Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Brown Sugar Bakery anchors Grand Crossing renaissance

This article I just got wind about, reminded me of when close to four years ago that 75th Street had been closed down due to infrastructure work. Then that fall -  we're talking 2009 - it had been reopened to regular traffic with new streets. Me and JP walked along that street after a ribbon-cutting and in fact set foot in the then open Army & Lou's restaurant. Then Ald. Lyle had her office near the corner at 75th & King Drive and so does current state Rep. Andre Thapedi.

Lately we're hearing more about this fabled Renaissance Row. Been a while since we have heard of this place which is billed to have the largest concentration of black-owned businesses in Chicago. Then we found out about not only a live broadcast from our local public radio affiliate but also this article from the Tribune.

Rick Kogan hosted that live broadcast from the Brown Sugar Bakery and the Tribune published a column from March 1st. He talked about the bakery and other businesses located on that street:
Some neighborhoods have it all, and some neighborhoods have very little, but only one Chicago neighborhood, Greater Grand Crossing, has Stephanie Hart and her Brown Sugar Bakery.

There, every day you can get cupcakes the size of small children's heads and cakes that look like something out of their sweet dreams.

And on many evenings — such as this Thursday at 7 p.m. — you can also experience salonlike entertainment events featuring local poets and musicians.

“It is such a vibrant neighborhood filled with so many talented people,” says Hart. “I started meeting them when they came in to buy things and just got to talking, and thought what a wonderful thing it would be to host live performances, to showcase them and this area.”

A smart and ebullient personality, Hart holds forth at 328 E. 75th St. “This has been a great addition to the street,” says Ald. Roderick Sawyer, 6th, a son of a Chicago mayor (Eugene), lifelong resident of the neighborhood and, to hear Hart tell it, an aficionado of the bakery's “carmel” cake.

“There are certain Chicago neighborhoods that unfairly have been given a bad image, and part of my job is to transform that image,” says Sawyer, whose ward also includes the Park Manor, Chatham and West Chesterfield neighborhoods. “This street had been stagnant for so long, and this is all part of its reinvention. There is vitality here that is easy to see.”

He is right. The 300 block of E. 75th St., for nearly 60 years home to Lem's Bar-B-Q (“BBQ as God meant it to be,” commented one Zagat reviewer), has seen businesses come and go, but there is now a palpable and heartening sense of stability, a neighborhood binding through creativity, commerce and community.

“It is the street that drew me here,” Hart says. “The history here. I was made to feel so welcome.”
The title of this article helped me remember how this street was branded and thanks to this blog we remember, that 75th Street was once "Renaissance Row". People in our community were excited in 2009 and it seems the rest of the city is noticing once again. What will the future have in store for this street?

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