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Stories of Uptown

Uptown, ever welcoming, and ever evolving, is a vibrant, living tapestry — as rich in history as it is in culture. The neighborhood has long been home to social activists and advocates, immigrants and refugees, artist and entrepreneurs of every stripe, all of whom have helped shape the area as it is today. Through this storytelling series, Uptown Chamber of Commerce aims to spotlight personal histories and stories from the shakers and movers in business, non-profit, and the cultural arts that make Uptown unique. These spotlights serve as an extension of our mission to build a strong, unified business environment, facilitate economic development and strengthen community.

Peoples Music School

The People's Music School

The People’s Music School is an oasis of musical education and community support. Established in 1976 by Dr. Rita Simó, this institution offers high-quality, tuition-free music education to children in Chicago. Their mission is to provide access to the transformative power of music, nurturing not just musical skills but also fostering social, emotional, and intellectual growth.

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Bellamy & Associates

Bellamy & Associates, led by Katie Bellamy, a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC), opened its doors in 2018 as a holistic therapy and wellness practice. Operating primarily virtually, their services encompass therapy, coaching, and energy healing, focusing on...

Chicago Center for Photojournalism

Chicago Center for Photojournalism

The Chicago Center for Photojournalism serves as a hub for celebrating, preserving, and teaching the ethics of photojournalism and the profound impact of photography. Their mission revolves around empowering visual storytellers to illuminate the narratives within their communities and drive action on human rights issues.


FG Junk Removal

FG Junk Removal, owned by Bel Sam, was established in March of 2023 with a focus on eco-friendly junk removal practices. Specializing in collecting various household items, furniture, and construction debris, their approach extends beyond mere removal, prioritizing sustainability by...

Kuumba Lynx

Kuumba Lynx

Kuumba Lynx serves as a catalyst for empowerment and change, utilizing the influence of art and culture to establish a nurturing environment where youth and communities thrive, striving for a world that’s equitable and fair for everyone. Peace, love, and respect are the cornerstones of their values, guiding every initiative they undertake. Their programs range from after-school youth art-making sessions to...


Fit City Kids

Fit City Kids, founded in 2020 by Brad Claggett, stands as Chicago’s hub for family-centric fun and fitness. The business offers an array of distinctive classes, drop-in play sessions, parties, camps, and training sessions tailored for families. Claggett’s inspiration behind ...

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Get a Grip Trapeze

Get a Grip Trapeze, founded by Birgit Hampton in August 2023, stands as a unique venture offering flying trapeze, trampoline, and aerial arts classes. As the Owner/Member, Birgit’s inspiration to start this business started from her personal passion for flying trapeze, ignited during her first class back in 2011. The exhilarating experience and the incredible workout it provided...

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Inclusive Funeral Care

Inclusive Funeral Care, led by Brooke Benjamin and Russ Henrichsen, is an innovative establishment providing cost-effective alternatives to traditional funeral services. Founded in July 2021, their business model mirrors that of funeral homes but at a lower cost, offering a wide range of services from funerals and celebrations to burials, cremations, anatomical...


Noble Pro Painting

Noble Pro Painting, spearheaded by Christopher Comer, has thrived in the home improvement realm since its inception in October 2003. The company offers expansive services, specializing in painting, wallcovering, tile, plaster/drywall repair, general construction, and interior design collaboration. The beginning of Christopher’s business arose from...


Urban Pooch Canine Life Center

Ed Kaczmarek, the Co-Founder of Urban Pooch Canine Life Center since its establishment in December 2010, has cultivated a space where pets are like family. Urban Pooch stands out as a comprehensive hub for pet care needs, providing nutritious food, treats, toys, accessories, and comfortable beds, all delivered with love. The facility offers top-notch services including...

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Vacay by MJ

Melanie Julison, the Founder and Travel Advisor of Vacay by MJ, established the boutique travel agency in 2022. Specializing in leisure travel across Europe and the Americas through, Melanie ensures a seamless and fulfilling vacation experience, tailoring itineraries to her clients’ preferences and managing every aspect of the trip, acting as an advocate...

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Rizal Center

Chicago’s Filipino American community has experienced a profound evolution over recent decades, with the Rizal Center at its core. Starting as a modest “clubhouse,” developing into a thriving community center, facing a 5-year hiatus, and eventually reopening in 2022, it stands as a testament to the resilience and cultural pride of the Filipino American Council of...

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Yoga Body Elements

Cindy Huston, the Owner of Yoga Body Elements since its establishment in 2015, fosters whole-body wellness through her business, displayed through their diversity of programming, events, and classes. What sets Yoga Body Elements apart is its focus on holistic wellness...

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Marina’s Bistro and Rum Bar

In a nondescript strip mall along Wilson Avenue here in Uptown, a culinary gem has emerged, bringing with it the vibrant flavors of Puerto Rican cuisine. Marina’s Bistro and Rum Bar, owned and led by Chef Eric Roldan, is not just a restaurant; it is a testament to perseverance, authenticity, and a...

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Willow Vision Health

Willow Vision Health, led by Doctor of Optometry Karina Fulton, commenced its journey in September 2022, focusing on comprehensive eye care for diverse age groups. They highlight a range of services, from prescribing glasses and contact lenses to overseeing emergency...


Don Pablo’s Kitchen & Bakeshop

Pablo Cesar Soto, a proud Chilean native, embarked on a journey to the United States in 1996 with a singular purpose – to master the English language. Little did he know that this decision would lead to a serendipitous meeting with his future wife, Julie Morrow-Soto. Fast forward to the year 2000, they tied the knot, united by a shared dream of venturing...

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Plus Bookkeeping Services, Inc.

A unique business stands as a beacon of financial empowerment for small enterprises here in our Uptown neighborhood. Plus Bookkeeping Services, Inc. (PBSI) is more than just a bookkeeping agency; it’s a hub of financial expertise, combining accounting, financial literacy, marketing, and business growth tools under one roof. Founded by the accomplished Nancye, PBSI has...

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Fat Miilk

In a world where dreams often take a backseat to practicality, Lan Ho’s journey to founding Fat Miilk stands as a testament to the power of pursuing one’s passion. What began as a simple coffee concept grew into a symbol of Vietnamese culture, innovation, and community soon to be in the heart of Asia on Argyle’s Uptown, Chicago. Lan’s story takes us through the pivotal moments that brought Fat Miilk to life, from the initial seed of an idea to...

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Everybody’s Coffee

Nestled within the vibrant and ever-evolving neighborhood of Uptown, Chicago, Everybody’s Coffee stands as more than just a coffee shop; it’s a haven of welcome, a hub of connection, and a catalyst for change. Founded on a rich history and guided by a passionate commitment to ethical practices, Everybody’s Coffee has woven itself...


Mind Body Defense

Mind Body Defense (MBD) is not just another kickboxing studio. Led by Torriente Toliver and Janet Tolliver, Mind Body Defense has become a source of empowerment, resilience, and self-confidence. The unique fusion of martial arts, kickboxing, psychology, and community advocacy has set them apart, transforming lives within...

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Shopping Girl XOXO

From the heart of Uptown emerges a stylist Lora LaPratt, the entrepreneurial force behind Shopping Girl XOXO (SGXOXO). A personal stylist with a unique approach to fashion, Lora transforms lives one outfit at a time, weaving together the threads of fashion, confidence, and individuality. Originally hailing from...

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Sheridan Park Consulting

Jackie Loewe, Founding Partner at Sheridan Park Consulting, has been an Uptown resident for over 2 decades. Thirteen years ago, during the Great Recession, Jackie was an equity partner of a Landscape Architecture practice and oversaw bringing in new businesses to the area. Times were challenging and getting tougher, so Jackie decided to leave the practice to take...

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2 Bears Tavern

Mike Sullivan and Mark Robertson, co-owners of 2Bears Tavern Group, which owns and operates four LGBTQIA+ focused taverns in Chicago –2Bears Tavern Uptown, Meeting House Tavern, The SoFo Tap, and Jackhammer—have been in the hospitality businesses since 2010 after spending time as a lawyer and CPA respectively. Mike and Mark’s first...

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Bodi Shak

Antonio Coke’s journey to opening Bodi Shak was a long winding one with many turns and pivots, not a direct route to what he’s created today. It was the culmination of the ebbs and flow of his life experiences that brought him to creating his business in 2017. Originally hailing from Montego Bay, Jamaica, Antonio’s mother, Viola, immigrated with him and his siblings to...

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First Sip Cafe

Erin and Gigi Hoang immigrated with their family to Chicago from Vietnam in 1997. Uptown, being a port-of-entry for many immigrants and refugees throughout the decades, and Argyle Street specifically for predominantly Southeast Asian populations, soon became where the Hoang family found community and home. After working several years...

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Mini Tx (Thuong Xa) Pharmacy

Jennifer “Nuky” Pham is the co-owner of Mini Tx (Thuong Xa) Pharmacy and a daughter of Vietnamese Refugees. Jennifer’s parents, Nam and Tam Pham, were the first Vietnamese business owners on Argyle Street. Her father, Nam Pham, was a pharmacist in Vietnam, but in 1975 after the fall of Saigon, had to flee...

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Uptown Deli

Mohammed Abuhashish, the owner of Uptown Deli, located at 4759 N Sheridan, has always called the Northside of Chicago his home. Mohammed’s father came to Chicago with his older brother from Jordan when he was 12 years old. Years later, his parents met in the city, got married, and welcomed Mohammed into the world. They always lived...


Uptown Bikes

Maria Barnes’ Uptown story began in 1991 when she arrived to work as a volunteer at REST Shelter through Passionist Lay Missioners. Following her year of service, Maria prolonged her stay and eventually made Uptown her home. Uptown Bikes, originally known as Urban Bikes, would open its doors two years later in 1993 by Maria’s partner, Tim Herlihey. Originally located at...


Klein’s Bakery

Jessica Klein’s baking journey began long before opening the doors of Klein’s Bakery in Uptown’s Buena Park neighborhood. Raised by her grandmother who owned a bakery in Venezuela, Jessica and her sister learned the craft of baking at a very young age. Although Jessica was a dentist back in her home country and her sister an accountant, upon arriving to the U.S. they...

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Black Ensemble Theater

“Black history is American history. African Americans developed this country on our backs for free, for over 300 years. That’s three centuries”, says Jackie Taylor, the founder, executive artistic director, and CEO of Black Ensemble Theater. She founded the Black Ensemble Theater 46 years ago after spending time in the film industry. In 1975, while starring in...

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The Haitian American Museum of Chicago (HAMOC)

The Haitian American Museum of Chicago (HAMOC) is one of the first institutions to be part of Jackie Taylor’s Free to Be Initiative, but the museum’s beginnings stretch much further back. Founded by Ms. Elsie Hector Hernandez in 2012, the museum’s mission is to promote and preserve Haitian art, culture, history and...

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Pho Loan

Loan Nguyen, hailing from a line of cooks in Vietnam, and her husband, Quang Le, took the long route to realizing their dreams of becoming restaurateurs in the United States. The two came to the United States in 1995 and lived in California for one year before moving to Chicago. With limited resources and a need to make a living to support their family, both Loan and Quang worked in the nail industry as nail technicians. Their true passion...


Hon Kee

For over 40 years, Paul Tsang, the owner of Hon Kee BBQ & Seafood, has experienced Lunar New Year celebrations on Argyle. He and his family opened their restaurant in 1981 and have remained a mainstay of the community since then. Specializing in Hong Kong barbeque – roasted duck, chicken, and pork –  and much more, Hon Kee provides those within the diaspora specialized Lunar New Year food items for...

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For as long as Ellen Duong can remember, Argyle has always been a second home to her. After fleeing the Vietnam War in the early 1980s as boat people, Ellen’s parents found a community here on Argyle. It was welcoming and felt like home during a difficult time for them. Growing up on Argyle her whole life, she has fond childhood memories of getting egg tarts and juice boxes...

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