO), Downtown Hyde Park, and the Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce.

“The Hyde Park Summer Sidewalk Sale is an excellent way for local businesses to connect with current and new customers while offering enticing savings at the same time,” said Wallace E. Goode, Executive Director of the Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce.

For the full list of participating businesses, go to

Hyde Park Summer Sidewalk Sale Graphic
Hyde Park Summer Sidewalk Sale Graphic

Yusho Hyde Park Closing

After nearly three years on 53rd Street, Yusho Hyde Park served its last meal on Saturday, July 1.

Award-winning chef and restaurateur Matthias Merges, who also owns A10 at 1462 E. 53rd Street, is closing the location to focus on the Michelin-rated A10 as well as new ventures. Merges’ Hyde Park restaurants were among the first to open as part of the redevelopment of 53rd Street, an effort led by the University of Chicago in partnership with the city, local community and private entities.

Merges opened the Hyde Park location of his yakitori-inspired concept in September 2014.

“Matthias Merges has been a great partner in helping to make 53rd Street a destination for dining, and we wish him continued success,” said James Hennessy, the University’s associate vice president for commercial real estate operations. “The University is seeking a new restaurant tenant for the space at 1301 E. 53rd Street, and we hope to bring a new concept to the neighborhood later this year.”

“After a great run in a neighborhood we love, we are closing Yusho Hyde Park to concentrate our efforts on the Michelin award-winning A10 and our new upcoming projects,” said Chef and Proprietor Matthias Merges. “We are grateful for the opportunity Yusho provided in the vibrant and historic community of Hyde Park and we will continue to provide great hospitality and cuisine to all of our A10 neighbors.”

Eric Williams, owner of The Silver Room, named as 2018 Harvard Graduate School of Design Loeb Fellow

The Loeb Fellowship at the Harvard Graduate School of Design recently named Eric Williams, owner of The Silver Room on 53rd Street, one of nine members of its 2018 class of “midcareer practitioners whose work has influenced the built and natural environment.” The fellowship consists of a year of independent study at Harvard.

Since relocating The Silver Room to Hyde Park at 1506 E. 53rd Street in 2015, Williams has partnered with the University of Chicago to bring several activities and spaces to Hyde Park, including the Harper Court Summer Music Series, kicking off with Poi Dog Pondering on Wednesday, June 28; the CONNECT Hyde Park Art Festival, recently named “Best Public Art Event” by the Chicago Reader; the CONNECT Gallery at 1520 S. Harper Court, now exhibiting “100 Canvases;” the upcoming 14th Downtown Hyde Park /Sound System Block Party on July 15; and other projects in the works.

The Silver Room will continue to operate during Williams’ fellowship.

“It’s been a great asset to have The Silver Room as one of 53rd Street’s most vibrant businesses,” said James Hennessy, associate vice president for commercial real estate operations for the University. “Eric Williams is a respected creative force in the community, and we’ve been honored to collaborate with him on a number of projects."

In making the announcement, the LOEBlog noted, “Eric Williams is the founder of the Silver Room on the South Side of Chicago, for 20 years an influential retail and community art hub in the city. The Silver Room Sound System Block Party attracted more than 15,000 attendees in 2016, and the three-day CONNECT Hyde Park Arts Festival, a collaboration with the University of Chicago, activated empty storefronts with pop-up art exhibits organized by some of Chicago's leading curators. During his Loeb Fellowship Williams will focus on strategies for replicating the Silver Room model nationally and methods for measuring the social and economic impact of arts entrepreneurship.”

The year-long Loeb Fellowship program has been in existence since 1971, offering participants the opportunity to “…strengthen their ability to advance positive social outcomes and to make the world a better place for all.”

Williams found out about the program through his longtime friend, Emmanuel Pratt, a 2017 Loeb Fellow, and executive director of Chicago’s Sweet Water Foundation – teaching kids how to grow sustainable businesses through urban agriculture and other programs. Participants in Pratt’s foundation built displays for use in The Silver Room, learning construction and interpersonal skills in the process. Based on Pratt’s recommendation, Williams was asked to speak at Harvard this past fall on alternative models of retail, and he was then invited to apply to the program.

Williams starts class on August 22, and will be eligible to audit any class at Harvard or MIT. He plans to focus on leadership and business courses as well as urban planning and looks forward to connecting with the students and professors. Williams will share housing with several of the other Fellows, and they will meet weekly to discuss their coursework and future plans.

This will be a big change for Williams, who was last in school nearly 25 years ago as a finance major at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “I’m really excited about the opportunity to continue my education, and to take a step back, reflect, and plan the next phase of my career,” he said.

It will be business as usual at The Silver Room, with Jenny Stites as manager, and Carter Dorsey as weekend assistant manager, with Williams working remotely and coming back to Chicago on a monthly basis to check in at the store and spend time with his daughter. Williams’ longtime business associate, Rob McKay, will continue to manage the CONNECT art gallery.


Eric Williams at The Silver Room - photo courtesy of Eric Williams

Harper Court Summer Music Series back for third year, kicking off with Poi Dog Pondering on Wednesday, June 28, from 6-9 p.m.

The University of Chicago, in collaboration with Eric Williams, owner of The Silver Room, presents the third year of free, open-air summer concerts with the Harper Court Summer Music Series – starting in just three weeks. Located in the courtyard area at 5235 S. Harper Court off 53rd Street, the series includes three concerts scheduled for the last Wednesdays of June, July, and August – June 28, July 26, and August 30.

The music series will begin with the inventive and eclectic band, Poi Dog Pondering, on Wednesday, June 28, from 6-9 p.m. The show will open with DJ Lady D and House-O-Matics. Led by Frank Orrall and featuring 15+ band members, Poi Dog Pondering has been playing for 30+ years, incorporating orchestral arrangements and aspects of electronic, house, and soul music in their acoustic rock style.

The second concert will feature Res with DJ Joe Kollege, on Wednesday, July 26, from 6-9 p.m. Res’ musical style is a blend of indie pop, soul, and rock, and her third studio album, “Reset,” was released in late 2016.

The series will close with jazz great Dee Alexander, winner of NPR’s 2014 “Best Jazz Vocal” award, with DJ Duane Powell on Wednesday, August 30, from 6-9 p.m.

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, and on the street.

Harper Court is a mixed-use retail development with businesses including AT&T, Chipotle, Einstein Bros. Bagels, Hyatt Place Hotel, Ja’ Grill, Native Foods, LA Fitness, NoteworthyNotes, Porkchop, Roti Modern Mediterranean, Sir & Madame, ULTA Beauty, and VILLA  – with new businesses Aloha Poke Co. and Vanille Patisserie scheduled to open in mid-summer.

For more information about the series, please go to

Harper Court Summer Music Series Poster

Hyde Park Farmers Market to feature more live music, children’s musicians in 2017 season

The 2017 Hyde Park Farmers Market will kick off at Harper Court on Thursday, June 1, at 7 a.m., with a full schedule of live music each week through October 26. Children’s musicians, a popular feature last year, are scheduled the first Thursday of each month, with two performers in August.

Live music starts at 8 a.m., and will run until the market closes at 1 p.m. The market is located on Harper Court, just off 53rd Street, between Chipotle Mexican Grill and Valois Cafeteria.

The caliber of musicians is impressive, with notables scheduled for June such as Isaiah Collier, a tenor saxophonist who has performed at the Hyde Park Jazz Festival; Phil Passen, a hammered dulcimer player; Kat Best, cellist; JD Kostyk, guitarist; Darius Hampton, saxophonist, composer, and educator; Kielbasa & Kimchi, flute/piano duo with Carol Jaryzna and Simmon Yoon; Kolleen Blume, fiddle; Aaron Smith, banjo; and George Urgo, blues guitarist.

The Hyde Park Farmers Market added music in 2016. The experiment generated a lot of interest from shoppers and passersby, particularly children and their caregivers.

Eric Reaves, Program Manager of the South East Chicago Commission and Director of the Hyde Park Farmers Market commented, “The addition of live music has been a great asset to the farmers market – both vendors and shoppers alike have all commented favorably on the quality of the performers. We look forward to the 2017 season and invite everyone to come out and experience it for themselves!”

This year, children’s musicians will play from 9:45 a.m. to 11:15 a.m., and include Jeanie B! (June 1), Laura Doherty (July 6), Anne-Marie Akin (August 3), Laura Doherty (August 10), Anne-Marie Akin (September 7), and Duke Otherwise (October 5).

Jeanie B!, scheduled for June 1, prompted Time Out Chicago to write, “Jeanie B!’s music is the one of the best things to happen to children in Chicago this decade!” Her original music has won multiple awards from Parent’s Choice and Billboard Magazine. She is an artist in residence for Ravinia’s “Reach, Teach and Play” program and teaches music at several area preschools.

Laura Doherty, scheduled for July 6 and August 10, is a nationally-touring children’s recording artist with four award-winning albums. She was the director of the Old Town School of Folk Music’s Wiggleworms program for more than a decade, and she has performed at Ravinia, Lollapalooza, and many other venues and festivals across the country.

Anne-Marie Akin, scheduled for August 3 and September 7, is a singer, songwriter, musician, storyteller, and an instructor with the Old Town School of Folk Music’s Wiggleworms program. She pioneered a Chicago Public School preschool music program on Chicago’s West Side, and co-leads the Wiggleworms in Residence program in the Lawndale neighborhood.

Duke Otherwise, scheduled for October 5, is a Madison, Wisconsin-based musician who plays nearly 150 shows a year throughout the Midwest and beyond. According to his website, his “energetic live show is filled with improvisation, audience participation, dancing, and outrageous fun!”

The full June musician schedule includes:

Thursday, June 1

8-9:30 a.m. – Isiaiah Collier (saxophone)

9:45-11:15 a.m. – Jeanie B! (children’s musician)

11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. – Phil Passen (dulcimer)

Thursday, June 8

8-9:30 a.m. – Kat Best (cello)

9:45-11:15 a.m. – JD Kostyk (guitar)

11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. – Darius Hampton (saxophone)

Thursday, June 15

8-9:30 a.m. – Kielbasa & Kimchi (flute & piano)

9:45-11:15 a.m. – Kolleen Blume (fiddle)

11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. – George Urgo (blues guitar)

Thursday, June 22

8-9:30 a.m. – Aaron Smith (banjo)

9:45-11:15 a.m. – Kat Best (cello)

11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. – Darius Hampton (saxophone)

Thursday, June 29

8-9:30 a.m. – Isiaiah Collier (saxophone)

9:45-11:15 a.m. – JD Kostyk (guitar)

11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. – George Urgo (blues guitar)


To learn more about the Hyde Park Farmers Market, visit the market’s Facebook page.


Jeanie B! from Jeanie B! Music, photo courtesy of the artist
Laura Doherty, photo courtesy of the artist
Anne-Marie Akin, photo courtesy of the Daily Herald
Duke Otherwise, photo courtesy of the artist