Located inside—and named after—the first “L” station built in 1892 along historic Garfield Boulevard in Washington Park, L1 is a creative business accelerator program and retail store operated and managed by Arts + Public Life, an initiative of UChicago Arts. Its mission? To spark culturally stimulated growth on the South Side of Chicago and increase opportunities for communities that have been left out of economic development. Its residents are granted a twenty-month fellowship, 700 square feet of subsidized, shared brick-and-mortar retail space, and an opportunity to scale their creative business to the next level.
The inaugural creative business accelerator fellows are all South Side-based, Black-owned businesses. Tiffany Joi’s Hemp Heals Body Shop features CBD bath and body products including oil drops, salves, bath salts and whipped body butter. “I’m originally from the South Side of Chicago, born and raised. This is my home base, my people—people that look like me, and the consumers that I want to help from the inside out in a natural way,” says Joi, who started looking into the benefits of CBD to help her mother who was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis and fibromyalgia. She went on to create her first product: the CBD Pain Relief Salve. Since then, she’s committed to handmaking CBD products to alleviate stress, depression and anxiety, leaving you feeling cool, calm and collected.
Andrea Polk runs Solo Noir, an all-natural skincare and grooming brand for men of color. Polk had her a-ha moment during graduate school. “I realized that men of color were underserved in the grooming industry,” she says. “This discovery aligned with my innate passion for facilitating natural health care, sparking an urge to explore more. I worked to design a groundbreaking grooming system that’s as effective as it is simple. Crafted from soothing, organic, all-natural ingredients, my grooming solution is designed to help you look your best without complicating your life.” From grooming kits, to shaving products, to beard washes and balms, and to body care, Solo Noir was created to restore confidence through clear, healthy skin.
Besides Solo Noir, Polk also founded Zen Soul Apothecary with her daughter, Ava. There she helps create balance and zen within the body and the home, offering services including reiki healing, crystal healing and chakra alignment. The mother-daughter team also offers an array of products—from crystals and stones, to palo santo and smudge sticks, to bath bombs and to herbal tea.
Peter Gaona of ReformedSchool combines art, fashion and eco-friendly materials to create clothing and apparel. His mission is to use fashion as a tool to educate on topics such as the environment, history, social justice and pop culture. Gaona, who founded ReformedSchool in 2013 as a pre-tied bow tie and accessories brand, has evolved beyond his signature bow tie collections, into apparel, stationary, even homeware. His products include t-shirts, hoodies and rugby shirts, bright-colored pillows made out of recycled plastic bottles, mugs, greeting cards, patches, and of course bow ties—some things never change. All have a story to tell.
Providing character and individuality to the Chicago community, L1 provides a fresh perspective, an opportunity to shop local, but most importantly, a way to support small business owners and underrepresented communities. A powerful catalyst for neighborhood revitalization, the University of Chicago initiative sure makes a difference. As Gaona puts it: “Retail locations can provide more than a place to buy material goods, they can also serve as community hubs, advocacy spaces and create a vibe that reflects the surrounding community.”
319 East Garfield Boulevard. Retail store hours: Tuesday-Saturday, 11am-7pm
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.rigouvasia.com