The Back of the Yards College Prep’s gymnasium looked more like a convention center room than a high school gym as more than 30 businesses lined up behind presentation tables giving out food samples and information about their services.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel awarded 51 businesses with more than $5 million in grants through the Retail Thrive Zone’s Small Business Improvement Fund. Back of the Yards is home to 12 of the business awardees.
The “RTZ” initiative is a three-year pilot program with the goal to strengthen the local economy around the eight participating corridors in select neighborhoods throughout the South, Southwest and West sides of Chicago.
Businesses like Agencia y Notaria Cadena, a multi-generational business in Back of the Yards will be using the grant funds to undergo a full gut rehab that includes a new facade, a new roof, and interior renovations.
The Cadena family receiving the SBIF certificate in honor of their 89-year-old father Mr. Mike Cadena who started the family business and could not be in attendance (The Gate/Gloria Talamantes)
The Cadena family is thrilled to have been awarded the SBIF certificate “It’s efforts such as these that connect us to each other, especially in times of need. This aspect of our business in our neighborhoods is one that forms the backbone of our community,” said Cadena.
Belinda Cadena said that the family business was opened by her father Miguel Cadena over 40 years ago. Cadena mentioned that the services that her business offers have gone beyond tax preparation.
“We have also helped so many others with immigration issues, translations, notary public services and much more,” said Cadena.
Craig Chico, the president and CEO of the Back of the Yards Neighborhood Council welcomed everyone in the gym to the RTZ award event with a brief breakdown of what the RTZ initiative means to many in the room and to the community.
Linda Mota from Vista Hermosa receiving her SBIF award certificate (The Gate/Gloria Talamantes)
“It means sustainability and stability for our retail corridors–that’s what it really means, for some people it means keeping jobs and for others it means adding jobs here, for some people it means keeping the doors open and for other people it means expanding–whatever the case may be, it is the infusion to small business that we need in our communities and investments that we have never seen before.”
Mayor Emanuel personally handed the 51 grantees their certificates as the crowd of business, owners, employees and public officials applauded them.
“Our kids cannot be what they cannot see,” said Mayor Emanuel.
He continued to speak about the importance to shop local in order to have these businesses as an example for future generations.
“We want in our neighborhoods and our communities the type of businesses that are here and I want everyone in the neighborhood to hear me loud and clear, if your neighborhood is the thrive zone, it’s getting a coffee shop, it’s getting a sandwich shop, it’s getting a restaurant–you go and patronize that coffee shop, you go and patronize that sandwich shop, you go to that grocery store don’t say I want to see investment in my neighborhood and then drive [past] the neighborhood investment.”
Elected officials representing wards from across the city were in attendance, including local Back of the Yards Ald. Willie B Cochran (20th) and Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th).
The Granados family after receiving their SBIF certificate (The Gate/Gloria Talamantes)
For Carlos and Emma Granados, owners of Granados’ Grocery off 47th Street in Back of the Yards, the SBIF award will help the business in ways they haven’t been able to provide in years.
“This represents a dream, it’s going to help us make major repairs that we never could. With this program it will be made possible,” Carlos said.
“This SBIF award represents [a] change for our business and our community, and I am extremely grateful to the community and to the BYNC for helping us through the process,” added Emma.
Other services that will be provided through the Retail Thrive Zone initiative will include pop-up retail spaces. This approach will allow businesses to do A/B testing on new business concepts, networking, and teach-in opportunities.
This is only the beginning of the three year Retail Thrive Zone initiative. If you are a local business in BOTY looking for more information about this program and how to apply you can contact Sonya Eldridge and Fabiola Flores from the Back of the Yards Neighborhood Council for information and assistance. 1823 W. 47th street 2nd fl.