Author: North Branch Works

Shop4Ties succeeds during COVID-19

Running a small business comes with many challenges in the best of times; leading one successfully through a pandemic requires creativity, leadership, and innovation.

And that’s exactly what is happening at Shop4Ties, a woman and family-owned small business in Logan Square that designs, manufactures, and sells ties, scarves, formal wear, face masks and more.

Shop4Ties opened its doors in 1982 when founder Arnie Kapp launched the business in his family’s home just outside of Chicago.

Over the course of thirty-seven years, Shop4Ties has grown from serving hundreds of customers each year to over tens of thousands and built a loyal customer base that includes universities, schools (see below), nonprofits, government agencies, companies and individuals.

Despite this success, the onset of COVID-19 caused a major drop in sales and interrupted the company’s supply chain. For over twenty years, Shop4Ties has partnered with a small manufacturer in Shengzhou, China, which had to abruptly stop production.

Along with the travel ban to and from China, Shop4Ties faced unprecedented challenges in being able to deliver its high-quality custom products to customers.

Fortunately, thanks to the dedicated leadership of CEO Becky Galvez and CFO Rhonda Kapp the company quickly pivoted to selling face masks, recognizing the demand for high quality protective wear.

And this nimble transition has positioned the company for a successful year and allowed it to bring back all nine of its employees in good jobs and support the local economy as the city begins to reopen and recover.

Throughout these challenging times, Shop4Ties has shown its incredible commitment to Chicago. Even with sales down 40% in March, Shop4Ties launched a campaign, Feeding the Frontlines, which to date has raised over $13k from sales of Chicago-themed products—100% of which the company donated to local restaurants who then provided over 900 meals to frontline workers.

And recently Shop4Ties kicked-off the Masks for Change Art Contest, which is open to all children from kindergarten through eighth grade who are invited to design a mask that reflects what anti-racism means to them. Winners will receive 250 custom masks to share with classmates and faculty.

If you and/or your organization have a need for face masks or other custom and brand products, we highly recommend contacting Shop4Ties at 800-998-8437 and

North Branch Works is a proud neighbor of Shop4Ties in the Green Exchange. And we’re working hard to create a climate that will support Shop4Ties and our members, resulting in strong businesses that can expand, provide family-sustaining jobs, and strengthen communities.

Image credits: Shop4Ties


A Message from the Board President & Executive Director

Throughout our history, North Branch Works has worked to increase job opportunities in businesses along the North Branch. We fought to create Planned Manufacturing Districts (PMDs) in order to protect manufacturing and industrial companies that employ workers at family-sustaining wages. As the area has changed over the years, our mission to support high-quality jobs has not. Now more than ever we fight for good jobs opportunities for ALL Chicagoans.

Systemic racism continues to impact our society and especially the high-quality job opportunities that we support. We are deeply disturbed by the events of the past weeks, months, and years, and we know that the brutal incidents we have observed are not isolated events. We stand with everyone who peacefully raises their voice against oppression and inequality and recognize that tangible change in American society must occur so that everyone can experience the freedom and opportunity this country promises.

NBW is not immune from criticism, and we are continually examining our policies and procedures to better support communities that are affected by centuries of policies designed to exclude BIPOC. We are expanding our small business loan program into communities that have been excluded from loan opportunities in the past. We are partnering with organizations to promote local entrepreneurship and build wealth within communities. Lastly, we are actively working to diversify our board of directors. And as we work toward a racially equitable society, we would appreciate the input of our partners, stakeholders, and members so we can collectively work to improve opportunities for Chicago’s Black and Brown communities.

Systemic racism is a blight that must be eradicated, and we at NBW stand with BIPOC and the Black Lives Matter movement to support freedom for all and to ensure that family-sustaining job opportunities are available to each and every Chicagoan.

Larry Bennett, Board President

Jonathan Snyder, Executive Director

Support Gold Coast Auto Body

If you ever need a high quality auto body repair and want to support a family-owned, small business, please take your vehicle to Gold Coast Auto Body located at 900 W. Division St. just west of the Chicago River.

Gold Coast Auto Body has been in operations since 1992 and will celebrate twenty years at its current location in August. The shop specializes in the impeccable repairs of major vehicle brands such as Honda, Acura, Audi, Tesla, Mercedes-Benz, Subaru, and Volkswagen.

Known for providing honest advice, the co-owners, Dominic and Mario Martino, are committed to doing the highest quality work. Unlike other shops, they only use new auto parts to repair vehicles, ensuring the long-term safety of their customers.

They know the positive impact their work has on the lives of customers, the local economy, and broader Chicago region.

And the passion they have for their business is matched by their love of the city and its neighborhoods. Originally from Chicago, they’ve been longtime members of civic organizations like North Branch Works and the Lincoln Park, Wicker Park and LGBT Chambers of Commerce.

Recently, North Branch Works joined Dominic for a tour of the shop (pictured left Gold Coast Auto Body co-owner Dominic Martino and NBW staff Steve Simmons).

Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, Gold Coast Auto Body regularly repaired fifty cars per week and employed around fifty people in jobs that paid family-sustaining wages.

Now more than ever, Gold Coast Auto Body needs work to continue providing high quality service to customers, good jobs to its workers, and support for the local economy as Chicago begins to recover.

Gold Coast Auto Body is currently open from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and following all the COVID-19 safety precautions.

The referrals of family, friends and colleagues are greatly appreciated.

With questions and to schedule an appointment, please call 312-787-0333 and visit

NBW at the Chicago Architectural Biennial

North Branch Works is proud to participate in the Chicago Architectural Biennial’s Anarchitectural Library (against the erasure of Chicago’s Common Spaces)Adrian Blackwell serves as the editor and solicited contributions from 20 Chicago organizations and individuals committed to combatting the erasure of Chicago’s common spaces.

In his letter to us, Mr. Blackwell stated that “the Library will feature resources useful for understanding and promoting existing campaigns to stop the erasure of the city’s public buildings and landscapes: its housing, schools, manufacturing districts and metabolic circuits (clean air, clean water, food security, park spaces etc.), as well as materials focused against spaces of repression that are physically removing people from the City (prisons, immigration detention centers and police stations). The Architecture Biennial celebrates the design of the physical landscape of the city. Housed within it, this library will point to the ways in which the city is built through violent subtractions, as much as through construction and growth.”

We provided materials focusing on NBW’s work to reuse manufacturing districts in ways that support modern manufacturing, retain industrial jobs, and promote the creation of jobs for everyone, not just those with advanced degrees.  The centerpiece of our contribution is NBW’s “River Works: A Plan for Community, Jobs, and Innovation” which was intended to serve as the roadmap for growth and innovation at the former A. Finkl & Sons, A. Lakin & Sons, and Gutmann Tannery properties which have become part of the proposed “Lincoln Yards” development by Sterling Bay.  It predated the City’s “North Branch Framework Plan” by 18 months and created a vision for a modern manufacturing district that fostered the creation of family-sustaining jobs that paid a living wage in an area that has been a job creator for over 100 years.

That manufacturing land has been lost to the commercial and residential uses.  NBW supports ALL businesses in the North Branch Corridor that pay living wages, however an opportunity was lost when the land was converted from industrial usage to commercial and residential.  The impacts of this change will continue as the new development takes shape.  But we will work to insure that the area continues to support jobs for ALL Chicagoans, and that there continue to be opportunities for local entrepreneurs and business owners.

The Anarhitectural Library (against the erasure of Chicago’s Common Spaces) is part of “…And Other Such Stories” at the Chicago Architectural Biennial running from September 19th through January 5th.  Admission is free.

Beans & Breweries Tour 2019

On Wednesday, April 24th, North Branch Works hosted our second annual tour of businesses in our community. Last year’s Brewery Tour expanded into this year’s Beans & Breweries Tour as we included Metropolis Coffee Company along with Metropolitan Brewery, Maplewood Brewery & Distiller, and Revolution Brewing. Over 20 people joined the tour which highlighted the growing businesses in the Addison South and Kennedy Industrial Corridors. Our tour bus kept everyone comfortable as we kept the fun going from site to site.  NBW is grateful to all of the businesses for allowing us to have a tour and sample their products. A special thank you goes to Bigane Paving Co and Ogden Avenue Materials who sponsored the event.