Go back with the best—the hottest back to school stuff

(Published Aug. 31, 2019)

By Stephanie Racine, Staff Writer

Fall is upon us, which means a fresh start on the schoolyear and brand new items to purchase. Be prepared for back-to-school with these useful for parents and fun for kids trends!  

Home Sweet Locker

Decorating lockers has always been a way to showcase personality while at school, but options have been upgraded since the days of magnets and magazine clips. Target has options such as magnetic succulent plants, magnetic and battery-powered “chandeliers,” and removable wallpaper. Specifically, check out UBrand at Target, which has all the previous options, plus more, like a disco ball!

Fashion is Clear

A trend for all ages, that’s also helpful for parents. A clear plastic raincoat is cheap, easy to clean, and also fashionable for a kid of any age. Currently, there’s one available at Walmart online for $10. Clear backpacks are also cool, and won’t require parents to ask if their kid forgot anything on their way out—it’s easy to see inside!

A Bento-Style Lunch

Bento Boxes are no longer just for mom or dad’s sushi lunch. The omieBox, available on Amazon, has spaces for both cold and hot foods. It comes with different inserts, depending on what’s for lunch that day, and can include cutlery. Everything in the box can be put in the dishwasher, to make daily cleanup easy. There are simpler versions, like the stainless steel LunchBots containers on Amazon.

Eraser Fun

Put a smile on their face with fun erasers in all sorts of shapes. Yoobi’s fast food eraser set, available at Urban Outfitters, includes a mini hamburger, hotdog, French fry, and sandwich all for erasing. Acbell’s erasers are in the shape of macaron cookies and brightly colored. Handy Basic’s erasers are ice cream treats. Both are available on Amazon.  

Streeterville Best Buy to close Nov. 2

(Published July 31, 2019)

In late July, the home electronics chain Best Buy announced they would not renew their lease at 875 N Michigan Ave. Best Buy has occupied the space since 2008 and the two-story store is the chain’s flagship location. The chain will not close its 31 remaining stores in Chicagoland. 

The Michigan Avenue store is 35,000 sq. feet. Large retail outlets have struggled in recent years. In 2018 Crate and Barrel left their 646 N. Michigan Ave. location, though a Starbucks roastery is still expected to open later this year. 

A spokesperson for the chain, Mathew Smith, said the downtown location had high rent and proved not to be as popular as other locations in the city. 

This location has one of the highest rents in our portfolio, even higher than most of our Manhattan stores,” said Smith. “Additionally, we’ve seen that most of our customers prefer to shop at one of our nearby stores like South Loop, North Avenue or Bucktown since parking is easier for big items like TVs and appliances.”

The store employs 35 people and management has said they hope to transfer those workers to other stores.  

A closer look at hidden bars around downtown

(Published June 30, 2019)

By Elisa Shoenberger, Staff Writer

Looking for someplace new? Someplace weird? Someplace out-of-the-way?

Look no more. Here is a list of the best hidden bars downtown.

The Library

The Library is located in the basement of the Gilt Bar in River North. It has a speakeasy feel with soft lights, bookshelves and gentle 1920s music playing. They don’t take reservations, expect a wait.

Gilt Bar

230 N. Kinzie St.

The Drifter

This River North establishment is also in the basement of another bar, the Green Door Tavern. The cocktail menu varies because drinks are printed on tarot cards, and different cards list different drinks. Risk-seeking patrons can snag a fortune cookie from a Buddha cookie jar where each fortune lists a cocktail or liquor. After 8 p.m., there’s burlesque and musical entertainment curated by Michelle L’amour. Expect to pay a cover charge.

Green Door Tavern

678 N. Orleans St.

The Milk Room

This tiny hidden bar is on the second floor of the Chicago Athletic Association, 12 S. Michigan Ave. Allegedly, it was used by members during Prohibition. Paid reservations are recommended as the bar only has eight seats. This is the place for the discerning cocktail aficionado since they serve rare spirits.

Chicago Athletic Association

12 S. Michigan Ave.

Blind Barber

The Blind Barber, in West Loop, is in the back of an actual barber shop. When a patron enters the barbershop and asks for the bar, they will be directed to an unmarked door. Once inside the cocktail bar, it’ll feel like a time warp with soft lights and cozy chairs. In addition to a delicious cocktail list, they offer a grilled cheese that isn’t to be missed.

Back of a barber shop

948 W. Fulton Market

SafeHouse Chicago

A Milwaukee transplant, this Streeterville bar lets patrons feel like secret agents. First one must locate the red door and then provide the password or perform a designated task. Once these tests are passed, patrons find themselves in a spy-themed cocktail bar. It’s goofy and fun with lots to explore, including secret entrances and passages.

60 E. Ontario St.

Build a Bear offers a ‘pay your age’ promotion

(Published June 11, 2019)

By Jesse Wright

Build a Bear Workshop, a popular retailer that allows customers to design their own teddy bears, is hosting a limited time “pay your age” promotion.

The chain has a retail outlet at the Navy Pier and through June 16, customers can enter to win a birthday party and a new bear.

“More than 200,000 Guests around the world are expected to receive a Pay Your Age limited ticket,” the Build a Bear website says. “With their ticket, Guests will be able to visit a Build-A-Bear Workshop during one of two redemption periods in the week of June 24 through June 28 and make one furry friend per child present, limit two furry friends per ticket. Additionally, ten Guests will win the Count Your Candles Sweepstakes grand prize of a birthday party experience to use any time in the next twelve months valued up to $250.”

Customers must be Bonus Club members (it’s free to join) and anyone can sign up online at buildabear.com.

CrossFit gym first to offer unique fitness program to Streeterville

(Published May 30, 2019)

By Jesse Wright

Frank Dowie, owner of MagMile CrossFit, likes to think his new CrossFit gym has something for everyone and every part of everyone can get fit.

Since the gym opened in late April at 7 E Illinois St., Dowie has seen a steady stream of various clients.

A traveler can lift kettlebells or do calisthenics in the morning, as a trio of business travelers from Mexico did one recent morning for less than $30. For the locals who love workouts, there’s a $240 option offering unlimited access to the facility and courses. There’s an $80 a week option or for $100 users get five classes.

Dowie’s gym is as versatile as CrossFit, a branded fitness program that aims to work out the whole body, combining fitness philosophy with community. Greg Glassman developed CrossFit in 2000 and in the last 20 years, the workout has developed a dedicated cult following.

“A big part of CrossFit is, CrossFitters love CrossFit,” Dowie said. “They don’t want to go to a traditional gym. It doesn’t scratch that itch.”

Dowie said he got into the CrossFit program in 2011, and fell in love with it. CrossFit doesn’t include many machines. Rather, it may involve lifting weights or throwing weighted balls and other activities that combine aerobics along with muscle development. But it’s also about mutual support and interacting with other people. Dowie said people don’t workout at a CrossFit gym wearing earbuds, and there are no mirrors on the wall, so members don’t focus on themselves. It is about other people.

“CrossFit is built on community,” Dowie said. “These people become your friends. This isn’t the kind of thing where you put your headphones in. You encourage each other. It’s a very positive environment and I loved that aspect of it.”

Dowie said many gyms—including his—do regular charity drives. In May, MagMile CrossFit raised money for local veterans and in June, he has hopes to raise money for a local gay pride nonprofit.  

Dowie, a Streeterville resident, said he opened MagMile CrossFit in the community because there’s not another CrossFit gym in Streeterville.

“I’m a resident here and I love this neighborhood,” he said. “I’m excited to bring our community to the community. I think it would be a benefit to the neighborhood.”

For more information, visit magmilecrossfit.com, email info@magmilecrossfit.com or call 312-577-9669.

Tails in the City celebrates 15 years in Streeterville area

(Published April 29)

By Elisa Shoenberger, staff writer

Tails in the City is celebrating 15 years of bringing dog accessories to the neighborhood.

The shop opened its doors in 2004 when owners Bruce Haas and Phillip Emigh

sought to start their own retail business. They decided on a luxury dog shop because they saw a need for high end dog items and Tails in the City was born at One East Delaware Place.

“We don’t offer anything that you need, we only offer things that you want,” said Philip Emigh.

They have $200 down snowsuits, sparkly bow ties, designer pet carriers, and even punny dog toys from Haute Diggity Dog —Chewie Vuitton and Woof Clicquot. They also have freshly baked goods in the shape of martini glasses and crowns that “fly off the shelves,” Emigh said.

They have a loyal following of neighborhood residents and they get business from tourists who go to the shop as a last stop before going home, according to Emigh.

Ani Sergi, a customer who has been shopping at Tails in the City since day one, explained that she loves the atmosphere and talking with the people at the shop. She notes that her dog, “loves to be there and she welcomes everybody. They give treats to the dogs.”

Emigh noted they’ve been popular with celebrities who are in town, such as Jennifer Hudson and Carrie Underwood. When Harpo Studios was in Chicago, producers sourced their goodies for their guests from the shop.

The store also gives back to the pet community. For the fourth years in a row, the dog store will host a fundraising event for Canine Companions for Independence, a nonprofit organization that trains and provides assistance dogs. Seasonally the store raises money for PAWS or the Anti-Cruelty Society through pet photographs with Santa or the Easter Bunny. They also host an annual halloween party and parade where pets and pet parents can win awards for best duo costume.

At the end of the day, the shop owners want the space to be be a fun place for people.

“Who wants to sell boring things? We want to sell fun things,” Emigh said. “Otherwise we’re competing with pet big box stores. We want to surprise our customers with what we have and make them happy.”

Area businesses lend a hand to help Girls Scouts sell cookies

By Angela Gagnon, Staff Writer

Girl Scouts are busy selling their famous cookies all over downtown Chicago while partnering with local businesses that provide warm spaces where scouts can sell extra boxes through the end of March.

Troop 20461, from South Loop Elementary, recently sold cookies at Pinstripes in Streeterville on a blustery Saturday morning. Troop co-leader Angelica Prado helped set up, and fourth grade troop members Mia Prado and Katie Boone sold to Pinstripes customers.

“My favorite part of selling Girl Scout cookies is asking people to buy our cookies,” Mia said. “Even if they say no, they know who we are and they can tell more people about the cookies.”

“I like selling Girl Scout cookies because it teaches me to set a goal and try to complete that goal,” Katie added.

“The girls decide on a cookie goal and work to reach that goal,” Katie’s mom and troop co-leader Aimee Boone, said. Troop 20461 set their goal for each girl to sell 100 boxes of cookies.

At the end of cookie season, the troop can decide what to do with their share of the profits, which is about 90 cents per box.

A portion goes to a charitable donation of the troop’s choice. Troop 20461 will be donating to Mercy Home for Boys and Girls this year. They also vote on something fun to do as a troop, as a reward for all the hard work they do during cookie sales.

Girl Scouts will set up booths at select locations until the end of March. Troop 20461 will be back at Pinstripes, 435 E Illinois St., March 24 from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

On March 2, they will be selling cookies at Sod Room, 1454 S Michigan Ave., from 9:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

“Inviting them to sell at Sod Room helps shift the ownership back to the child,” Sod Room owner Cynthia Valenciana said. “That’s hard in today’s climate, and there’s so much power in that.”

For a list of cookie booth locations, dates and times, visit the Girl Scouts’ website, girlscouts.org, and use the “cookie finder” to locate nearby booths.

Streeterville, Gold Coast residents hear plans for new Pisor project

By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer

In January, Streeterville and Gold Coast residents got a peek at a proposed 22-story, 12-unit building David Pisor plans to build at 12 W. Maple St.

Pisor, a longtime Chicago developer, said the project will look unique and fashionable and offer a private club and an Italian restaurant, among other amenities. He also projected that the building would bring 500 jobs into the area once complete.

The new tower is set to stand 330 feet tall, and each residence will occupy an entire floor, with an expansive penthouse on the top floor. Designed to be slender—just 50 feet wide—on one side, but long on the other, the facade will be lined with vertical plates of glass to give passersby a streamlined view. “Optically, it’s going to be a very special-looking building. It will be something you’ve never seen before,” Pisor said.

Residents raised concerns about the building’s height and whether it would cast shadows on Mariano Park. While Pisor did concede his building will be tall, he said the building will not cast shadows on the park.

“Of all the things that could be put there, this is incredibly beautiful,” he said.

Curfew enforced at Water Tower Place to mitigate youth ‘disruptive behavior’

By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer

In response to a flash mob attack in December on Chicago Avenue in Streeterville, Water Tower Place issued a notice Jan. 3 that it will no longer allow anyone under 18 to be on the property without the presence of a parent or an adult over 21 on Fridays and Saturdays after 4 p.m.

“In an effort to eliminate disruptive behavior by unsupervised youth, we made the difficult decision to implement a curfew program at Water Tower Place,” said Mitch Feldman, senior general manager of Water Tower Place, in a press release. “The PGR program is intended to help provide a safe, peaceful experience at our shopping center. All are welcome at Water Tower Place and at any time. We simply require that during certain weekend hours, families shop together and guests under 18 are accompanied by an adult.”

Police have posted security camera still images of those involved in the flash mob attack across social media. Hopkins said if anyone has any information about the suspects or the attacks, they should call the police at (312) 747-8380 with reference case JB-571818.

Dave and Busters, Watertower deal is dead

By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer

A plan to open a Dave and Busters sports bar franchise inside Water Tower Place is dead after Streeterville residents expressed outrage at the proposal. The company had already signed a lease with the owners of Water Tower Place, according to Water Tower Place spokespeople.

On Jan. 14, Alderman Brian Hopkins said that due to mounting public pressure, he would not support the company’s plans and that Dave and Busters management agreed to relinquish the lease on  Water Tower Place. Hopkins added that the company had not submitted an application or a plan proposal to the city.

At a community meeting in December 2018, residents complained of the noise they feared Dave and Busters would bring, as well as the potential for rowdy or drunken incidents.

According to a spokesperson for the company that owns Water Tower Place, they are still seeking tenants for the space.

“While disappointed with the outcome, we remain committed to evolving Water Tower Place into an all-encompassing destination offering the best in shopping, dining and entertainment,” said Lindsay Kahn, a senior manager of public relations at Brookfield Properties. “Our community deserves an amazing experience at our shopping center, and we are currently exploring different uses that would fit well in the available space. We look forward to sharing more information soon.

The Oriental Theater gets new name

By Elizabeth Czapski, Staff Writer

Chicago’s Oriental Theatre opened May 8, 1926, and 93 years later it’s undergoing a name change. After Feb. 12 the theatre will be known as the James M. Nederlander Theatre. The transformation includes the construction of a new marquee, Curbed Chicago reported.

The Nederlander family is known for owning theaters across the country, including the CIBC Theatre at 18 W. Monroe St., according to the Chicago Tribune. New York has its own Nederlander Theatre, named by James M. Nederlander to honor his father, David T. Nederlander. James, who died in 2016 at the age of 94, will be honored by his son, organization president James L. Nederlander, by the renaming of the Oriental Theatre at 24 W. Randolph St.

Lyric Opera releases 2019/2020 season lineup

Staff reports

The Lyric Opera of Chicago released their 2019-2020 lineup which includes a mix of drama, comedy and of course music.

The season will highlight a complete Ring cycle in April with package purchases now available to all members.

The Ring, the ambitious series of four epic operas by Richard Wagner, is considered one of the most significant works in the Western canon. The story revolves around a magic ring which grants power to rule the world which characters based loosely on Norse sagas and a German epic poem. It will be conceded by Sir Andrew Davis and directed by David Poutner.

Besides the Ring, the Lyric will also stage Verdi’s Luisa Miller as part of a multi-season showcase of Giuseppe Verdi’s work. Other familiar operas will include The Barber of Seville, Don Giovanni and Madama Butterfly.

Besides the classics, Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking will make its Lyric premiere. The opera is based on the book by Sister Helen Prejean with a libretto by Terrence McNally.
This year’s Broadway musical will be the Lyric debut of 42nd Street.

Lyric regulars will note Sondra Radvanovsky will return this season in main stage performances of The Queen of Spaces and the concert The Three Queens.

Another beloved artist, Welsh bass-baritone Sir Bryn Terfel will return to the Lyric stage for the first time in 15 years for a recital.

For more information about any of the performances, visit lyricopera.org or call (312) 827-5600.

The top Chicago openings for 2019

By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer

The New Year will bring new developments to the city. Here are the top new developments residents can look forward to this year.


1.     Actor and New York developer Robert DeNiro is coming to Chicago. DeNiro’s development team is opening the Nobu Hotel in December 2019 along Restaurant Row. In addition to luxury hotel rooms, the property will boast a street level Japanese restaurant and a rooftop lounge.

2.     The Hotel Essex has been working on its Michigan Avenue property for a while now, and it’s expected to open in May of 2019. Located at 800 S. Michigan Ave., across from Grant Park, the hotel will be in the heart of the city and offer 254 rooms.

4.     The Hilton brand will open another Homewood Suites in downtown Chicago in May. This one will be across from Grant Park at 1101 S. Wabash Ave., within easy walking distance to the Field Museum and the Shedd Aquarium.


1.     Some of the top names in Korean food are coming to the city. Dave Park and Jennifer Tran operated Hanbun in Westmont until early 2018, and now they’re looking to open Jeong at 1460 W. Chicago Ave. Park offers a modern take on Korean food in a fine-dining space, and Jeong will hold about 40 people.

2. James Beard Award-winning chef Zach Engel’s Israeli restaurant Galit is nothing if not ambitious. Engel will serve up the usual pita and hummus, but he will also feature Midwestern produce to combine the familiar with the foreign against a formal dining background. Galit will open in Lincoln Park at 2429 N. Lincoln Ave.


1.   New for the New Eastside, the Vista Tower project is expected to wrap up this year. At 1,191 feet, the tower has 101 floors and at floor 47, there is an outdoor pool, a reservable kitchen and a wine-tasting room.

2.    Nema, at 1200 S. Indiana Ave., will be completed this year. The building will offer 76 floors and 800 units and stands 887 feet tall and the luxury apartments are sure to make a mark on the South Loop.

3.    In Streeterville, the One Bennett Park building at 514 N Peshtigo Court is already open, but on the top floors of the luxury apartments, the work continues. However, the 70-story building will be completed in 2019 after the final condominiums are finished.

Young Professionals Streeterville mixes services with mingling

By Jesse Wright | Staff Writer

This November saw the start of something in Streeterville when the first meeting of Young Professionals Streeterville kicked off.

The group is in part the brainchild of Mario Hollemans, an attorney, who was installed as president of the group, though he is far from the only young professional eager to kick off a networking group in Streeterville for the under-40 set.

Vice President Casey Doherty said he’s lived in the area since graduating from college in 2017. These days he is in law school and hopes the organization will give young people an opportunity to socialize and volunteer in the neighborhood.

“There is a strong young demographic in the neighborhood that wants to give back. We wanted to showcase the talents of young people and we wanted to create a vibrant community of young professionals in the neighborhood.”

Doherty said that while the group is a younger demographic, it is professionally diverse. Another member, Dr. Valerie Mayuga, is a physician who is also in charge of the group’s philanthropic efforts, and Doherty said it’s just nice to know people who share common interests and hobbies.

“It’s nice to have strong community connections,” he said.

Hollemans said he did little to plan the group; the whole organization sprung more or less fully formed by the membership who wanted to formalize something. That said, the group will hold monthly mixers to attract more members and to network—but also to do more for the neighborhood.

“There are a lot of young professionals in the neighborhood looking to give back,” said Doherty. “I think young people have always wanted to get involved and give back to their communities, and recent times have shown how important that really is.”

Anyone looking to get involved with the group can email Hollemans at ypstreeterville@gmail.com or check out their Facebook page, www.facebook.com/YPStreeterville.


[The Young Professionals of Streeterville meet monthly, as they did at this gathering in Nomber, to socialize and plan events for neighborhood improvement and development. Photo by Jesse Wright]

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