By Jaqueline Terrazas and Melissa Solis
With property taxes skyrocketing in the city of Chicago, it is easy to see how local businesses might get the short end of the stick. Thanks to community support, this is not the case for small businesses in the Chicago neighborhood of Wicker Park.
Property taxes have steadily increased in Wicker Park. Some notable include businesses Reckless Records, independent music venue Subterranean, breakfast restaurant Bongo Room and Volumes Bookcafe.
When Reckless Records moved to its current location in 2015, the building’s property taxes drastically jumped from $8.7 thousand to $31.3 thousand in the span of one year. From years 2014 to 2018, Bongo Room’s property taxes increased $10,203 Subterranean’s increased $7,071 and Volumes Bookcafe increased $6,429.
Despite the dramatic rising of these building’s property taxes, local businesses have been kept afloat thanks to community support and involvement.
Back in 2011, property tax rates in Chicago were between 3.75% and 8.87%. Wicker Park business were still up and coming during this time. According to the Wicker Park Chamber of Commerce, a data consumer survey was conducted in 2011 to examine business operations and revenue over the past 2 years. 51 local business in the Wicker Park area participated. 41.5% said their revenue increased by 5%, 34.1% said it stayed the same, 19.5% said it decreased by 5% and 4.9% were open less than two years.
Despite the time difference of 8 years, there was still a success in the local businesses regardless of the high property taxes. Although this upcoming year, it is predicted that Chicago could have a possible 11% increase in property taxes.
Chicago is home to 2.7 million people and Wicker Park is home to about 54,000. Wicker Park has its own aesthetic providing a large diverse spectrum of food, clothing, entertainment, health, beauty and much more. Small local businesses have helped provide these luxuries and amenities to tourists and residents of Chicago and the residents have benefited the business greatly.
Wicker Park is one of the oldest and popular neighborhoods of Chicago. It is located on the Northside of Chicago, right off the Blue Line Damen station. It neighbors Humboldt Park and Ukrainian Village, providing a large array of diversity amongst its residents.
Wicker Park was home to many immigrants in the late 19th century providing work and home life. It was named after town alderman, Charles Wicker whose statue stands tall in the middle of the town park, Wicker Park.
A large contributor to the success of small businesses in Wicker Park is the Wicker Park Bucktown Chamber of Commerce. As stated on their website, the WPB Chamber of Commerce “strives to develop innovative ways to increase commerce” in the neighborhoods of Wicker Park and Bucktown. WPCC website even offers “business essentials” that help small businesses grow successfully.
Alice Howe is part of the Wicker Park Bucktown Special Service Area #33 said businesses in the neighborhood are currently catering to families more than ever before and play a big part in what makes Wicker Park not only a neighborhood but a community as they participate and host events that involve the whole neighborhood.
The WPB Chamber hosts events with local businesses such as Window Wonderland, a month-long event the WPB Chamber hopes will encourage people to shop small and support local businesses. Window Wonderland will take place beginning November 30th through December 30th. Howe also says there has been an influx of restaurants settling into the neighborhood.
November 30th is 2019’s Small Business Saturday of which all Wicker Park local businesses will be a part of. Businesses such as Mike’s Furniture, a family-owned/ operated business open since 1975 and located at 1259 N Ashland Ave. Lidia Colbert from Mike’s Furniture was available to comment and says she feels the community supports business at Mike’s Furniture and noted that she has noticed a change in customer demographics as before customers used to consist of mostly “Americans” and now there are more Latinos shopping there.
Aside from small businesses, schools play a big role in the success of a neighborhood. Families look to move where there is a good education for their children. Guidepost Montessori in Wicker Park is a small chain of Montessori schools in the Chicagoland area. The Wicker Park location is their 3rd and newest location, that has only been open for two years. We got to sit down and talk to Brooke Houle, the extended day director who has been at the school since the open date.
Brooke gave some insight on the schools’ success and their thoughts on having it located in Wicker Park. Houle then went into detail about the things local businesses have done to make Guidepost Montessori feel more welcomed.
She said, “The businesses have actually helped us more than we helped them. These businesses have been cooperative enough to allow us to have field trips to give the children a look inside a local small business and gave us some gifts as well.”
Guidepost Montessori has attended field trips at 4 local business in the area. Big Star; a beer-focused, taco-lovers honkey tonk restaurant, Jeni’s Ice Cream a trendy popular ice cream shop filled with exotic flavors, and Myopic Books, a cozy vintage bookstore filled with over 80,000 books and has been in Wicker Park for decades.
It is clear that the businesses in Wicker Park help each other and serve the neighborhood and visitors which make it more of a community. Having an array of culture definitely benefits this because bringing families together is what gives Wicker Park its success since it is converting to a more family friendly neighborhood.
In the beginning of 2019, Hollywood Cleaners, open since 1948, and Real Good Juice were forced to shut its doors. Rakki Cafe, known for its Japanese desserts, also closed its doors in early November. While Wicker Park has lost some local gems, they are constantly gaining new businesses.
In 2016, Dox, a restaurant providing Greek fare, opened its doors and soon after shut down for remodeling. After this it was quickly replaced by Bonci, a famous Roman pizzeria making the Wicker Park location their second ever location in the United States. After a 4-year-run in Wicker Park, Scone City permanently closed leaving room for Graze to relocated from the Loop’s Revival Food Hall.
Without its small businesses, Wicker Park would not have its reputation. These independently owned businesses cater to all types of people who reside, work or visit Wicker Park. Only time will tell if these new businesses will become long-lasting members of the Wicker Park community.