Obama brings international media circus to Chicago

November 5, 2012

Tricia Bobeda

WBEZ file photo
The Hyde Park Hair Salon gets visitors from all over the world as tourists try to get a taste of President Barack Obama's Chicago roots.

Journalists from all over the world are camped out in Chicago to cover President Barack Obama on election night.

And they all seem to have the same city tour guide.

Antonio Coye is a barber at the Hyde Park Hair Salon. The salon is home to the president's old barber and a popular landmark for out-of-towners looking for a sense of Obama’s Chicago.

"There’s been a surge of foreign reporters that have been coming in the last couple weeks," Coye said. "Maybe four or five different groups a bang. Maybe twenty or thirty different countries."

Valois Restaurant is another Obama favorite turned tourist attraction. Manager Piros Argiris said he's seen journalists from Russia, France and Thailand this week.

Argiris said the foreign journalists and tourists mostly all have the same questions: Where is Obama's house? What is he like? How long has he been coming here?

"It's good for business for Hyde Park," Argiris said. "We get tourists all year round. Sometimes buses from downtown and the hotels."

57th Street Books is another frequent stop on the unofficial tour of the president's old neighborhood.

“We still get odd journalists who come through who are doing either a piece on Obama or a piece on America in general,” said store manager Tom Flynn. “(They) stop in here just because we’re unofficially the president’s bookstore. It’s really something for a small, independent business to get the kind of attention that we get simply by virtue of the president of the United States shopping with us and being a member of our cooperative."

Flynn said that interest has waned a bit since 2008, but the presidential connection still drives tourists to visit. It’s given the bookstore an international profile. A journalist from Brazil recently named the store a must-see Chicago location.

“That one just happened," Flynn said. "So we haven’t really seen the bump yet on that one if there will be a bump.”