WBEZ | devon avenue http://www.wbez.org/tags/devon-avenue Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Hema Potla: The darling of Devon http://www.wbez.org/series/kitchen-close-ups/hema-potla-darling-devon-102351 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Hema_PosterImage_001.jpg" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center; "><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="407" mozallowfullscreen="" src="http://player.vimeo.com/video/49267591" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="610"></iframe></p><p>Opening a restaurant was never Hema Potla&rsquo;s plan. When the business-minded Potla moved to Chicago from her native Hyderabad, India in the 1980s, she wanted to open a beauty salon. But there wasn&rsquo;t enough demand for her services, so she tried a candy store instead. Unfortunately for Potla, that endeavor was also short-lived. Luckily for the rest of us, she soon found the perfect recipe: After working in several restaurants as a kitchen-hand, her husband, Sam, encouraged her to apply her entrepreneurial instincts to her delicious cooking. Today, she is the owner and head chef of a sublime pair of restaurants that bear her name. &nbsp;</p><p><a href="http://hemaskitchen.com/">Hema&rsquo;s Kitchen</a> has two locations, one on Chicago&rsquo;s famed stretch of Devon Avenue and another on Clark Street in Chicago&rsquo;s Lincoln Park neighborhood. Both spots boast menus that include over 100 dishes from every region of India &mdash; to-die-for vegetable vindaloo, chicken biryani and bhuna gosht just to name a few &mdash;&nbsp;not to mention a master of ceremonies who is second to none.</p><p>For the first installment of our new series <em>Kitchen Close-ups</em>, we paid a visit to Hema&rsquo;s Devon outpost.&nbsp;</p><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/kitchen-close-ups">Kitchen Close-ups </a>offers an intimate introduction to characters in Chicago&#39;s food and dining scene. The multimedia series runs weekly on WBEZ.org.</em></p></p> Wed, 12 Sep 2012 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/kitchen-close-ups/hema-potla-darling-devon-102351 Devon Avenue quiet on bin Laden, despite his impact http://www.wbez.org/story/devon-avenue-quiet-bin-laden-despite-his-impact-85977 <p><p>While reaction poured in worldwide the day after President Barack Obama announced the killing of 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden, voices were muted on the main business artery of Chicago’s Pakistani community. Store owners along Devon Avenue on the city’s far North Side often recount the fallout they experienced after the terrorist attacks nearly a decade ago: namely, a sudden scrutiny by media and police and, perhaps a consequence of that, the decline of business as shoppers turned away to quieter suburban shopping strips.</p><div style="background-color: transparent; "><span style="font-size: 11pt; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(0, 0, 0); background-color: transparent; font-weight: normal; font-style: normal; text-decoration: none; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap; ">Despite the trouble that the terrorist attacks caused them, few Devon merchants and shoppers were willing to share their reactions to bin Laden's death openly. During Monday’s lunch hour, the Hyderabad House Restaurant was serving a healthy crew of men, while televisions blared South Asian music videos.</span><br> <br> <span style="font-size: 11pt; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(0, 0, 0); background-color: transparent; font-weight: normal; font-style: normal; text-decoration: none; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap; "> “I never heard them talking about the situation which is going on,” said employee Naseer Khan. Khan was the single person at the establishment who agreed to be interviewed. “I can say nothing about it, about the situation, what's going on,” he said. “I don't know what's really going on. I'm not a news watcher. I'm not really interested in it.” </span><br> <br> <span style="font-size: 11pt; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(0, 0, 0); background-color: transparent; font-weight: normal; font-style: normal; text-decoration: none; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap; ">Sohail Siddiqui at Islamic Books and Things said he watched Mr. Obama’s speech on the television Sunday night. “It's a surprise news that they caught them and they killed them,” he said, “And it's a very surprise news for me, and it's a very good thing.” </span><br> <br> <span style="font-size: 11pt; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(0, 0, 0); background-color: transparent; font-weight: normal; font-style: normal; text-decoration: none; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap; ">At a Pakistani restaurant, the host had not heard the news of bin Laden’s death. Many other employees at Devon Avenue stores were aware of the news, but declined to comment.</span><br> <br> <span style="font-size: 11pt; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(0, 0, 0); background-color: transparent; font-weight: normal; font-style: normal; text-decoration: none; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap; ">Jeweler Fazal Ahmedi was an exception, though. The Afghan jeweler beamed as he congratulated the world on bin Laden’s death. “It's a great moment. I'm speechless, honestly,” said Ahmedi. “This guy, he was a monster, to be honest with you,” he continued, referring to bin Laden. Ahmedi left Afghanistan in 1986, but says a cousin was killed there. Ahmedi blames bin Laden’s network of Al Qaeda operatives or the Taliban, whom bin Laden supported. </span><br> <br> <span style="font-size: 11pt; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(0, 0, 0); background-color: transparent; font-weight: normal; font-style: normal; text-decoration: none; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap; ">The discovery of bin Laden in Pakistan was also a point of vindication, said Ahmedi. “The Pakistani government was always saying you know, he's in Afghanistan, he's hiding in the mountains,” he said. “We knew it, he was in Pakistan.”</span></div></p> Mon, 02 May 2011 23:09:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/devon-avenue-quiet-bin-laden-despite-his-impact-85977 Long-awaited Devon garage remains closed, despite political hoopla to the contrary http://www.wbez.org/story/50th-ward/long-awaited-devon-garage-remains-closed-despite-political-hoopla-contrary <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/forweb1.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>In the election rush last week, I fell behind on reading the free local, ethnic papers that I usually pick up every week from stores along Devon Avenue. I finally got around to picking them up on Thursday, and to my surprise, found that I had apparently missed a big story on Devon Avenue&mdash;perhaps the biggest it&rsquo;s seen in years. &ldquo;Alderman Stone opens major parking complex on Devon Avenue,&rdquo; <a href="http://www.indiatribune.com/index.php?option=com_content&amp;view=article&amp;id=5216:alderman-stone-opens-major-parking-complex-on-devon-avenue&amp;catid=25:community&amp;Itemid=457">touts</a> the India Tribune. Another local publication, <a href="http://www.hiindiaweekly.com/">hi India</a>, plastered a photo on the cover of its <a href="http://www.hiindiaweekly.com/show.aspx?pageID=1&amp;edition=02/18/2011">Feb. 18<sup>th</sup> issue</a> of Stone cutting a red ribbon in front of the garage, flanked by the project&rsquo;s developer, Mohammad Tariq Siddiqui.</p> <div>To understand why this is such a big deal, you have to rewind several years. Devon Avenue shoppers used to have a choice of several city-owned, metered lots when they patronized businesses along the street. But by 2006, Chicago had sold those properties to private developers. This particular lot, at Rockwell and Devon, was among them. In 2005 Siddiqui was awarded a contract that came with millions of dollars in tax increment financing. His design for the six-story complex would include retail space on the ground floor, condos above, and more than 230 parking spots.</div> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div>That was more than six years ago. In the meantime, Devon Avenue merchants have complained the parking situation has only worsened. They lost the city-owned lots, they&rsquo;ve seen parking meter rates increase, they feel that ticket enforcement is more aggressive than elsewhere in the city, and they&rsquo;ve watched the city restrict parking on more and more side streets to local residents only. Few merchants were happy to see the city sell the lot at Rockwell and Devon, but now they&rsquo;re just impatient to have it finished. &ldquo;Once they open, it will be no problem,&rdquo; said one business owner, who, like others, believes easier parking can help redress some of the difficulties brought on by the economic downturn.</div> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div>But here&rsquo;s the thing: the day I saw the headlines announcing the garage&rsquo;s opening, it was actually closed. In fact, the part of Rockwell Avenue that drivers have to turn onto to enter the complex was blocked off with a &ldquo;Do Not Enter&rdquo; sign. I went back a few days later to find that sign was gone, but I went inside the garage to take a gander, and the gate arms were up. There were a couple of cars in there, but construction materials still lay about. A bobcat machine blocked the exit. As I wandered out, I ran into Siddiqui, who confirmed that, despite the announcement to the contrary, the garage wasn&rsquo;t actually open and it might not be for a couple of weeks. So what was that hoopla about, a week before the election? &ldquo;It was just a ribbon-cutting,&rdquo; said Siddiqui.</div> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div>Greg Brewer has a different take. &ldquo;They did the same thing four years ago,&rdquo; said Brewer, who just came off a second unsuccessful bid to unseat 50<sup>th</sup> Ward Ald. Bernard Stone. &ldquo;They had the big groundbreaking about two weeks before election, and then it just sat there.&rdquo; Brewer headed a lawsuit against Siddiqui in 2007, in which residents claimed the development violated local building covenants. The suit failed in court, and Stone blames it for delaying the project. Brewer dismisses that claim, saying that the group only sought an injunction for a couple of months.</div> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div>Brewer isn&rsquo;t the only one that thinks the ribbon-cutting was just a politically-motivated charade. A business owner on Devon, who asked to remain nameless for fear of reprisals by city inspectors, sounded jaded when he talked about the whole thing. &ldquo;The alderman, he wanted to show it,&rdquo; the business owner said. &ldquo;Before the election, he wanted to show it.&rdquo; Stone tallied 38 percent of last Tuesday&rsquo;s vote, putting him in a runoff with challenger Debra Silverstein. Silverstein garnered 33 percent of the vote.</div> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div>Stone and Siddiqui both deny shenanigans. &ldquo;It has nothing to do with the election,&rdquo; said Stone. &ldquo;I didn't set the ribbon cutting, the owner set the thing.&rdquo; Siddiqui says he set the time for the ribbon-cutting months ago, but that last month&rsquo;s blizzard kept the project from completion. &ldquo;The weather has created all kinds of time drama,&rdquo; said Siddiqui. &ldquo;This was planned because all the people that were willing to come (to the ribbon-cutting), they could come that day.&rdquo; So&hellip; keep your eyes open? Parking may (or may not) soon come to Devon.</div></p> Tue, 01 Mar 2011 17:46:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/50th-ward/long-awaited-devon-garage-remains-closed-despite-political-hoopla-contrary Mayor Monday: WBEZ's bureau reporters break down some of Chicago's aldermanic races http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/mayor-monday-wbezs-bureau-reporters-break-down-some-chicagos-aldermanic-races <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/Retta Phelan Shawn Allee.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>On this week's <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/mayor-monday"><em>Mayor Monday</em></a>, the show's tearing its eyes off the big prize to take a look at the men and women of <a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/about/council.html" target="_blank">Chicago&rsquo;s city council</a>. Mayor Daley may have a lock on colorful turns of phrase. But the council has its own cast of characters: The 50 city council members of Chicago meet once a month and vote on everything from municipal money matters to zoning issues. They also approve some of the Mayor&rsquo;s major appointees. Under Daley, some say the council has been pretty much a big old rubber stamp of approval. But this spring could bring the biggest city council turnover in decades.<br /><br />To find out what that means for city politics, &quot;Eight Forty-Eight&quot; gathered WBEZ's bureau reporters to discuss the races they&rsquo;re following in and around their communities: Chip Mitchell reports out of the West Side bureau, Natalie Moore heads up the South Side bureau in Englewood and Odette Yousef keeps an eye on the North Side in WBEZ's Devon Ave. location.</p><p>&nbsp;<em>A correction has been made to this story:</em>&nbsp;</p><p><em>One of our guests mistakenly referred to a 2007 municipal runoff in the 46th Ward race in Chicago. Actually, the current alderman, Helen Shiller garnered 53 percent of the vote, enough to make a runoff for the seat unnecessary. </em></p><p>Music Button: Shawn Lee's Ping Pong Orchestra, &quot;Dirty Birdy&quot;, from the CD Music and Rhythm, (Ubiquity)</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 24 Jan 2011 14:41:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/mayor-monday-wbezs-bureau-reporters-break-down-some-chicagos-aldermanic-races Neighborhood retailers pin hopes on new city leaders http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-mayoral-election/neighborhood-retailers-pin-hopes-new-city-leaders <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/web pic.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>&nbsp;While Chicago has given away millions of dollars in incentives to lure corporations like Boeing and United Airlines, most residents look elsewhere for signs of the city&rsquo;s economic health. For many Chicagoans, it&rsquo;s not what happens downtown that matters &ndash; instead, it&rsquo;s the quality of stores and services in their neighborhoods.&nbsp;Their voices could get louder, now that Chicago is choosing a new mayor and many aldermen. Those communities that have seen their business corridors decline in recent years are hoping that a new city hall can give them a leg up.</p><div>One of those communities is Devon Avenue on Chicago&rsquo;s far north side, where Ann Kalayil grew up and still lives. On the holiday of Diwali, the Indian Festival of Lights, the street was filled with cars and people buying groceries in the many ethnic fruit markets.&nbsp;But Kalayil pointed to a South Asian clothing store where she used to work part-time as a teenager. &ldquo;This is one of the oldest clothing stores on Devon Avenue,&rdquo; said Kalayil, &ldquo;and it's empty. We used to have a tremendous amount of people coming to shop on Devon Avenue.&rdquo;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Kalayil co-founded the <a href="http://saapri.org/">South Asian American Policy and Research Institute</a>, which did a <a href="http://saapri.org/pdfs/developing-devon-full-report.pdf">study </a>in 2008 about the troubles facing the Devon Avenue retail corridor. She said that weekend holiday foot traffic may indicate that it&rsquo;s a thriving business community, but the reality is quite different. &ldquo;I still think you walk into a store during the week here, and they'll say they have no business,&rdquo; said Kalayil. &ldquo;Traditionally they have depended on customers coming here on the weekends, and that hasn't been happening. Then, of course, now you have the rise of unemployment, and people are not spending money.&rdquo;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>There are also other signs that business is struggling on Devon, said Kalayil.&nbsp;She said stores are turning over more quickly than she&rsquo;s ever seen, and properties are sitting vacant longer than they used to.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Walking through the cluster of Indian and Pakistani clothing, food, and electronics stores, Kalayil stops at a gaping hole along the south side of the strip. &ldquo;This looks to me like (a) war zone,&rdquo; Kalayil said. The charred, littered, and graffitied lot is where a building burned down four years ago, and has sat empty ever since. &ldquo;This is actually symptomatic of what's happening here on Devon Avenue,&rdquo; said Kalayil. &ldquo;Why is there this, this... it's not even an empty lot.&nbsp;It's literally a big hole in the the ground, that's unused, and it's smack in the middle of one of the most busy sections of Devon Avenue.&rdquo;&nbsp;Despite this, Kalayil feels optimistic the street can bounce back, with strong leadership and a vision.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>But further west on Devon, others have given up hope.&nbsp;Avrom Fox, owner of the Jewish bookstore <a href="http://www.alljudaica.com/">Rosenblum&rsquo;s</a>, decided after years of waiting for Devon to improve that his business would be more viable in the northwest suburb of Skokie. &ldquo;I don't have any confidence that Jewish Devon has any future,&rdquo; said Fox, referring to the nickname that the street once had when its stores overwhelmingly catered to Chicago&rsquo;s Orthodox Jewish community. &ldquo;I think the street is done. And I think we have to move on,&rdquo; said Fox.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Rosenblum's had a 40-year history in Chicago, and Fox said he wishes it could have been longer. But he said he&rsquo;s jaded after waiting for others to join him in trying to keep the street clean and vibrant. &ldquo;I can tell you that it's been a lot of talk, and a lot of advocacy, but at the end of the day, all you have to do is look at the street, and see what it looks like,&rdquo; said Fox. &ldquo;The city can't be proud of the way it looks, can't be proud of the huge vacancy rates, can't be proud of the fact that the streets are dirty, that there's garbage all over the place.&rdquo;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Fox blames a lot of people are to blame for Devon&rsquo;s decline, but he points a finger partly at city government. &ldquo;I think the city should recognize that Devon Avenue is a historic shopping district which needs to be beautified so it can be reinstated and maybe someday become what it was more than a generation ago,&rdquo; said Fox.&nbsp;He thinks fewer Jewish business would have fled Chicago if the city had acted sooner in offering them large grants from tax increment financing districts. The grants can be used to make capital improvements to stores. They&rsquo;re available now to Devon Avenue merchants, but Fox said they're too little, too late.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Amie Zander understands Fox&rsquo;s situation, though as Executive Director of the <a href="http://www.westridgechamber.org/">West Ridge Chamber of Commerce</a>, it&rsquo;s her job to keep businesses here.&nbsp;Zander helped start the Devon Avenue Special Service Area, a business taxing district that cleans the street and removes snow. She said it has helped improve the look of the street, but Zander says she needs more help from the city. &ldquo;I think that we're forgotten a lot. We're way up on the North Side,&rdquo; said Zander.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Zander points to rusty light polls and crumbling sidewalks, and lamented that Devon Avenue hasn't had a streetscape in more than twenty years. She said the local alderman, Bernard Stone, should have pushed harder for one. Stone contends the city hasn't given him the money.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Beyond infrastructure, Zander said she feels that far-flung retail corridors are not on the city&rsquo;s radar the way downtown is. &ldquo;You hear a lot in tourism about come to see Navy Pier. Well, that's great. But what about going into the neighborhoods?&rdquo; said Zander. &ldquo;We've had very little assistance from city hall on really designating us as a tourist attraction and telling people about it.&rdquo;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Zander, Kalayil, and Fox note that city hall is not entirely to blame for Devon's struggles.&nbsp;They say the alderman, business owners, residents, and community organizations haven't worked together on a common plan to save the street. Joel Bookman with the Chicago office of <a href="http://www.lisc-chicago.org/home.aspx">Local Initiatives Support Corporation</a>, a non-profit neighborhood development group, believes all those ingredients are important.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Bookman cites Chicago&rsquo;s Chinatown and Little Village neighborhoods as good examples of where residents and businesses work together to make their retail strips enticing and accessible to shoppers. But Bookman feels City Hall can lay a foundation for that development by improving streets, sidewalks, trees and benches. And in this recession, Bookman hopes the city will get even more involved by trying new things, like encouraging skittish banks to start lending again to small businesses.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;We have some very active, bustling, vibrant commercial districts that are the heart of our communities,&rdquo; said Bookman.&nbsp;&ldquo;They are the main street of our communities, the public square in our communities, and all too often around the country we see that without a viable commercial corridor, neighborhoods begin to fall apart.&rdquo;&nbsp;Bookman believes Chicagoans will evaluate their next mayor and city council according to what they can do not just for downtown, but for the neighborhoods.</div></p> Mon, 03 Jan 2011 13:54:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-mayoral-election/neighborhood-retailers-pin-hopes-new-city-leaders How immigration shapes Chicago's Devon Avenue http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/how-immigration-shapes-chicagos-devon-avenue <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/devonimmigration.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>In 2007, as part of a year-long series on immigration, WBEZ&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.wbez.org/staff/gabriel-spitzer" target="_blank">Gabriel Spitzer</a> offered a snapshot of the changing landscape of Devon Avenue. He explored how different ethnic groups made their mark on the community. Years later, many of those influences remain.</p><p>Since Gabrel&rsquo;s 2007 report, a large number of Iraqi refugees moved to Chicago and opened up their own stores along and around Devon Avenue.</p><p>Some Jewish businesses have closed or relocated, like Rosenblum&rsquo;s, which a few weeks ago moved north to Skokie.</p><p><em>Music Button: Suphala, &quot;The Blank Page&quot;, from the CD Blueprint, (Suphala Productions)</em></p></p> Tue, 30 Nov 2010 14:47:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/how-immigration-shapes-chicagos-devon-avenue What Chicago's North Side business owners need to stay vibrant http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/what-chicagos-north-side-business-owners-need-stay-vibrant <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/devon.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>February 's 2011 municipal election is just around the corner. So &quot;Eight Forty-Eight&quot; head out into the neighborhoods to get a jump start on the issues and on WBEZ&rsquo;s municipal election coverage.</p><p><a href="http://rogerspark.com/" target="_blank">Rogers Park</a> is Tuesday's area of focus. The North Side neighborhood is driven by two vital commercial districts: Clark Street and Devon Avenue.</p><p>Much of the enterprise is the work of immigrants. So how are things faring and where is this neighborhood economy headed?</p><p>To learn more, &quot;Eight Forty-Eight&quot; turned to Amie Zander, the executive director of the <a href="http://www.westridgechamber.org/members.html" target="_blank">West Ridge Chamber of Commerce</a>.</p><p><em>Music&nbsp; Button: Bar Kochba, &quot;Abdiel&quot;, from the CD Lucifer: The Book of Angels Vol. 10 (Tzadik)</em><br />&nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 30 Nov 2010 14:16:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/what-chicagos-north-side-business-owners-need-stay-vibrant