Roughly two dozen small businesses on the West Side were recently named recipients of the Chicago Community Development Grant.
The 19 businesses in Austin, North Lawndale, East Garfield Park, West Garfield Park and Humboldt Park were awarded a total of $7.8 million in grant funding. The businesses ranged from restaurants to a media studio.
The largest awards on the West Side went to Yellow Banana, a Black-owned company looking to open grocery stores on the South and West Sides, and Juan Teague of Batter and Berries. Those businesses each got around $1.9 million.
Construction on Batter and Berries, 5924 W. Chicago Ave. in Austin, started in the spring of 2021, but the project was delayed due to costs and contractor misconduct.
The Development Grant funding is part of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s Chicago Recovery Plan, which helps fund small businesses that were hurt by the pandemic.
Using a combination of local and federal funding sources, the $97 million in awards were given to a total of 79 businesses across the city.
Front Porch Arts Center, 5508 W. Chicago Ave. in Austin, was also among the grant recipients. That organization was founded to bring more arts programming to the community.
“This support will help us to provide more positive local recreation that will enable our organization to continue to use art as a healing tool that both addresses our trauma and helps our community thrive,” said Keli Stewart, the organization’s founder and artistic director.
As a lifelong Austin resident, Steward said she’s proud to see the city make these types of large financial investments in community projects.
“Neither in my grandparent’s generation nor in my parent’s generation have we witnessed this kind of necessary investment on the West Side,” Stewart said.
“My family migrated from Mississippi to Chicago in the 1950s and opened up businesses in Lawndale because they believed in their community,” she added. “I believe in my community, and as someone who was born and raised in Austin, and a current homeowner, I’m thankful to receive investment from the city.”
Urban Smoke LLC, a caterer at 6134-38 W. North Ave. in Austin, received $250,000. Founder Omar Bryant said that the money will allow his business to finally serve patrons in person.
“We are ready to serve our community with our savory grilled and smoked meats,” Bryant said. “We’ve built a reputation known for good, quality food and service. Our storefronts have sat vacant for over six years and now it’s finally going to happen.”
A list of West Side recipients is below. A full list of recipients can be found here.