‘Chicago Tonight’ in Your Neighborhood: Andersonville

Nestled within the Edgewater community on the North Side, Andersonville has a reputation of feeling like a small town in a big city filled with local businesses. The neighborhood is also known for its rich Swedish heritage.

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The Swedish American Museum has been a staple in the community since 1946 and features the history of Swedish immigrants arriving in the neighborhood after the Great Chicago Fire.

 “I think what is so special about this museum is that it really talks about immigration,” said Karin Moen Abercrombie, executive director of the museum. “It honors and highlights immigration for everyone on the hardships of moving from one country to another.”  

Abercrombie has held her position for the last 15 years, and she says Andersonville feels very much like walking down a street in Sweden.

Even though the neighborhood has changed over the years as new groups and cultures started to move into the area, Abercrombie says Swedish roots will continue to live on for years to come.

Even though you have businesses in the area that have nothing directly connected to Sweden, they have a Sweden flag, or they like what the chamber is doing by connecting the Swedish language in the neighborhood guide and the traditions we all celebrate together,” Abercrombie said. 

Around the 1980s, Andersonville started seeing a large LGBTQ population move in.

An organization working to push inclusivity and diversity in the area is the Chicago Therapy Collective, which is addressing mental health within the LGBTQ community.

The collective's “Hire Trans Now” initiative aims to keep not only local businesses accountable, but also works to address ways in which businesses can be more inclusive across the city.

“Just the experience of walking into a business before coming to therapy or getting misgendered can impact someone’s mood for the next several hours,” said Iggy Ladden, founder of the organization. “I would say those kinds of microaggressions are so big, and we tell our businesses to make sure to greet neutrally or read people correctly when they are giving clear signs.”  

The neighborhood has also taken on eco-friendly initiatives. The Andersonville Chamber of Commerce has worked with the neighborhood to make recycling a priority and most recently recruited shops and restaurants to participate with WasteNot Compost, a pilot program encouraging businesses to learn how to compost.

“We started a composting program with 20-plus businesses, restaurants, (and) health wellness services to compost with their business, and we’re hoping to add 20 more by 2022,” said David Oakes, director of business services and district manager for the Andersonville Chamber of Commerce.

Ald. Harry Osterman (48th Ward) hopes people shop local this year..

“One of the great parts of Andersonville is its small businesses,” Osterman said. “As we get into the holiday season, we’re looking for a robust recovery where people are spending their money locally.”

Video: Watch our full interview with with Ald. Harry Osterman

On Friday, the community will be hosting “Late Night Andersonville” where businesses will open after-hours, something they aim to do twice a year.

The neighborhood is also home to a diverse selection of restaurants along Clark Street.

Hisham Khalifeh, owner of Middle Eastern Bakery and Grocery, has been in the neighborhood since 1982.

In his early 20s, he opened his business during a priod in which a large population of people from Iraq lived in the area, according to Khalifeh, who says he took that opportunity to bring in a selection of Middle Eastern products to the neighborhood.

“We always have something different,” Khalifeh said. “The market of the deli has something different. Now we have about 14 different kinds of hummus and everything is made fresh daily.”  

Chicago Fair Trade, an organization focused on environmental sustainability, opened its eighth annual holiday pop-up just a few businesses down. It is the largest grassroots fair trade coalition in the United States.

Dozens of vendors work with countries from around the globe to sell fair trade, handmade products. One of them is the Renew Project.

“All of our products are made from refugee women who are relocated in DuPage County,” said Abigail Crowder, operations director for the Renew Project. “We use donated textiles so everything is one-of-a-kind and it's all handmade.” 

Katherine Bissell Córdova, executive director for Chicago Fair Trade, says local shoppers have been requesting they stay open  in Andersonville for the long run. The pop-up has had sales go up 60% from last year.

“Everyone asks us if we can stay here year-round,” Córdova said. “People are really happy and thank us for being here.”

Video: Watch our full interview with with Katherine Bissell Córdova

Community Reporting Series

“Chicago Tonight” is expanding its community reporting. We’re hitting the streets to speak with your neighbors, local businesses, agencies and leaders about COVID-19, the economy, racial justice, education and more. See where we’ve been and what we’ve learned by using the map below. Or select a community using the drop-down menu. Points in red represent our series COVID-19 Across Chicago; blue marks our series “Chicago Tonight” in Your Neighborhood.

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