This holiday season, check out three Black-owned businesses on the South Side of Chicago—and support those in your own community.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shuttered thousands of small businesses across the United States, but Black-owned businesses are closing twice as fast as others. Opens in a new tab That’s why this holiday season, we hope you’ll support Black-owned businesses in your community. Check out these three vibrant South Side establishments that are near the site of the future Obama Presidential Center in Chicago.
Photos by Olivia Obineme and Andre Bobb.
South Shore Brew
Location: 7101 S Yates Boulevard, Chicago IL 60649
Clad in African-American portraiture and culture, South Shore Brew is in the heart of Chicago’s South Shore neighborhood and is known for its delicious lattes, heavenly pies, and rib-sticking sandwiches. Educators-turned-entrepreneurs Jennifer and Cory Barnes Opens in a new tab founded the independent coffee shop to serve up good coffee, but they also founded it to provide jobs for young people and to create a space that would make their neighbors proud.
In light of the pandemic, everything about our business is different. Our team. Our menu. Our pathway to our daily sales targets. In some ways, the experience of managing risks and adapting to change isn’t that new to us as small business owners. We will name that not having the neighborhood gather in the shop has been very tough on our morale, though, and we’re still exploring ways to account for it.
Additionally, 2020 has been Critical Race Theory in real time. We are reminded that racism is inherently woven into every structure of our society. The persistent efforts of folks to maintain historical advantages over other groups is incredible, and shows up when we talk about business loans, grants, and access to capital.”—Jennifer and Cory Barnes
Shawn Michelle's Homemade Ice Cream
Location: 46 E 47th Street, Chicago IL 60653
Co-owners Yahya and Nataki Muhammad put smiles and icecream mustaches on the faces of children and adults alike at their scoop shop, Shawn Michelle’s. The iconic Chicago ice cream parlor has had locations around the city, but it’s finally “back home” in the Bronzeville neighborhood. No matter the season, Shawn Michelle’s makes each scoop go a long way. Last year, they awarded scholarships Opens in a new tab to students from Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood to help them prepare for college. They are especially known for their delectable hand-churned vanilla, butter pecan, and black walnut ice creams and peach cobbler.
Supporting Black-owned businesses is not only essential to the economy of the Black community, but we are the cornerstone of the economic infrastructure and growth in our communities. Black-owned establishments hire and provide employment to the community. We support other local institutions that uphold the community like banks and stores. Most importantly, our employees can remain employed, earn a living wage, and contribute to the economy of their home and greater community.
Like most businesses, we’ve closed our indoor seating area, reduced our capacity, practiced social distancing, and imposed employee temperature screenings. As a way to help our customers whose income might have been affected by COVID-19 and to show our customers how much we appreciate them, we created a “Weekend Buy One – Get One Free” promotion. We wanted to share our irresistible “Grandma Approved Homemade Ice Creams” like our famous Barack Supreme Ice Cream (pralines & cream with chocolate), Banana Pudding Ice Cream, and Peach Cobbler Ice Cream to put a smile on our customers’ faces!
Your support is very important during these unprecedented times because while traditional, larger institutions are closing down and laying off workers, Black-owned businesses like ours, that have stayed open, provide hope. For us at Shawn Michelle’s, we’re providing the comfort of delicious homemade treats during these very difficult times. —Yahya and Nataki Muhammad
Location: 300 E 51st Street, Chicago IL 60615 | Just east of 51st and the Green Line
Since 2017, Boxville Marketplace’s unique venue and shopping experience has attracted customers from across the city. Made entirely of modified shipping containers, the outdoor marketplace houses a wide range of locally-owned businesses in cool and affordable spaces. Every entrepreneur in Boxville is from the South Side of Chicago.
Last Lap Cornerstore Opens in a new tab is one of dozens of businesses in Boxville. The Last Lap is a “friendly neighborhood corner store for runners” owned by Ian Gonzalez. The small business opened this year and carries everything runners might need.
I started my business this year, so I was prepared to operate in this unique landscape. As we enter the second wave, though, I’m gearing up to fulfill more orders online. As a Black and Latino man running a business, there is no organization that is more important to me than my community. I started my business to help my community, and as my company grows, I’m determined to find even more ways to support all of us. The more Black wealth we intentionally create, the more people there are to invest back into our communities. —Ian Gonzalez
A few containers over is Synergy Foods. Opens in a new tab Founded by Leah Holmes, this creative business provides Bronzeville residents and visitors with fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as a delicious assortment of caramel apples.
For me, COVID-19 has been a blessing and a curse. The pandemic struck right when I was transitioning Synergy Foods from a hustle to a legit business. I had just signed a lease with Boxville and expected to open the shop in the first quarter of 2020. I spent those first months of the pandemic adjusting to the new normal and struggling to keep Synergy Foods open. But there was a silver lining. My full time job went remote, which gave me more intimate time with my business. I could work from anywhere, so I was able to open my first location at Boxville while working my full time job.
I want people to know that Black people have strong buying power. We have the ability to change the trajectory of our own neighborhoods by simply shopping at Black-owned businesses that invest back into their communities. Chicago’s Black businesses have excellent customer service and make it easy for people to keep coming back for more. —Leah Holmes
To find a full list of Black-owned businesses in Chicago, check out the City of Chicago’s guide here Opens in a new tab .