Sink or swim for local small businesses residing in Rogers Park, Edgewater

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By: Nick Martin, Tegan Dry, and Kesha Bhatia (Loyola)

The COVID-19 pandemic has heavily affected small businesses in Rogers Park, forcing many to shut down multiple locations or altogether.

Now with inflation on the rise, the struggles small businesses are experiencing have no end in sight.

Local initiatives such as “Alderman’s Table” and “On The Map” were created to help promote small, local businesses. Alderwoman Hadden has put efforts forward to help businesses get customers through the door

“I can say anecdotally,” she said, “that our office has received emails and comments from folks that they’ve heard of businesses or patronized businesses after seeing our posts.”

But is this enough to keep Rogers Park businesses open? 

Korean BBQ restaurant Dak (1104 W. Granville) has been open since 2013. It is a family-owned business, serving Korean-style cuisines such as chicken wings and other favorite Korean dishes.

Owner Daniel Ju had a lot to say about how certain factors make it hard to increase the restaurants branding, model, outreach. Dak has gone through some changes with company hours and making efforts to keep the business running on a limited workforce. Daniel has a family that he supports and there are a lot of priorities he has to focus on, which could influence making the decision to close down the shop.

“Our restaurant is still going by pandemic hours and we were open from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m., but now only open from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. It’s interesting, however, we are able to still hit sales marks with the current open hours as we did from the old hours.”

Daniel was very transparent about the problems his company is facing such as a lack of employees and inflation raising prices. 

“We want you to bring your friends and other people, but not too many for it to get out of hand here; it’s only me and my parents working behind the counter.” 

As inflation continues to get worse in Chicago, it becomes increasingly difficult to buy ingredients, inventory and other store items are difficult.

“We have to charge our customers more for the bowls and chicken wings to make enough sales and have money for food items.”

Even though the restaurant is experiencing all these factors impacting the company and its performance, Daniel still carries his own exceptional business model by caring for his customers.

“I humbly welcome guests, I try to be consistent with saying thank you to customers for buying our food, and making their experience enjoyable.”

The struggle to keep businesses alive is not unique to the restaurant industry. We talked to Emir Hamza, owner of Hero Fashion, a small clothing boutique, that just had to close down its Rogers Park location. 

Hero Fashion has been open for over 13 years, but unfortunately, like many others, they have not survived the pandemic. The boutique is being relocated downtown due to inflation and a lack of business in Rogers Park. Even when they shortened hours and closed the store a few days a week, it still couldn’t survive.  

When we asked Hamza about the struggles of his business, he told us that it was “hard not being extremely close to the city so we decided to relocate. After the pandemic, I have not had much business than I did before.”

Emir is passionate about his boutique and hopes to see business improve at his downtown location, N. Michigan Ave.

“I think my business is being affected because of inflation going on in Chicago and having no one coming to the shop so locating to the city with a much higher population my business will grow.”

The pandemic and inflation have many negative outcomes on small businesses but the owners are flexible and determined to make tough decisions in order to keep their businesses alive. We encourage all readers to research local businesses in your area and show your community some support. If you have a positive experience at a local business, spread the word, leave a comment on their website/social media, and become a regular. There is no sign of support too small. 

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