Feature photo: Semicolon Bookstore. Photo courtesy of Semicolon Bookstore.
The city of Chicago wouldn’t be the same without the many small businesses that make the city interesting. These independent shops, restaurants, and businesses are integral to the social fabric of Chicago, and so many of them are owned by Black entrepreneurs. In celebration of Black History Month, we’ve found some amazing Black businesses around the Windy City that everyone should know about.
Here is a list of Black-owned businesses to support, not just during the month of February, but all year round!
Semicolon is a Black woman-owned bookstore and gallery space in West Town that is an absolute paradise for book enthusiasts. The owner, Danielle Moore, thoughtfully curates the book selection and space with so much intention and detail, you can truly tell how much passion is in this business. Their book selection features many works by authors of color and independent authors. During the pandemic, Semicolon launched their #cleartheshelves initiative to promote literacy in Chicago by providing free books to Chicago Public School kids. With the help of some community members, Semicolon has donated seven figures worth of books to local students! They host special events, a monthly book club, and it’s just a great spot in the Chicago area. If you can’t make it to their brick-and-mortar location, you can order books from their website and donate to #cleartheshelves. I also highly recommend following Danielle Moore on social media. She’s absolutely delightful and one of my favorite accounts!
Bronze Balloons is a mother-daughter Black-owned company that specializes in luxury balloons and balloon installations. They have some incredible creations that the entire family will love. If you need a foil balloon for your kid’s birthday, a beautiful balloon bouquet to cheer someone up, or an elaborate balloon wall photo backdrop, Bronze Balloons has you covered. They are also an approved Chicago Public Schools vendor, so they are the perfect place to shop for decorations for graduations, school dances, retirement parties, or any other school event. Follow them on Instagram to see their beautiful work!
Third Coast Comics
Third Coast Comics is a Black-owned comic book store located in Rogers Park, right by Loyola University’s campus. They carry quality graphic novels and comic books that focus on diversity, inclusion, and community. Follow them on social media to stay up to date about special events, sales, and more.
The Silver Room
The Silver Room is an iconic boutique founded by Eric Williams in 1997. The brick-and-mortar location is in Hyde Park and everything in their store is intentionally curated to create a global community through art and culture. The Silver Room highlights artists and creators in the Black community, and they have an awesome collection of books, clothing, accessories, and gifts for the whole family. You can shop online on their website, and you can even set up a gift registry.
Chicago French Press
Chicago French Press is a unique local coffee company created by Kris Christian, a former Wall Street analyst. Kris wanted to create a delicious cup of coffee that could stand on its own, without cream and sugar. So she created Chicago French Press, a coffee company that roasts its beans locally in small batches in unique flavors, like Maple Pecan and Chocolate Blueberry. Chicago French Press is devoted to creating great coffee while helping others in need, and they support many local and national nonprofit programs. You can order their coffee on their website, or find them in many Target locations in the Chicago area. They had a local pop-up coffee shop at one point, so follow CFP on social media to be in the know if they do another one!
Plant Salon is an adorable boutique that features plants and beauty products. Owner, Nika Vaughan, created this space to feature two of her greatest passions, and it’s such a great way to enrich the body and soul. In addition to great products, they have candlelight yoga, soil mixing classes, and more! Follow their Instagram to find out about classes and events!
Kido is a diverse children’s boutique in the South Loop owned by a husband and wife team. Artists and business owners, Keewa and Doug, created this award-winning toy and clothing store for kids with an emphasis on representation and inclusivity. Children of color, kids with disabilities, and non-traditional families are reflected in their thoughtful selection of products. Whether you’re looking to build a diverse library for your child, or you want a Chicago-themed onesie for a new baby, Kido is a great place to shop. You can check out their adorable casual storefront space on the South Side or shop online. They host special events and sales that are announced on social media, so I highly recommend following Kido on Instagram.
Batter and Berries
Batter and Berries is a delicious breakfast and brunch restaurant in Lincoln Park. They are known for their french toast flight and house music. Not only do they have great food, but one of the owners, “The Que”, walks around and makes sure everyone is welcomed with open arms. Overall, Batter and Berries has an awesome vibe and is one of the best brunch spots in Chicago. Follow them on Instagram here!
Luella’s Southern Kitchen
Luella’s Southern Kitchen is a casual spot in Lincoln Square with all the southern staples you crave: fried chicken, gumbo, shrimp and grits, cornbread, and more! The chef and owner, Darnell Reed, has an impressive resume and decided to put his culinary talents towards a true passion project: hearty southern cooking in honor of his grandmother, Luella. Follow them on Instagram here!
Cleo’s Southern Cuisine
Cleo’s Southern Cuisine is a soul food restaurant that has earned accolades from the Michelin Guide, Eater, and many other local and national magazines. Chef Kristen Ashley opened the flagship location in Bronzeville, and has since opened a location in the Loop and in Soldier Field during Bears games and concerts. She is known as the “Queen of Fried Chicken”, but you can also find Po’ Boys, waffles, cornbread, pineapple candied sweet potatoes, and many other delicious southern dishes with unique twists. You can order food ahead of time, which may be wise as it’s not unusual to see lines around the block waiting for Chef Ashley’s delicious food!
Ina Mae Tavern
Ina Mae Tavern is a New Orleans-style restaurant in Wicker Park, owned by Chef Brian Jupiter. Jupiter has been nominated for the James Beard award multiple times and his fun, southern cuisine is one of a kind. Of course, they have fried chicken, Po’ Boys, and crawfish, but they also have design-your-own Sno-Balls, They have awesome happy hour deals, live music on weekends, and lots of special events.
Brown Sugar Bakery
328 E 75th St, Chicago, IL 60619, and a location on Navy Pier!
Brown Sugar Bakery is an award-winning southern bakeshop that specializes in sweet treats and custom cakes. In addition to her cakes, Chef Stephanie Hart has created a line of gourmet chocolates. If you can’t make it to their original location, or their walk-up location on Navy Pier, they ship nationwide!
Hot Dog Box
Hot Dog Box is a gourmet hot dog stand run by an adorable father-daughter duo, Bobby and Brooklyn Morelli. They started their business in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood, then moved to Portage Park. That location closed last year, but they have a great new spot in downtown Chicago in UrbanSpace, a culinary food hall. They have unique flavors like Brooklyn’s Pizza and the Wild City Buffalo. They have vegan options as well! Follow them on Instagram here.
Virtue Restaurant and Bar
Owned by Chef Erick Williams, Virtue Restaurant and Bar is a renowned Hyde Park establishment that serves perfectly executed southern American cuisine. In fact, it’s one of the favorite restaurants of former President Barack Obama.
Truth is an Italian restaurant in the heart of Bronzeville, owned by Peytyn Willborn. Their goal was to create a five-star dining experience at affordable prices. They’re currently only open until 5:00pm, so their focus is their breakfast, brunch, and lunch options.
Long Room is a coffeehouse and bar with a great patio and a rotating pop-up restaurant menu. Kids are only allowed inside Long Room until 5:00pm.
Can’t Believe It’s Not Meat
Locations in Hyde Park, Orland Park, and Gold Coast
Can’t Believe It’s Not Meat is a delicious vegan and vegetarian restaurant with three locations around Chicago. Their vegetarian options are not the rabbit food many people expect. They have vegan cheeseburgers, Philly cheesesteaks, lasagna, gumbo, and every food vegans/vegetarians miss the most! Don’t forget to try the Chicago St. Hot Dog!
Kilwins Hyde Park
Kilwin’s is an old-fashioned confectionery chain with homemade ice cream, chocolates, and fudge. The Hyde Park location is African American owned and operated!
Shawn Michelle’s Homemade Ice Cream
Shawn Michelle’s Homemade Ice Cream serves delicious homemade ice cream with unique flavors like vegan raspberry cookies and cream and banana pudding. They have locations in Bronzeville and Olympia Fields.
FruVe Express Juicery
Locations in the West Loop and South Loop
FruVe Express Juicery is a juice bar that serves cold-pressed juices, smoothies, acai bowls, and personalized juice cleansing programs.
Sip & Savor
Locations in Bronzeville, Hyde Park, Forest Park, and Rosenwald
Sip & Savor, a local neighborhood coffee shop chain was created by Trez V. Pugh III, a retired federal law enforcement officer with a passion for volunteering. His love of community and coffee led to the opening of his first coffee shop, Bronzeville Coffee House, which later rebranded as Sip & Savor. Sip & Savor serves certified fair trade coffee and prides itself on its commitment to community and that it’s become a local gathering place for many people.
Justice of the Pies
Justice of the Pies is a sweet and savory bakery that specializes in pies, quiches, and tarts. The owner, Maya-Camille Broussard, named her business after her late father, a criminal defense attorney with a passion for pies! Justice of the Pies is committed to positively impacting the lives of others with community service and delicious pies. They have a retail shop coming soon, but in the meantime, you can buy their pies at local markets and online. You can also bake their recipes yourself with Broussard’s cookbook!
Other Black-Owned Establishments
Black Ensemble Theater
The Black Ensemble Theater is one of the most diverse theaters in the country, and its mission is to eradicate racism through theater. They use educational outreach programs and theater to facilitate dialogue, understanding, and acceptance. They have some awesome shows with some geared toward younger audiences. Their signature show is “The Other Cinderella” which runs during the holiday season.
Free Mvmt Shop
Free Mvmt Shop is an exercise and dance studio in Roscoe Village, owned by dancer Ashely Rockwood. They have a wide variety of classes including “Ballet for the People”, “Luv and Hip Hop”, and “Energizer Hunny”. They sometimes have “Family Jam” classes which are fun for all ages!
Eb & Flow Yoga Studio
Located in Wicker Park, Eb & Flow Yoga Studio is owned by mother-daughter duo, Eboni “Eb” Howard and Peggy Howard Moore. They are located in Wicker Park and welcome yogis of all abilities. They offer class packages, memberships, and drop-in options.
Coffee, Hip Hop, and Mental Health
Coffee, Hip Hop, and Mental Health is a super cool organization and coffee shop in Lake View. Their mission is to bring awareness to mental health, emotional intelligence, and self-awareness, particularly in the black community. They are a registered 501(c)3 charity organization, and they help people get access to therapy, host special events, and serve delicious coffee. This is an organization everyone should know about!
DuSable Black History Museum & Education Center
Formerly known as the DuSable Museum of African American History, the DuSable Black History Museum & Education Center is the first non-profit museum dedicated to the collection, preservation, and dissemination of the history and culture of African Americans and Black people. Founded by husband and wife team, Dr. Margaret Taylor Burroughs and Charles Burroughs, their mission was to educate the public about Black history, culture, and art. They have rotating exhibitions and sometimes host special events.