A ‘perfect foil’ to Black Friday: Ravenswood deploys trolleys for Small Business Saturday event
As part of citywide Small Business Saturday events, the Greater Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce rented trolleys to carry visitors along a route of local shops.
Old-school, wooden-interior trolleys were parked down Montrose Avenue Saturday morning as the Greater Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce prepared for the “Holly Jolly Trolley” to bring visitors to local stores for Small Business Saturday.
The fourth annual running of the trolleys, provided by Aries Charter Transportation, made eight stops to connect participants to several parts of the North Side neighborhood and spur holiday season shopping.
The “welcome station” — which included warm cider, free tote bags and treats from Hilary’s Cookies, a local bakery — was at Hazel, a business that has spent its entire 20-year tenure in Ravenswood despite expansions, location changes and the creation of a second storefront.
Allison Tuley, the marketing manager at Hazel, said the business was grateful for the chamber’s work to help bring customers into local shops for the occasion, stressing the community’s role in keeping the jewelry, apparel and holiday card seller strong even when “times are a little tougher.”
“It’s a huge deal for us,” Tuley said. “They’re doing a lot of the heavy lifting for us. They’re bringing the people here. We just have to do what we do and show them what we’ve got.”
But it isn’t just the shops that are thankful for the event.
Carina Bauers, a Logan Square resident, got on the second trolley of the day with her 4-year-old daughter, Greta Bryant. She said the trolley ride was enough to get Greta on board, though she was personally excited to explore stores she hadn’t visited before.
“[We want to] see if there are other places we haven’t discovered yet, maybe some new finds,” Bauers said, noting she had been looking forward to visiting Lillstreet Art Center along the route.
“I like it,” Greta said of the trolley.
Along with the treats at the starting point, several other businesses in the area had special events planned for the day. Lillstreet Art Center had kids workshops alongside its holiday sale, while Gnome Brew, a Montrose Avenue brewery supply store, had free beer samples until 5 p.m.
Artsy items proved to be a draw for several trolley riders, bringing out residents from other neighborhoods and even outside the city.
Charles Wilk, a junior at Northwestern University who uses they/them pronouns, said they liked to patronize local artists because of their own creative endeavors.
“As a creating artist myself, I always like seeing what’s local and what local artists have produced,” the 22-year-old theater student said.
Wilk said the celebration and related trolley rides were a “perfect foil” to Black Friday, when shoppers tend to crowd chain stores owned by larger corporations.
“It brings more local voices, it goes back into the community and isn’t going off to some corporation,” Wilk said. “It makes sure we can still have an arts and creative scene in Chicago and that it doesn’t just get monopolized by corporations that already have the money.”
Chamber associate director Gene Wagendorf agreed, saying the Ravenswood neighborhood was heavily tied to its local businesses because of what they bring to the area.
“They’re what gives our neighborhood character,” Wagendorf said. “It makes here different from there.”