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Uptown, Edgewater, Rogers Park

Rogers Park Restaurants, Shops Hope Another Loyola March Madness Run Boosts Sales After Difficult Year

After a brutal year for business, Loyola watch parties and Sister Jean gear could provide restaurants and shops with a much-needed jolt.

Loyola's NCAA tournament run has Rogers Park businesses, including ChiTown Magpie, to get in on the craze.
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ROGERS PARK — Loyola’s run in the NCAA March Madness tournament is giving Rogers Park businesses something to cheer for after a rough year.

The Loyola Ramblers men’s basketball team is once again making national waves, having made it to the Sweet 16 round of the March Madness tournament. With yet another high-profile tournament run, local businesses hope the excitement around the team translates to extra customers.

Loyola will face Oregon State 1:40 p.m. Saturday in the Sweet 16. A number of local businesses are hosting special events and promotions or selling Loyola products to accommodate Rambler fans and generate sales after an excruciating year for local commerce.

The coronavirus pandemic has been devastating to shops and restaurants, closing dozens of businesses across the city and ending thousands of jobs.

Excitement around the Loyola team could go a long way for local businesses, said Sandi Price, executive director of the Rogers Park Business Alliance.

“It’s a hopeful time not only for the team but for all of Rogers Park,” she said in a statement. “As all the businesses come together to support the Ramblers, we hope everyone takes advantage of this nice weather to explore Rogers Park and support our businesses.”

One local business that is getting creative with its Loyola offerings is ChiTown Magpie. The gift shop at 6443 N. Sheridan Road is selling felt embroidered pins of Sister Jean, a cushion heart with the Ramblers logo and a felt Ramblers ornament.

The Sister Jean pins were huge sellers during Loyola’s 2018 underdog run to the Final Four, when the team and Sister Jean first captivated the country. They sold big again when Sister Jean turned 101 last year, and so ChiTown Magpie owner Sara Lukens thought to bring them back again.

Sister Jean even has the National Bobblehead Museum’s second-best selling bobblehead of all time, behind Dr. Anthony Fauci.

“Quirky Loyola items do great for us,” Lukens said. “When people come in for that, they tend to buy other things. It’s been a difficult year, but we’re anticipating business will be better.”

Credit: Courtesy Bobblehead Hall of Fame
A new Sister Jean bobblehead is available in time for Loyola’s March Madness run.

Loyola is once again the toast of college basketball, but a lot has changed since 2018.

For one, there are fewer students on Loyola’s Rogers Park campus. The school closed dorms in the fall semester and opened select portions of campus in the spring semester. The loss of foot traffic hurts local shops.

Plus, the pandemic has kept people out of restaurants and bars, where sporting events can provide a big boost to business.

“People aren’t out the way they were,” Lukens said. “We’ll be celebrating differently than we did in 2018.”

Business are still trying to safely get in on the hype.

R Public House and Jarvis Square Tavern will turn their collective outdoor patio in the 1500 block of West Jarvis Avenue into a Loyola Rambler watch party Saturday. Reservations are highly suggested as seating will be limited.

I’m Soul Hungry, 2043 W. Howard St., will also host a socially distanced viewing party. The restaurant will serve brunch all day Saturday starting 11 a.m. with six TVs showing the Ramblers game. Reservations are recommended but not required.

Other local promotions tied to the Ramblers’ NCAA tournament run:

  • Anto Pizza and Pasta, 1547 W. Jarvis Ave.: Chicago Feed Four for $49; Family dinner includes, pasta, salad, eggplant Parmesan and pizza. Available for curbside pickup and delivery.
  • Raising Cane’s, 6568 N. Sheridan Road: Get a free jug of tea or lemonade with a purchase of a 25 Chicken Finger Tailgate. Expires March 27.
  • Picnic Wine & Provisions, 7301 N. Sheridan Road: Until April 5, Picnic is offering a 10 percent discount of the total bill for anyone that shows a Loyola University ID (staff, students, alumni). Expired IDs are accepted.
  • Tropical Smoothie Cafe, 6448 N. Sheridan Road: Free delivery for orders over $12.

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