WBEZ | Business http://www.wbez.org/tags/business Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Changes in taxi industry leave cab owners underwater http://www.wbez.org/news/changes-taxi-industry-leave-cab-owners-underwater-111920 <p><p>If you were looking for a good return on investment in the last few years, it was hard to beat a Chicago taxi medallion. Medallions, which are city-issued licenses to operate cabs, increased in value at least fivefold between 2006 and 2013. But now after huge shifts in the industry, many owners are deep underwater on their medallion loans, and some say they&rsquo;re nearly worthless.</p><p>&ldquo;I haven&rsquo;t written a new taxi loan in well over nine months? Ten months?&rdquo; said Charlie Goodbar, an attorney and taxi fleet owner. &ldquo;The access to capital&rsquo;s disappeared.&rdquo;</p><p>Chicago limits the number of medallions to roughly 7,000. Without those metal plates affixed to the hood, a taxi cannot operate in the city. Goodbar has facilitated hundreds of medallion sales over the years. But today, would-be buyers are finding it nearly impossible to find loans to purchase medallions.</p><p>&ldquo;I probably have put together at least 20-30 percent of all transfers, at some point probably more than half,&rdquo; said Goodbar. &ldquo;And as a market-maker, and as a license broker, and as an attorney, and someone who&rsquo;s in the lending business, how in good faith can I make a market when I can&rsquo;t value the asset or value cash flow?&rdquo;</p><p>Disruption in Chicago&rsquo;s taxi industry &mdash; both from the entry of competing rideshare services, and changes to city policies affecting medallion owners &mdash; have turned the business model on its head in just two years. At one time, investing or lending in a medallion purchase was a sound business decision, because cab owners could make a good living.</p><p>&ldquo;It was a way for an immigrant family to move up the social ladder and economic ladder through the use&nbsp; of leveraged financing in the taxi industry, and a lot of hard work,&rdquo; said Goodbar.</p><p>But today, Goodbar said it&rsquo;s nearly impossible to find a bank willing to lend money for a medallion purchase, and so the avenue that many immigrants once took is increasingly closed off.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" height="233" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Taxi%20medallions%202.0.jpg" style="float: left;" title="" width="350" /></div><p>You can tell by looking at the numbers. Between 2011 and 2013, when the market was robust, an average of 30-40 medallions changed hands monthly. But starting in February of 2014, that number dropped sharply, and never recovered. In 2015, only seven medallions were transferred in the first three months.</p><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s no buyer in the market,&rdquo; said Shyam Arora, a medallion owner. &ldquo;So it&rsquo;s a piece of garbage.&rdquo;</p><div id="responsive-embed-taximedallions">&nbsp;</div><script src="http://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-dailygraphics/dailygraphics/graphics/taximedallions/js/lib/pym.js" type="text/javascript"></script><script type="text/javascript"> jQuery(document).ready(function(){ var pymParent = new pym.Parent( 'responsive-embed-taximedallions', 'http://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-dailygraphics/dailygraphics/graphics/taximedallions/child.html', {} ); }); </script><p>Arora is one of those immigrants who found success in the taxi industry. He came from India in 2002 and bought a medallion a few years later. Today, he has three. He and his son drive two of the cabs during the day, and he leases the third. At one time, he had as many as four drivers for his small fleet &mdash; but those days seem long ago.</p><p>On a recent early morning, he took one of his cabs to a city-owned site on the South Side for an annual taxi inspection.</p><p>&ldquo;This inspection process is stressful, very stressful,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>This day, he was especially nervous. The car is a 2010 Toyota Prius with a whopping 313,000 miles on it. Arora knew inspectors would be looking for even the smallest flaw to take it out of operation.</p><p>&ldquo;Yesterday I spent $200 to the mechanic and the day before yesterday I paid $100 for detailing,&rdquo; he recounted.</p><p>He also got the engine cleaned, and drove an hour out to the suburbs just to pick up a small paint marker that he could use to cover minor exterior nicks. Altogether, he estimated spending $500 to get the car in tip-top shape &mdash; about three days&rsquo; earnings.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m losing nowadays, every day, in my business,&rdquo; said Arora. Three months ago, he fell behind on his mortgage and medallion loan.</p><p>Arora explained that most of his income comes from leasing his taxis to other drivers, rather than driving his own cab. But amid a shortage of taxi drivers in Chicago, he&rsquo;s struggled to find people to use his taxis. That&rsquo;s meant his vehicles sit empty about one-third of the time, while he still foots the bill for their medallion loans, the car payments, taxi affiliation fees and other expenses.</p><p>Even when Arora does have drivers, he said it&rsquo;s gotten much more difficult for them to find passengers. He blamed rideshare companies like UberX, Lyft and Sidecar for stealing business.</p><p>&ldquo;When you don&rsquo;t get a customer for an hour, the [taxi] driver gets so frustrated, he goes to Starbucks or he goes home,&rdquo; explained Arora.</p><p>Arora would love to sell his medallions and be done with it. But he knows he won&rsquo;t find a buyer at a good price. Plus, he&rsquo;s facing the same dilemma that homeowners once did during the recent housing crisis. Many borrowed significant sums of money against their homes as housing values increased, only to find themselves underwater on those loans once the market settled.</p><p>Similarly, Arora and many other owners borrowed heavily against their medallions while they increased in value. Arora said that helped his family get through the recession.</p><p>&ldquo;Medallions were the source of feeding everybody &mdash; every expense we have,&rdquo; he explained.</p><p>But now, he owes $600,000 against his medallions, and he knows that nobody will buy them for anything close to that amount.</p><p>Arora believes his only way out may be a loan modification. Goodbar says medallion lenders have every reason to cooperate.</p><p>&ldquo;There will be shakeout in the market, the lenders will have to work with the borrowers,&rdquo; he said, &ldquo;because I think the last thing a large medallion lender wants is a bunch of medallions sitting in a drawer.&rdquo;</p><p>Arora hopes that&rsquo;ll be true in his case, because he wants to stay in the taxi business.&nbsp; Otherwise, he&rsquo;s looking at filing for bankruptcy.</p><p><em>Odette Yousef is WBEZ&rsquo;s North Side Bureau reporter. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/oyousef">@oyousef</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZoutloud">@WBEZoutloud</a>.</em></p></p> Tue, 21 Apr 2015 19:06:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/changes-taxi-industry-leave-cab-owners-underwater-111920 Why we sign up for gym memberships but never go to the gym http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/why-we-sign-gym-memberships-never-go-gym-111312 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/gym.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><strong>Gyms have built their business model around us not showing up.&nbsp;</strong></p><p>Gyms have way more members than they can actually accommodate. Low-priced gyms are the most extreme example of this. Planet Fitness, which charges between $10 and $20 per month, has, on average, 6,500 members per gym.</p><p>Most of its gyms can hold around 300 people. Planet Fitness can do this because it knows that members won&#39;t show up. After all, if everyone who had a gym membership showed up at the gym, it would be Thunderdome.</p><p>If you are not going to the gym, you are actually the gym&#39;s best customer.</p><p><strong>So gyms try to attract people who won&#39;t come.&nbsp;</strong></p><p>If you haven&#39;t been a &quot;gym person&quot; in the past, chances are good that paying for a gym membership won&#39;t change that. Gyms know this and do what they can to attract people who haven&#39;t traditionally been gym rats.</p><p>Instead of displaying challenging equipment like weight benches and climbing machines in plain view, gyms will often hide weight rooms and other equipment in the back. Many gyms now have lobbies that are designed to look like hotels and fancy restaurants.</p><p>&quot;For the longest time, the design was around the sweat,&quot; says Rudy Fabiano, an architect who designs gyms all over the world. &quot;Twenty-five years ago ... clubs could be very intimidating. Remember there were the baggy pants that everybody had and the bodybuilders would bring their own jug of water?&quot;</p><p>Once gyms started looking more like hotels, coffee shops and restaurants, people who weren&#39;t bodybuilders started feeling comfortable in gyms. The casual gymgoer was born.</p><p><strong>Our brains want to be locked into annual contracts with gyms.</strong></p><p>Normally, we hate being locked into long contracts (cellphones, cable packages), but gym memberships are an exception.</p><p>&quot;Joining a gym is an interesting form of what behavioral economists call pre-commitment,&quot; says Kevin Volpp, director of the Center for Health Incentives and Behavioral Economics at the Wharton School.</p><p>Volpp says we actually like the idea of being locked into a gym contract ... at first, anyway.</p><p>&quot;They&#39;re picturing the &#39;new me&#39; who&#39;s actually going to go to the gym three times a week and become a physical fitness machine.&quot;</p><p>We convince ourselves that since we have committed to putting down money for a year, we will make ourselves go to the gym. And then, of course, we don&#39;t.</p><p><strong>Just when we try to get out, they feed us, massage us and ply us with alcohol. </strong></p><p>Gyms have big issues with retention, and most lose around half their members every year.</p><p>Once we realize that we haven&#39;t been going to the gym, even $20 per month can feel like too much.</p><p>To try to combat this, gyms look for ways to offer value to customers who aren&#39;t necessarily into working out. Planet Fitness has bagel breakfasts once a month and pizza dinners. Those are its busiest times. It also has massage chairs.</p><p>Other gyms have mixers and movie nights and spa treatments.</p><p><strong>Without slackers like us, gyms would be a lot more expensive.&nbsp;</strong></p><p>The reason gyms can charge so little is that most members don&#39;t go.</p><p>People who don&#39;t go are subsidizing the membership of people who do. So, if you don&#39;t work out, you are making gyms affordable for everyone.</p><p>If you are one of the brave few who actually do go to the gym, you are getting an amazing deal.</p><p>&mdash; <em><a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2014/12/30/373996649/why-we-sign-up-for-gym-memberships-but-don-t-go-to-the-gym">via NPR</a></em></p></p> Tue, 30 Dec 2014 16:28:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/why-we-sign-gym-memberships-never-go-gym-111312 Illinois begins accepting applications for marijuana businesses http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-begins-accepting-applications-marijuana-businesses-110764 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/medical-marijuana-2.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Illinois officials are now accepting applications for people who want to open a medical marijuana dispensary or cultivation center. The number of licenses are quite limited &ndash; only 22 available for cultivation centers and 60 for dispensaries.</p><p>Michelle West is hoping to be awarded a license to open a cultivation center. She&rsquo;s a nurse who originally set out to research how legalization would affect her job, but instead she found a business opportunity.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s not only a business opportunity for a person, but for economic development for a community, for a neighborhood,&rdquo; West said.</p><p>The Illinois Department of Agriculture will sift through the many applications that are expected to be submitted. Officials are looking at six specific areas: the proposed facility, staffing and operations, security, cultivation, product safety and labeling and business and financial disclosure.</p><p>West said she&rsquo;s been researching the industry for the past year. Her 300 plus page plan includes economic growth all the way down to different types of cannabis plants. Most applicants have brought on consultants from other states that have already legalized medical marijuana. West is no different.</p><p>&ldquo;A lot of the other people I met, they spent a ton of money on consultants. Consultants are important, yet I was hesitant. I found one because I have to know my plan, inside out,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>In addition to attending conferences, West hired a consultant from Colorado who&#39;s gotten underperforming cultivation centers back up to top production.</p><p>The competition to run dispensaries and cultivation centers in the Chicago market will be very tough. West lives in the city, but decided to look elsewhere to set up her cultivation center. She eventually found a rural town in Police District 6.</p><p>She presented her plans to the town&rsquo;s council members and that night they decided to support her. The town preferred she not disclose the name until a license is actually awarded.</p><p>&ldquo;It was amazing the support because people want jobs. Everyone in the town, all the jobs had left. So people have to drive 40 miles away, 50 miles away. Some are driving into Chicago and then they&rsquo;re driving back home,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>West visited other towns that had mixed views on the legalization of medical marijuana. For this particular community, the cultivation center looks like a path to economic recovery. That&rsquo;s part of the deal they have with West. Their decision to back her means their community members would get first dibs at the job openings.</p><p>&ldquo;The plan that I have, it includes not only hiring younger people, but there&rsquo;s been a lot of people over 50 that have been downsized or they couldn&rsquo;t find a job and they keep trying to find a job. If they&rsquo;re willing to be retrained or work within the facility, they&rsquo;re going to have a job, too,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>West has written an employee handbook that includes wages starting at around $12 an hour with benefits.</p><p>She found a potential property in the area. She&rsquo;s already crafted plans for year-round growing and plans to scale in the years following.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;"><strong>Security Plan</strong></span></p><p>State officials are making security a high priority for all applications. They see the future cannabis facilities as major targets for crime, since they will deal with large amounts of cash and drugs.</p><p>Joel Brumlik works in law enforcement and he&rsquo;s been running his suburban security company, Tactical Security since 2007. He started researching how he could profit after the state legalized medical marijuana.</p><p>&ldquo;Right now, we have a significant investment in this. A lot of time, a lot of studying, a lot of resources expended. We&rsquo;ve been involved in two or three conferences. We&rsquo;re going to be in one in Las Vegas. These aren&rsquo;t cheap,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Tactical Security has been training officers specifically for medical marijuana, everything from use of force to patient hospitality, even how to inspect a facility according to the state&rsquo;s rules and regulations.</p><p>Brumlik prides himself on the hefty 70 plus page security plan he&rsquo;s written up. He says he&rsquo;s fielded at least a dozen calls from potential medical marijuana businesses and already has a few signed contracts.</p><p>He says his competition seems to be based mostly on price.</p><p>&ldquo;Yes, our company may be charging you a higher price per hour, but what is your cost? And when I say &lsquo;what is your cost&rsquo;, what I&rsquo;m saying is, is that if you don&rsquo;t have the right people, the highly trained people, then your cost might be a lot higher than you believe if you&rsquo;re just going by the price,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>But some security experts say it isn&rsquo;t necessary to have such specific tailoring for the marijuana industry. Eugene Ferraro is a security consultant based in Colorado. He calls it a marketing ploy.</p><p>&ldquo;The tailoring that&rsquo;s necessary to provide services to a marijuana retailer have very small differences from other types of retailers or operations whether it&rsquo;s manufacturing or distribution operations,&rdquo; Ferraro said.</p><p>He says bigger security companies have been staying away from cannabis to avoid any potential legal issues. But he&rsquo;s definitely seen specialized companies gaining a lot of business.</p><p>&ldquo;The small operators, the mom and pop alarm companies, the mom and pop guard companies have some opportunity here,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Ferraro says Illinois&rsquo; emphasis on security is overkill and that the cost will be passed down to the consumers, which might create another problem of pushing people to the black market.</p><p>Brumlik doesn&rsquo;t see it that way and says every dispensary he visited in Colorado had been broken into.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re not interested in trying to compete on a level where we&rsquo;re just trying to put warm bodies in there,&rdquo; he said.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;"><strong>Financing</strong></span></p><p>It&rsquo;s going to take anyone who&rsquo;s awarded a license a lot of money to open and operate the marijuana facility. For West, she needs to pay a $25,000 non-refundable application fee, and she also needs to show she has $500,000 in liquid assets. If she&rsquo;s awarded the license, she&rsquo;ll have to pay a $200,000 permit fee, not to mention the cost it takes to run any type of business.</p><p>Financing and banking has been tricky for business owners in states that are already well into their legalized marijuana programs. Illinois will be no different.</p><p>Even ancillary businesses are finding it difficult to find a bank just to make a simple deposit.</p><p>&ldquo;Difficult is such an understatement. It was the bane of my existence for 90 days,&rdquo; said venture capitalist David Friedman.</p><p>Recently, the Chicago businessman added another title to his resume; publisher. He started a news website called Marijuana Investor News.</p><p>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t understand why Bloomberg can run stories about medical marijuana, but we can&rsquo;t. And I&rsquo;m sure, I understand now about the banking regulations and everyone&rsquo;s just very cautious about anything that has to do with it. We did ultimately find a bank because it&rsquo;s ridiculous that we shouldn&rsquo;t,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Friedman is being approached by entrepreneurs for investments into their proposed dispensaries and cultivation centers. He says since the final rules were approved he hasn&rsquo;t slept much.</p><p>Troy Dayton is CEO of the Arcview Group, a California-based national investment and research firm focused on cannabis. A lot of accredited investors in the marijuana industry are members of the group, including David Friedman. It has some of the first angel investors in the sector.</p><p>Dayton said Illinois&rsquo; program might be more difficult to finance with all the restrictions and a possibility of the pilot program sunsetting in a few years.</p><p>&ldquo;[Business owners] had better have a lot of money in the bank because it may be a long ramp up before they can make their businesses profitable,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>According to Arcview&rsquo;s annual report, the industry is expected to grow to $2.6 billion in 2014.</p><p>&ldquo;That&rsquo;s a 68 percent growth in one year. Making it the fastest growing industry in America. &nbsp;And growing to 10.2 billion dollar industry by 2018,&rdquo; Dayton said.</p><p>Another challenge businesses are likely to face is a high tax rate. Marijuana is categorized as a Schedule 1 illegal substance, next to heroin and LSD. The Internal Revenue Service has a code to tax illegal drug income, up to 50 percent.</p><p>Dooma Wendschuh, CEO of Ebbu, a Colorado cannabis company said it takes a lot of work to keep your business completely above board in this federally illegal industry.</p><p>&ldquo;You&rsquo;re really limited in who you can raise that money from. You can&rsquo;t go to Sand Hill Road with a couple of baggies of your product and expect to raise your money. It just doesn&rsquo;t work like that,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Sand Hill Road is an area in California with a lot venture capital companies.</p><p>But Wendschuh thinks the opportunity in marijuana is bigger than the Internet and tech boom if you&rsquo;re willing to take the risk.</p><p>He looks at it like alcohol after prohibition. Laws were left for states to determine individually. Some counties remain dry even today. It took companies some years after prohibition to feel comfortable enough to even promote their product.</p><p>Wendschuh says for the first several years after prohibition, bootlegging was big and the black market thrived.</p><p>&ldquo;Of course it was cheaper than buying alcohol at a licensed facility. But hey look right now. If you wanted to go buy bootleg alcohol could you even find it? I don&rsquo;t know where you would find it,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>He says eventually the alcohol industry became less taboo. People wanted to buy from a reputable source rather than a cheaper, criminal operation. Product pricing evened out and financing was easier.</p><p>Wendschuh believes the cannabis industry isn&rsquo;t far from seeing relaxation of federal regulations, and marijuana could follow the path of alcohol.</p><p><em>Susie An is WBEZ&rsquo;s business reporter. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/soosieon">@soosieon</a>.</em></p></p> Mon, 08 Sep 2014 07:40:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-begins-accepting-applications-marijuana-businesses-110764 Jackpot! Chicago's hold on pinball industry and artistry http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/jackpot-chicagos-hold-pinball-industry-and-artistry-110175 <p><p>Ever since Kevin Schramer started playing pinball in the 1970&#39;s, he noticed that many machines listed their manufacturing addresses in the Chicago region. The addresses have kept him wondering for decades, so when he learned about Curious City, he just had to ask:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><em>Why was the Chicago area home to all the major pinball manufacturers during the heyday of pinball?</em></p><p>After digging into relevant history books, interviewing industry experts, and emptying plenty of change into the area&rsquo;s <a href="#map">remaining pinball machines</a>, we can firmly say that Kevin&rsquo;s on to something: From the modern pinball industry&rsquo;s Depression-era beginnings, to its modest market presence today, Chicago has been pinball&rsquo;s center of gravity. (The <a href="http://www.ipdb.org/search.pl">Internet Pinball Database</a> lists 554 top-rated pinball machines and at least 98 percent of them were made in the region.) But the answer as to <em>why </em>involves an interplay of history, geography and art.</p><p><strong>Insert coin: Gottlieb and Williams</strong></p><p>To say Chicago was the hub of the pinball industry isn&rsquo;t to say that the game was invented in the Windy City. Historians trace early pinball machines to a centuries-old French billiard game called <em>bagatelle</em>, while the modern coin-operated pinball industry got its start in the early 1930s. During the Great Depression, many people were &ldquo;out of work, looking for inexpensive entertainment for a penny,&rdquo; explains pinball historian Roger Sharpe. Enterprising tinkerers and businessmen began to fill that need with simple countertop games.</p><p>In these early days, many of the industry&rsquo;s key players were travelling businessmen such as David Gottlieb, whose machine <em>Baffle Ball</em> was one of pinball&rsquo;s first big hits. <em>Baffle Ball</em> was a simple game. There were no flippers, lights, or bells; you just pulled the plunger back and hoped that the ball bounced into the right hole. Gottlieb moved throughout the Midwest to sell his machines, but his operation was based in Chicago.</p><p>Many of pinball&#39;s now-familiar qualities, such as replays and tilt mechanisms, were considered whiz-bang when they were first developed by engineer Harry Williams in the 1930&rsquo;s. Williams got his start in California, pranking his business partners by adding electricity to his machines and connecting the games to telephones; in some cases, the right shot would make the phone ring. Once the ringing machines proved to draw more money than their silent counterparts, machines with sound-making elements became the norm. While Williams tried working from California for a while, he eventually decided that he would need Chicago&#39;s competitive edge if he wanted to make a name for himself in the pinball industry.</p><p>&quot;It took too long for his games to get to the East Coast and by the time it got to the East Coast other people had already knocked it off,&quot; says Sharpe.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/baffle ball resized and tweaked.jpeg" style="height: 225px; width: 300px; float: right;" title="Baffle Ball and Ballywho were two of pinball’s earliest successes. The machines were flipper-less, but brought in a stream of pennies anyway. (Flickr/Rob Dicaterino)" />Chicago had a lot to offer the budding industry. Raw materials were widely available, including lumber and wiring, as well as steel from nearby Gary, Ind. The city&#39;s large immigrant population became the basis of the factories&#39; work force. Once the machines were finished, the city&#39;s railroads made them easy to distribute across the country, and Lake Michigan&#39;s ports allowed the machines to be sent around the world as pinball found a market overseas. David Gottlieb and Harry Williams founded some of the industry&rsquo;s most successful companies in Chicago, and named the firms after themselves.</p><p><strong>Multiball! Artistry in the industry&rsquo;s heyday</strong></p><p>Through the decades, the pinball industry had its highs and lows. From the 1940s through most of the 1970s pinball was officially banned as illegal gambling in many of the nation&rsquo;s big cities, including New York City and Chicago. (Roger Sharpe, our historical guide, played <a href="http://gizmodo.com/how-one-perfect-shot-saved-pinball-from-being-illegal-1154267979">an instrumental role in overturning the bans</a> with a skill shot that became the stuff of pinball legend.) Although the bans were lightly enforced, they kept the industry from achieving its full potential. Then, in the mid-1970s, the bans were lifted, and The Who&rsquo;s pinball rock opera <em>Tommy </em>was made into a major motion picture. At this point, pinball found a place in the mainstream culture, and the industry entered into a full-blown heyday.</p><p>As the industry thrived, the graphic artists who designed the backglasses and the playfields developed a detail-rich pinball aesthetic. While Chicago has many important cultural contributions, it has a unique monopoly on pinball art. The art blended the bawdy imagery of <em>Playboy </em>magazine (based in Chicago at the time) with the garish colors of <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/laugh-your-troubles-away-105619">Riverview amusement park</a>; before it was closed in 1967, Riverview had shared the same neighborhood as many pinball manufacturers.</p><p>Even Chicago&rsquo;s weather made it on to some machines. Greg Freres, celebrated pinball artist, worked on the <em>Harlem Globetrotters</em> machine during the notorious winter of 1979 &mdash; <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/just-how-bad-chicago-winter-109637#misery">one of the city&rsquo;s worst</a>. Freres included a splotch of white paint next to Lake Michigan in honor of Chicago&rsquo;s snow on the Globetrotters&rsquo; globe.<a name="presentation"></a></p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="true" frameborder="0" height="367" mozallowfullscreen="true" scrolling="no" src="https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/15JGIGwSQW2F_J4759VDr3g6QyXrNWBNbVrTyoW21rxI/embed?start=false&amp;loop=false&amp;delayms=3000" webkitallowfullscreen="true" width="620"></iframe></p><p>While the industry lost some ground to video game machines through the 80s, it continued to be successful. The most popular pinball machine of all time, for example, was <em>The Addam&rsquo;s Family</em>; it wasn&rsquo;t released until 1992.</p><p>By the close of the decade, however, pinball was in a verifiable slump. WMS, the corporate successor to the company founded by desinger Harry Williams, lost $4 million on its pinball division in 1998 alone. The company gave its pinball team one last shot to reinvigorate pinball. The team developed <em>Pinball 2000</em>, a hybrid of video games and pinball featuring holographic aliens. Despite the machine&rsquo;s relative success and a promo video complete with kooky narration from Chicago radio legend Ken Nordine, the corporate bosses at WMS shut down their pinball division to focus on growing profits in the slot machine industry. By the dawn of the 21st century, only one manufacturer of pinball machines remained in Chicago, and the world.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="360" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/UUSzSHNEv2g?rel=0" width="480"></iframe></p><p><strong>Extra game? Pinball Perseveres</strong></p><p>But pinball didn&rsquo;t end there. That last company, Stern Pinball, continues to develop and manufacture pinball machines in west suburban Melrose Park. (A New Jersey-based company just released a <em>Wizard of Oz</em> pinball machine, but Stern is the only company that regularly releases new machines and distributes them widely.) Company CEO Gary Stern has been in the pinball industry since he was a small child accompanying his father, a business partner of Harry Williams, on factory visits. While the access to materials, labor, and distribution that made Chicago an ideal location for pinball&rsquo;s beginnings remain, Stern says another element is keeping the surviving industry here.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re here, because we&rsquo;re here,&rdquo; Stern puts it plainly. That is, a community of pinball designers, engineers, and specialists live in the Chicago area, and many of them remain dedicated to the pinball craft.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Gary Stern resized.jpeg" style="height: 188px; width: 250px; float: left;" title="Stern Pinball CEO Gary Stern poses with question-asker Kevin Schramer and some of his company’s machines. Stern has worked in the pinball industry for more than 50 years. (WBEZ/Mickey Capper)" />Jim Shird is one of those specialists working at Stern. He has designed the wiring in pinball machines since the 1990s and has been playing pinball since he was a kid, when he would win free pizzas every week from a local pizza place&rsquo;s pinball competition.</p><p>Pinball&rsquo;s popularity has diminished to the point where it&rsquo;s most visible in the shadowy corners of dive bars. But still, Shird remains optimistic. These days, when he finishes work at Stern, he heads straight to <a href="https://www.google.com/maps/place/Logan+Hardware+Arcade+Bar/@41.92504,-87.688184,17z/data=!4m2!3m1!1s0x0:0x70e42de27f7ec47f">Logan Arcade</a>, one of Chicago&rsquo;s many new arcade bars, to maintain (and play) the bar&rsquo;s pinball collection.</p><p>He is, after all, a pinball person and he gets to spend his life with pinball machines.</p><p>&ldquo;Everyday is different, everyday is interesting, everyday is an adventure, and everyday is fun,&rdquo; Shird says with a smile. &ldquo;I get to play pinball everyday.&rdquo;<a name="map"></a></p><p><iframe height="480" src="https://mapsengine.google.com/map/u/1/embed?mid=zo79HXq-4bn0.kCzXX8JiSVjA" width="640"></iframe></p><p><em>(Want to play pinball? This map includes all Chicago area venues with 3 or more pinball machines. More information is available at <a href="http://pinballmap.com/chicago">PinballMap.com</a>.)</em></p><p><strong>Our question comes from: Kevin Schramer</strong><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Kevin resize.jpeg" style="width: 225px; height: 300px; float: right;" title="Kevin Schramer plays his pinball machines with his family. Kevin’s question began this investigation. (WBEZ/Mickey Capper)" /></p><p>This story about Chicago pinball begins with our &ldquo;Player 1,&rdquo; Kevin Schramer. Kevin says he&rsquo;s loved the colors and sounds of pinball since he was a kid in the 1970s. He first saw pinball at Funway, a family entertainment center &nbsp;in west suburban Batavia.</p><p>&ldquo;If you had a pocket full of quarters you were all set,&rdquo; Kevin remembers.</p><p>Today, Kevin no longer needs quarters; he has a row of four vintage pinball machines in the dining room of his home in Winfield, Ill. His family plays the machines too, and he is currently in the midst of an extended battle with his sons over his machines&#39; high scores.</p><p><em>Mickey Capper is a freelance audio producer. Follow him <a href="https://twitter.com/FMcapper">@FMcapper</a></em></p></p> Tue, 13 May 2014 16:53:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/jackpot-chicagos-hold-pinball-industry-and-artistry-110175 Fit for a princess http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/fit-princess-109750 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/140221_Quinces1.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Much like a wedding, it begins with a beautiful dress. At Andrea&rsquo;s Bridal in Little Village, only three bridal gowns are on display. But there are dozens of dresses, in every color and color combination imaginable, for girls awaiting quinceañera parties&mdash;a &ldquo;sweet fifteen&rdquo; celebrated in many Latino cultures.</p><p>The dresses all have the same silhouette: a small bodice on top that sits on a huge, ruffled, layered bottom, supported by a large hoop skirt. Like something you&rsquo;d see in &ldquo;Gone with the Wind.&rdquo;</p><p>Rocio Aguayo is the director of <em>Quinceanera </em>magazine. She&rsquo;s also staging one of two quinceañera expos taking place this weekend in the Chicago suburbs. Her event is in Hickory Hills, expected to draw around 2,500.</p><p>&ldquo;The quinceañera is basically the coming out, presenting of a young girl to society,&rdquo; Aguayo said. &ldquo;The main idea is she&rsquo;s leaving her childhood and she&rsquo;s entering into womanhood.&rdquo;</p><p>Years ago, a ceremony would have included a dress, professional photography and a blessing at a mass. Maybe a small party.</p><p>Today what is spent on a quinces could easily rival a wedding. Aguayo says the average cost of a quinceañera is between $15,000 and $18,000.</p><p>Families will pay for a banquet hall, dinner, a multi-tiered cake, a big dress, photography. And now choreography. Girls have courts, much like bridesmaids and groomsmen. The girls are damas. The guys chambelanes. And they all have to know how to waltz.</p><p>Lily Garcia runs Magic Movements dance company. She provides choreography lessons for a basic waltz. Lily also has backup male dancers, for girls who do not have chambelanes. A basic waltz package starts at $800. The deluxe package featuring dancers is $2,200.</p><p>&ldquo;Sometimes I cry because it&rsquo;s so pretty,&rdquo; Garcia said. &ldquo;I would not like to take that away because they financially can&rsquo;t afford it. So we do our best to accommodate them.&rdquo;</p><p>She may have to accommodate Laura Delgado, who is on a tight budget. Her daughter Joselyn celebrates her quinces in July. Their limit is $5,000, for the whole event.</p><p>&ldquo;You try to tell your children it might be better to open a bank account with that money,&rdquo; Laura said.</p><p>Joselyn disagrees.</p><p>&ldquo;I want the party,&rdquo; she said with a smile.</p><p>But some believe the giant events overshadow the basics of the tradition, which include a teen receiving a special blessing at a mass. Father Patrick Casey is one of those people. He performs quinceañera masses, but wonders why he bothers.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;ve had masses where the kids have been very very intense and participating.&nbsp; And then other kids that are absolutely bored,&rdquo; Casey said. &ldquo;Frankly, I would get rid of the quinceañera. But I don&rsquo;t think we can do that because the cultural element of the people.&rdquo;</p><p>While a party may exclude religious components, for Latino families a quinceañera is about passing on a festive tradition. They share the cost with so-called &ldquo;sponsors,&rdquo; a grandmother or an aunt who will pay for a dress, invitations, a cake or other items.</p><p>The night before Kassandra Santamaria&rsquo;s quinces, she and her mother Ingrid thumbed through a photo album of Ingrid&rsquo;s quinceañera. In the kitchen area of their spacious Bolingbrook home, they tear up anticipating the next day&rsquo;s event. It is a party will cost them at least $16,000.</p><p>&ldquo;I just feel so happy. I just thank my mom. I can be so mean sometimes. And I regret it. But I tell her everyday I love her,&rdquo; Kassandra said while crying. Ingrid put her arm around her daughter and assured her.</p><p>&ldquo;This day is going to be really, really special,&quot; Ingrid said. &quot;And I&rsquo;m pretty sure we&rsquo;re all going to have fun.&rdquo;</p><p>The night of the quinceañera was, in a word, peachy. At a Chicago banquet hall, peach-colored ribbons are tied around chairs. Peach napkins are on tables, peach roses sit on a seven-tiered cake. The damas have peach dresses, all to match Kassandra&rsquo;s fluffy peach gown. While waiting for the party to start, guests get their pictures taken on a red carpet.</p><p>Arnold Correa is the night&rsquo;s DJ. He says at least 50 percent of his quinceañera customers pay an extra $375 for the red carpet experience. For the works -- music, lighting, red carpet photography, and emcee services -- Kassandra&rsquo;s parents will pay a little more than $1,300, the wintertime discount.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;Everyone wants to make their quinceañera more extravagant. Which is a good thing. For me and the other vendors,&rdquo; Correa said. &ldquo;There&rsquo;s so much revenue coming out of this: boutique shops, cakes, choreographers, DJs.&rdquo;</p><p>That is money, millions of dollars, recirculated within Latino communities throughout the United States. Because most quinces vendors are fellow Latinos.</p><p>But none of that matters to 15-year-old Kassanda. For her, the evening is nothing less than priceless.</p><p><em>Follow WBEZ Host/Producer Yolanda Perdomo on Twitter&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/MikePuenteNews">@yolandanews</a>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a href="https://plus.google.com/u/0/106564114685277342468/posts/p/pub" target="_blank">Google+</a></em></p></p> Fri, 21 Feb 2014 11:55:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/fit-princess-109750 Untangling TIFs http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/untangling-tifs-108611 <p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="500" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/Kmx4ryRc2Gc" width="620"></iframe></p><p>Many Chicagoans have heard the word <em>TIF</em>, but few people understand how they work, and they may even have trouble untangling all the threads related to this complicated economic development tool.</p><p>TIF stands for <a href="http://www.cookcountyclerk.com/tsd/tifs/Pages/TIFs101.aspx">tax increment financing</a>, a definition that &mdash; on its own &mdash; misses the nuance in TIF programs. It also skips right over what the point is in the first place. So, Emily Hanneman of Logan Square probably wasn&rsquo;t alone when she asked us:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>What are TIFs? Where does the money come from and who decides where it goes?</em></p><p>To her credit, Emily may be a bit more informed than most when it comes to TIFs, since she&rsquo;d been to one of Tom Tresser&rsquo;s TIF presentations (more on him below). There, she learned who receives TIF money collected in the Logan Square neighborhood. But, obviously, there was a lot more explaining to do.</p><p>To help her out, we recruited three experts who&rsquo;ve spent time answering questions similar to Emily&rsquo;s. They are:</p><ul dir="ltr"><li>Tom Tresser, who&rsquo;s the lead organizer of The <a href="http://civiclab">CivicLab</a>&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.tifreports.com/">TIF Illumination Project</a>.</li><li>Cook County Clerk David Orr, who&rsquo;s responsible for <a href="http://www.cookcountyclerk.com/tsd/tifs/pages/tifreports.aspx">Chicago&rsquo;s TIF reports</a>. His office offers basic resources on how TIFs work.</li><li>Rachel Weber, UIC Urban Planning and Policy Professor, who&rsquo;s studied TIFs for almost a decade. She constantly reminds Chicagoans that a TIF is a tough concept to tackle.</li></ul><p>Armed with our experts and some Sharpies (and inspired by <a href="http://www.thersa.org/events/rsaanimate">RSA Animates videos</a>), we made a whiteboard explainer ... sans the whiteboard.</p><p>Think of our video as &ldquo;TIFs 101&rdquo; a way to wet your beak before diving head first into TIF world. (But be warned, we know from experience it&rsquo;s tough to resurface quickly.) The purported benefits of TIFs are baked into their very existence (TIF districts are meant to spur local economic growth), so we also lay out critiques that have been made against the programs and how they&rsquo;ve been run in Chicago:</p><ul><li><a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/dcd/provdrs/tif.html" target="_blank">TIF info from the City of Chicago</a></li><li><a href="http://tifreports.com/" target="_blank">TIF Illumination Project</a></li><li><a href="http://www.cookcountyclerk.com/tsd/tifs/Pages/default.aspx" target="_blank">TIF-related videos from the Cook County Clerk&rsquo;s Office</a></li><li><a href="http://www.uic.edu/cuppa/voorheesctr/tif/public_html/" target="_blank">TIF Information Forum (UIC)</a></li></ul><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/1176383_451129338328381_1253004708_n.jpg" style="height: 383px; width: 500px;" title="(WBEZ/Jennifer Brandel)" /></div><div class="image-insert-image "><span style="font-size:11px;">WBEZ&#39;s data intern Simran Khosla illustrates how TIFs work, and it takes way more Sharpies than you&#39;d expect (above). For more behind-the-scenes photos, stories and general stream of consciousness, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/curiouscityproject" target="_blank">&#39;Like&#39; Curious City on Facebook</a>.&nbsp;</span></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div></div><p><em>Simran Khosla is WBEZ&rsquo;s data intern. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/simkhosla" target="_blank">@simkhosla</a>.</em></p><p><em><span style="font-family: Cambria, serif;">Corrections: A portion of the video above wasn&#39;t clear on the meaning of taxes that &quot;stay frozen.&quot; The correct wording: Property taxes (and property tax bills) can rise. But under Illinois TIF law, the amount of tax revenue going to taxing bodies is frozen for at least 23 years. The difference goes to the TIF.&nbsp;</span></em></p><p><em><span style="font-family: Cambria, serif;">We also misspelled the name of a source&#39;s name. The correct spelling is Tom Tresser.&nbsp;</span></em></p><p style="margin:0in;margin-bottom:.0001pt"><span style="font-family: Cambria, serif;"><o:p></o:p></span></p></p> Wed, 04 Sep 2013 17:36:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/untangling-tifs-108611 Where have all the old-school doughnut shops gone? http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/where-have-all-old-school-doughnut-shops-gone-108483 <p><p><a name="doughnut crawl vid"></a></p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="460" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/_GIrh8A2Mr4?rel=0" width="620"></iframe><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F106569327&amp;color=ff6600&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>Whoever asked the question behind this Curious City story didn&rsquo;t leave a name or a working email address. But I begged to investigate this question:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>Does Chicago have any more privately-owned doughnut shops, and which is the best?</em></p><p>I had two reasons:</p><p>1. &nbsp;To eat a lot of doughnuts.</p><p>2. &nbsp;To honor my old friend and roommate Howard Greenwich by investigating something that had always bugged him.</p><p>Howard left Chicago years ago, but I still remember his laments about the city&rsquo;s doughnut situation. &nbsp;</p><p>So does he. &ldquo;I came to Chicago in 1992, and the doughnut was my favorite guilty pleasure,&rdquo; he says, from Seattle, Wash. &ldquo;And I just remember, I traveled all over Chicago for my job, and everywhere I was, it was Dunkin&rsquo; Donuts, or pretty much nothing.&rdquo;</p><p>Which meant, as far as Howard was concerned, pretty much no donuts worth actually eating. &ldquo;If you&rsquo;re going to do that much damage to your body,&rdquo; he says, &ldquo;it should be good.&rdquo; &nbsp;</p><p>He was disappointed. And kind of mystified.</p><p>Howard grew up in Corning, Calif., which had a population of around 5,000 people &mdash; and a great local doughnut shop. He went to college in Grinnell, Iowa, which had fewer than 9,000 people at the time &mdash; and a great doughnut shop.</p><p>He had expected that a big city like Chicago would offer amazing doughnut possibilities. &nbsp;</p><p>So, this question is honor of Howard, because the question &mdash; <em>Are there any independent shops left?</em> &mdash; contains another question, a deeper mystery: <em>What happened to all of them?</em></p><p>The obvious answer is: Dunkin&rsquo; Donuts killed them all. &nbsp;</p><p>The real answer turns out to be more complicated &mdash; and more interesting. &nbsp;<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/doughnut vault sign for WEB.jpg" style="height: 287px; width: 430px; float: right;" title="The aesthetics of Doughnut Vault in Chicago's Loop are telling of the city's doughnut history. While old-school doughnut shops still exist, they do so among the growing number of pricier and more artisanal shops. (Logan Jaffe/WBEZ)" /></p><p>I talked with the guy who brought Dunkin&rsquo; Donuts to Chicago: Bob Rosenberg. In 1963, at age 25, he took the company over from his dad, William Rosenberg, right after graduating from Harvard Business School. (He&rsquo;s like the George W. Bush of Donuts.)</p><p>And Bob had spent his last year at Harvard devising a strategy for what he would do with his dad&rsquo;s business. At the time, the company had around 80 doughnut shops all over the country, a hamburger chain in the Boston area, and a bunch of commissary trucks. (Fun fact: Bill Rosenberg invented the roach coach. That was his first business.)</p><p>So, Bob got rid of everything except for Dunkin&rsquo; Donuts, and he said:<em> Look, we&rsquo;re gonna only concentrate on five cities. And we&rsquo;re gonna</em> &mdash; he used this great term with me &mdash; <em>&quot;fortress&rdquo; those markets.</em></p><p>In other words, they would establish a big presence in these places to build up brand awareness, and to get efficiencies in distribution and support. Plus, all the stores would kick into a kitty so they could advertise. They would build up a fortress in the battle against their competitors.</p><p>But they were never competing with other doughnut shops to sell people doughnuts. They were competing with 7-11 and White Hen to sell people coffee. Convenience stores.</p><p>&ldquo;That&#39;s where people stop for &lsquo;coffee-and&rsquo; in the morning, so that&rsquo;s who our competitors were,&rdquo; says Rosenberg. &ldquo;And quite truthfully, I had no idea how many doughnut shops there might have been.&rdquo;</p><p>The doughnut business, he says, is a much tougher racket than the coffee business.</p><p>&ldquo;Doughnuts are consumed maybe on a special occasion by the consumer,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;Maybe once every two or three weeks they go to a doughnut shop? Whereas, with coffee, your heavy users are buying it two or three times a day. It&#39;s a whole different business.&rdquo; &nbsp;</p><p>These days, Dunkin&rsquo;s coffee-centricity is all out front. In the 1990s the company <a href="http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,289798,00.html">dumped the mascot it had been using in TV commercials for 15 years</a> &mdash; a droopy, early-rising guy called Fred the Baker.</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="465" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/petqFm94osQ" width="620"></iframe></p><p>Later, the company adopted a slogan that reflects the company&rsquo;s role as a caffeine peddler: America runs on Dunkin. &nbsp;</p><p>But even back when Bob Rosenberg brought Dunkin&#39; Donuts to Chicago in 1965 &mdash; years before Fred the Baker went on TV &mdash; coffee already represented 60 percent of Dunkin&#39; Donuts sales in its home markets. &nbsp;</p><p>Which was no accident.</p><p>&ldquo;We were very fastidious about how we made our coffee,&rdquo; says Rosenberg. &ldquo;Where it was grown, how it was roasted, how much coffee per pot, the fact that we used real cream when nobody else could get it in the United States. Most dairies didn&rsquo;t make 18 percent light cream. I mean, we were slavish in the attention we paid to our beverages.&rdquo;</p><p>Also: They tossed out the coffee every 18 minutes, instead of letting it sit on the burner.</p><p>So, Dunkin&rsquo; Donuts was Starbucks &mdash; building a brand around meticulously-crafted coffee &mdash; before Starbucks was Starbucks.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/firecakes%20for%20web.jpg" style="height: 267px; width: 400px; float: left;" title="Firecakes on Hubbard Street offers both traditional and innovative doughnut options. While the doughnuts may be a bit pricier than those in older shops, their complexity shows a new trend in the doughnut business. (Logan Jaffe/WBEZ)" />Side note: Actually, Dunkin&rsquo; Donuts was Starbucks before it was even Dunkin&rsquo; Donuts.</p><p>Remember how Bob Rosenberg&rsquo;s dad, Bill Rosenberg, started out as the original roach coach guy?</p><p>His first big hit was coffee. And he charged twice as much for coffee as the next guy &mdash; a dime instead of a nickel.</p><p>But it was a much, much better cup of coffee. At the time, the only place to get a really good cup of coffee was a fancy hotel. Bill Rosenberg called the company that supplied the fancy hotels and said he wanted the same stuff. A <em>lot</em> of it. &nbsp;</p><p>He had his workers offer the coffee for free. If customers didn&rsquo;t think it was worth a dime, they didn&rsquo;t have to pay anything. But they did pay the dimes, and they came back the next day for more. &nbsp;</p><p>And Dunkin&rsquo; Donuts didn&rsquo;t take out other donut shops in head-to-head competition. Dunkin was actually in a different, more-profitable business: coffee. &nbsp;</p><p>But still, what happened to all of those doughnut shops? How many did there used to be?</p><p>To find out, I went to the Chicago Public Library&rsquo;s Special Collections room to look in the Yellow Pages &mdash; from 1963 &mdash; two years before Dunkin&#39; Donuts came to Chicago.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/photo%20%282%29.JPG" style="height: 440px; width: 330px; float: right;" title="One look in the Yellow Pages from 1963 shows a number of privately-owned doughnut shops that have since gone out of business.(Source: 1963 Yellow Pages)" />And you know how many there were? 20.</p><p>In a city the size of Chicago, there were only 20 doughnut shops. (There were also tons and tons of bakeries, but still.)</p><p>As a point of comparison, I looked at the 2013 Yellow Pages for Los Angeles. It lists like 150 donut shops. 150! &nbsp;</p><p>None of them is a Dunkin&rsquo; Donuts. Only one is a Krispy Kreme.</p><p>So, LA has more than seven times as many locally-owned doughnut shops today as Chicago had in 1963. &nbsp;</p><p>Why? Well, in 1963, when Bob Rosenberg took over Dunkin&rsquo; Donuts, he made a cross-country trip to scope out potential markets. And California looked terrifying.</p><p>&ldquo;There were thousands and thousands of existing competitors,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;There were coffee shops everywhere,&rdquo; plus an existing regional doughnut-and-coffee chain called Winchells. They were big at the time.</p><p>So when he picked five cities to &ldquo;fortress,&rdquo; LA and San Francisco were off the list. Fifty years later, <a href="http://www.latimes.com/business/money/la-fi-mo-dunkin-donuts-southern-california-20130725,0,5012811.story">Dunkin&rsquo; Donuts is making news in LA</a> with an attempt to crack that market. In 2013.</p><p>What is the deal? Why all the mom-and-pop donut action in LA?</p><p>I&rsquo;ve encountered a couple of theories. For instance, Paul Mullins, author of <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Glazed-America-A-History-Doughnut/dp/0813032385">Glazed America: A History of the Doughnut</a>, chalks it up to LA&rsquo;s &ldquo;car culture,&rdquo; which made doughnut stands a natural, since they&rsquo;d sell something you could eat behind the wheel. &nbsp;</p><p>&hellip; But we&rsquo;re getting far afield. What was our original question again?</p><p>Right: Does Chicago have independent doughnut shops anymore?</p><p>Answer: Yes.</p><p>In the city proper there are more than half a dozen, including <a href="https://www.google.com/maps?layer=c&amp;z=17&amp;sll=41.744338,-87.604851&amp;cid=6088900179239238883&amp;panoid=_piYUsaPuB2S4kK0HuOHdg&amp;cbp=13,3.891336577672689,,0,0&amp;q=dat+donut&amp;sa=X&amp;ei=7x8VUs3DNcq8yAGlo4HYDQ&amp;ved=0CLoBEKAfMAs">Dat Donut</a>, <a href="http://www.huckfinnrestaurant.com/">Huck Finn</a>, <a href="https://www.google.com/maps/preview/uv?hl=en&amp;pb=!1s0x880fcde67b9f5f35:0xe21f8b2f0edc0a4c!2m5!2m2!1i80!2i80!3m1!2i100!3m1!7e1!4shttps://plus.google.com/104622753463139059098/photos?hl%3Den%26socfid%3Dweb:lu:kp:placepageimage%26socpid%3D1!5sdonut+doctor+chicago+-+Google+Search&amp;sa=X&amp;ei=RiAVUqnHC-rJygGQooD4Dw&amp;ved=0COYBEKIqMAs">Donut Doctor</a>, and four artisan-style, two-bucks-and-up-a-pop, doughnuts-are-the-new-cupcakes type shops in and around the Loop: <a href="http://firecakesdonuts.com/">Firecakes</a>, <a href="http://thedoughnutvault.tumblr.com/">The Doughnut Vault</a>, <a href="http://doritedonuts.com/">Do-Rite Donuts</a>, and <a href="http://www.goglazed.com/">Glazed and Infused</a>. Plus a food truck called <a href="http://beaversdonuts.com/">Beavers Coffee + Donuts</a>.</p><p>(Really, Beavers does something that&rsquo;s halfway between a doughnut hole and a beignet, but they&rsquo;ve got Donut in the name.)</p><p>And then there&rsquo;s the best: Old Fashioned Donuts in Roseland, at 112th and Michigan. If you haven&rsquo;t already looked at Logan Jaffe&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_GIrh8A2Mr4" target="_blank">video of our Epic Doughnut Quest</a>, you might want to scroll up and do that now.</p><p>But briefly, here&rsquo;s the deal: They are the best doughnuts &mdash; the platonic idea of a doughnut. And the shop itself (recall that the question was about the best shop, not just the best doughnut) is all charm.<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/FOR%20WEB.jpg" style="height: 300px; width: 450px; float: left;" title="The Williams family picks out their favorite doughnuts at Dat Donut in Chicago's Chatham neighborhood. The Williams family joined Curious City on its first ever doughnut crawl to help decide which privately-owned doughnut shop is the best. (Logan Jaffe/WBEZ)" /></p><p>Big picture windows show off the fryer, the rolling pin, and the donuts being made by hand. &nbsp;Specifically, the hand of owner Buritt Bulloch, who opened the shop in 1972.</p><p>Bulloch sees the story of doughnuts in Chicago very much the way Bob Rosenberg does. He doesn&rsquo;t really know what happened to the other doughnut shops, but he does know that Dunkin isn&rsquo;t his competition. They&rsquo;re about sandwiches and coffee.</p><p>&ldquo;They keep a few doughnuts on the shelf, just to bear the name doughnut ,&rdquo; he says, laughing. &ldquo;But we move quite a bit of product here.&rdquo;</p><p>They do. There&rsquo;s always a line. &nbsp;</p><p>And Buritt Bulloch was artisan doughnuts before artisan doughnuts were artisan doughnuts. Here&rsquo;s his philosophy:</p><p>&ldquo;People ask me, &lsquo;Why don&rsquo;t you expand? Why don&rsquo;t you franchise?&rsquo; I really came here just to make a living,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;I love the work, so I just kinda hung with this.</p><p>At 74 years old, he plans to keep hanging with it for another decade.</p><p>&ldquo;I can do it,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m in good shape. That rolling pin will keep me going.&rdquo;</p><p>So, you&rsquo;re on notice: If you want the best doughnut in Chicago, you&rsquo;ve got about ten years to get yourself to 112th and Michigan.</p><p>Meanwhile, for more fun details on the growth of Dunkin&rsquo; Donuts, <a href="http://www.bostonmagazine.com/2010/08/dunkins-run-a-love-story/">Boston Magazine did an oral history of the company</a> that&rsquo;s packed with great facts and quotes. There&rsquo;s also founder William Rosenberg&rsquo;s autobiography, <a href="http://books.google.com/books/about/Time_to_make_the_donuts.html?id=RV5aAAAAYAAJ">Time to Make the Donuts</a>, in which he discusses his eventual disillusionment with his son Bob&rsquo;s approach to running the company.</p><p>Final footnote: You&rsquo;ll notice that most of the shops mentioned in this story use the spelling &ldquo;donut,&rdquo; where we&rsquo;ve used &ldquo;doughnut&rdquo; here. Thank the <a href="http://justedits.org/post/24198007477/doughnut-vs-donut">Associated Press Stylebook</a> for making us the odd one out.</p><p><em>Dan Weissmann is an independent producer in Chicago. See more of his stuff at <a href="http://danweissmann.com/">danweissmann.com</a> and follow him <a href="http://twitter.com/#!/danweissmann">@danweissmann</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 21 Aug 2013 15:22:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/where-have-all-old-school-doughnut-shops-gone-108483 Suit against food truck ordinance moves forward http://www.wbez.org/sections/food/suit-against-food-truck-ordinance-moves-forward-107687 <p><p dir="ltr">Food truck owners and their customers had a small victory in court today. A judge will hear their request to operate in more parts of the city.</p><p dir="ltr">Currently, Chicago&rsquo;s food truck ordinance includes a ban on operating a food truck within 200 feet of a restaurant and a requirement that all food trucks have GPS Devices so the city can track their location. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Two food truck business, Schnitzel King and Cupcakes For Courage challenged the ordinance. The city asked for the complaint to be dismissed but a judge is allowing it to move forward.</p><p>Laura Pekarik is the owner of Cupcakes for Courage.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;This is exactly what we were hoping for. We can present our case with evidence and facts,&rdquo; said Pekarik.</p><p dir="ltr">The judge asked for more information from both sides of the case before the next court date. He suspects the 200 feet restriction could keep food trucks out of huge swaths of Chicago, including the Loop and wanted a map of where food trucks could legally operate.</p><p dir="ltr">The judge also asked the city to prepare information on how they would protect against misuse of GPS data.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Shannon Heffernan is a reporter for WBEZ. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/shannon_h">@shannon_</a>h</em></p><div>&nbsp;</div></p> Thu, 13 Jun 2013 17:39:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/sections/food/suit-against-food-truck-ordinance-moves-forward-107687 Seamless and GrubHub to combine, no terms revealed http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/seamless-and-grubhub-combine-no-terms-revealed-107266 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/flickr_kurmanstaff.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Seamless North America and GrubHub say they&#39;re combining to create an online food ordering service covering more than 20,000 restaurants in 500 cities across the U.S.</p><p>Financial terms were not disclosed. Matt Maloney, GrubHub&#39;s co-founder and CEO, will become CEO of the combined company. Seamless CEO Jonathan Zabusky will serve as president.</p><p>Brian McAndrews, an independent director on the Seamless board, will serve as chairman. Both New York-based Seamless and Chicago-based GrubHub will have significant representation on the new company&#39;s board.</p><p>The combined company&#39;s name and marketing brands will be determined following regulatory approval.</p><p>Last year, orders through the two privately-held companies totaled about $875 million, resulting in combined revenue of more than $100 million.</p><p>Maloney says the new company will be well positioned for continued growth.</p></p> Mon, 20 May 2013 09:01:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/seamless-and-grubhub-combine-no-terms-revealed-107266 Fake tweet shakes stocks http://www.wbez.org/news/fake-tweet-shakes-stocks-106806 <p><p>NEW YORK &mdash; The stock market climbed Tuesday following strong earnings across a range of U.S. industries.</p><p>Makers of handbags, jet planes and chemical products all turned in good results for the first quarter, reviving investors&#39; confidence after a sharp downturn in the stock market last week.</p><p>Markets swooned briefly shortly after 1 p.m. Eastern time after The Associated Press&#39; Twitter account was hacked and a fake tweet was posted about explosions at the White House.</p><p>Trading at Chicago&rsquo;s CME Group was also affected.</p><p>Andrew Busch is publisher of the financial newsletter, the Busch Update.</p><p>&ldquo;What concerns me for Chicago, an account gets hacked and people start putting out misinformation whether it&rsquo;s about a company, or a police situation or flooding, that&rsquo;s where things get kind of crazy and people can actually get hurt. Not only people, but companies as well,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Busch says now officials will be looking for anyone who may have benefited from the sharp turn in trading.</p><p>The CME Group declined to comment.</p><p>Coach, Lockheed Martin, DuPont and Travelers were among the winners after they reported results that were better than analysts expected. The Dow Jones industrial average and the Standard &amp; Poor&#39;s 500 index both rose nearly 1 percent in morning trading, putting them on track for a third straight day of gains.</p><p>A resurgence in corporate profits after the Great Recession has been one of the drivers that pushed both the Dow Jones industrial average and the Standard &amp; Poor&#39;s 500 index to record levels this year. However investors are starting to question how much further company earnings can improve without the outlook for growth in the global economy improving as well.</p><p>Tuesday&#39;s upturn in stocks put both indexes back in the black for April and closer to the record high closes they reached on April 11. It was a sharp change of tone from last week, when the market had its worst drop since November. That sell-off started after economic growth in China, the world&#39;s second-largest economy, slowed.</p><p>So far, 69 percent of the companies that reported earnings for the first quarter have beaten analysts&#39; expectations, better than the 10-year average of 62 percent, according to data from S&amp;P Capital IQ. Analysts expect earnings to rise by 2.3 percent in the first quarter, compared with 7.7 percent growth in the previous three-month period.</p><p>Stocks and other markets were shaken in the early afternoon when a fake tweet on the AP&#39;s Twitter account prompted a sudden sell-off.</p><p>A posting saying that there had been explosions at the White House and that President Barack Obama had been injured was sent at 1:08 p.m. The Dow immediately plunged about 143 points, from 14,697 to 14,554. The AP said its Twitter account had been hacked and the posting was fake. Within five minutes the Dow had snapped back.</p><p>AP spokesman Paul Colford said the news cooperative is working with Twitter to investigate the issue. The AP has disabled its other Twitter accounts following the attack, Colford added.</p><p>Joe Fox, chairman and co-founder of online brokerage Ditto Trade, was at work in L.A. when he got a call from the Chicago brokerage offices telling him what had happened. Fox watched the market tanking, then its quick bounce back.</p><p>&quot;It was a tipsy-turvy rollercoaster for a few minutes there,&quot; Fox said.</p><p>Fox said the news didn&#39;t sound right to him when he first heard it, and he thinks that traders are being more cautious in the wake of the 2010 &quot;flash crash,&quot; which sent the Dow spiraling 600 points in a matter of minutes.</p><p>After the brief sell-off investors turned their focus back to earnings.</p><p>Netflix soared 24 percent to $216 after reporting a big gain in subscribers in the first quarter late yesterday. Coach, which makes Luxury handbags and other accessories, soared 10 percent to $55.84. Lockheed rose 1.5 percent to $97.30. Travelers rose 2 percent to $86.15.</p><p>The Dow was up 139 points at 14,706 as of 3:46 p.m. The S&amp;P 500 was 14 points higher at 1,577. Both indexes are 1 percent below their record high closes from nearly two weeks ago.</p><p>The Nasdaq composite rose 33 points to 3,267.</p><p>The price of crude oil dropped about 60 cents after the fake tweet, to $88.40 from $89, then quickly recouped that loss. It was up 11 cents at $89.30 in afternoon trading.</p><p>The yield on the 10-year Treasury note was 1.70 percent, unchanged from late Monday.</p><p>Apple reports earnings after the market closes. Apple has lost 23 percent of its value this year. Investor worry that demand for the iPhone is waning as competitors like Samsung sell more smartphones. It stock was up 1.5 percent at $405.</p><p>___</p><p><em>Susie An contributed to this report.&nbsp;</em></p></p> Tue, 23 Apr 2013 15:21:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/fake-tweet-shakes-stocks-106806