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‘Shop Pilsen’ Campaign Encourages Residents To Support Struggling Neighborhood Businesses

At least six neighborhood businesses have closed since the start of the pandemic.

Pilsen Cellular owners Aldo and Rosa Rodriguez were excited about the new initiative aimed at driving Pilsen residents into local shops.
Mauricio Peña/ Block Club Chicago
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PILSEN — With businesses still struggling a year into the coronavirus pandemic, a new campaign is encouraging Pilsen residents to support local shops.

Dubbed “De Compras Pilsen,” or “Shop Pilsen,” the Economic Strategies Development Corporation kicked off the year-round initiative. The group’s president, Alex Esparza, said the goal is to get people to support restaurants, corner stores, barbershops, salons and the other shops in the neighborhood.

“It’s a way to always have something going on so people choose a Pilsen shop … instead of buying on Amazon,” Esparza said.

As part of the initiative, events with businesses such as Discount Tuesdays will be organized.

“After brutal health and economic crisis — one that has not ended — family-owned and small businesses have been hard hit, resulting in layoffs and permanent closures,” U.S. Rep. Jesús “Chuy” García said in a statement.

“As an engine of local economic development, these businesses need all the help possible. The Shop Pilsen/De Compras Pilsen initiative constitutes a wonderful tool to aid businesses courageously trying to stay open by encouraging community members to buy local,” Garcia said.

Credit: Rene Zepeda/ ESDC
Dubbed “De Compras Pilsen,” or “Shop Pilsen,” the Economic Strategies Development Corporation (ESDC) kicked off a year-round initiative aimed at encouraging local residents to shop within the Pilsen community.

In Pilsen, at least six businesses have closed because of the pandemic, including Sabor Y Sazon and Step Down Cafe.

This campaign serves as a reminder that businesses are still struggling and many are not out of the woods.

“It has been said many times that one of the more thriving businesses is Amazon and how can that be when all of our businesses are [struggling] when they desperately need consumers,” Esparza said. 

The group has assisted businesses in navigating the pandemic while thinking of a number of initiatives to drive shoppers into Pilsen stores. Last fall, they held a “Shop Pilsen Bingo” and organized a Christmas window display competition. Artists partnered with a local business to highlight at least one of the shop’s products with in the window displays.

These efforts were aimed at giving struggling businesses a “fighting chance to survive… We want to maximize foot traffic to our businesses,” Esparza previously said.

Credit: Provided
A shopper looks at window display at Escaramuza, 1644 W. 18th St. in Pilsen.

Pilsen Cellular owners Aldo and Rosa Rodriguez were excited about the new effort.

For more than 25 years, the couple have had their shop at 1657 W. Cermak Road. Between the pandemic and last summer’s civil unrest, Aldo Rodriguez said it’s been one of the worst years for their business.

“We have been down by 50 percent,” he said. “It’s been rough.”

RELATED: Window Display Contest Aims To Bring Christmas Magic To Struggling Pilsen Businesses

The new campaign is a good way to remind new and old residents to think of their local businesses when shopping, Aldo Rodriguez said.

He is hopeful more “people will be out and about” supporting local shops with loosening restrictions and more people getting vaccinated.

“A program like this will help,” Aldo Rodriguez said. “Those people who are used to shopping online, maybe it’ll take them out of that mindset and they’ll start shopping locally again.”

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