HYDE PARK — A new website gives Chicagoans a way to support local entrepreneurs hit hard by coronavirus — rather than big-box retailers — all while shopping from home.
On Shop in Place, visitors can search dozens of the Chicago’s essential small businesses by service category or neighborhood.
The site was designed by University of Chicago students who gave up their spring break to work on the project and Institute for Justice Clinic on Entrepreneurship staff, said Amy Hermalik, associate director of the justice clinic operated out of the University of Chicago Law School.
The site is intended to lift up businesses which employ less than 30 people, said Hermalik, who came up with the idea.
Listed businesses include:
- Dinobi Detergent, a plant-based cleaning supplies company which won the $5,000 South Side Pitch grand prize last October.
- Seminary Co-op, which operates two bookstores in Hyde Park and has offered free shipping on book orders through April 15.
- Chicago Teacher Store, 1855 N. Milwaukee Ave., which offers delivery and curbside pick-up for materials parents may need while homeschooling.
Business owners can submit their business to be featured on the site if they offer “products or services that sustain people sheltering in place” and those products “can be purchased with low or no contact.”
“They created the stunning user interface we were able to develop,” Hermalik said. “We’re open to any other city taking the frame and generating something similar.”
Englewood-based TeaSquares is one of the South Side businesses listed on Shop in Place. Its four-person staff manufactures a tea-infused, caffeinated snack.
“As customers shop local with us, it helps keep our doors open so we can continue employing the people who manufacture these squares,” owner Jordan Buckner said.
Shop in Place allows people to “discover new businesses they may not have known about before, and help to keep people employed,” Buckner said.
Businesses owned by people of color are “must-haves” in Chicago and especially need support at this time, Hermalik said.
“I’m worried about state of all businesses, but terrified by state of small businesses owned by Black and Latino people,” Hermalik said. “They are much more vulnerable to closure duiring this crisis … and [are] important avenues for closing the gaping racial wealth gaps in this city and country.”
Small businesses’ struggles are in focus because of the coronavirus pandemic, but Hermalik said Chicagoans must “work to create a society they better upholds” their values — like shopping local — “after this is all over.”
“It’s important that people be the lobbyists for small businesses and demand policies recognizing the importance of these businesses,” Hermalik said.
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