Category: News

KOVAL Distillery opens new tasting room and patio

Last week, KOVAL Distillery announced the opening of its much-anticipated tasting room and patio.

These modern spaces offer a dynamic experience for craft spirit enthusiasts, adding to KOVAL’s incredible lineup of tours, classes, events, and store.

Located inside KOVAL’s distillery at 4241 N. Ravenswood Avenue, the tasting room (pictured above) reflects a combination of the co-founders’ Central European heritage and partnerships with Chicago-area makers.

The menu features a mix of classic cocktails and imaginative originals such as KOVAL Bourbon, Dry Gin, liqueurs, fruit brandies, and limited edition releases.

KOVAL only uses the “heart cut of the distillate,” making its products stand out due their clean taste.

Along with cocktails, a variety of perfect pairs (KOVAL spirits combined with bite-sized treats), flights, light food, and international coffee drinks will be available. To see a full menu, please go here.

The opening of KOVAL’s tasting room (see bar below right) is another major accomplishment for the business whose co-founders, Dr. Robert Birnecker and Dr. Sonat Birnecker Hart, overcame significant hurdles when starting the company in 2008.

KOVAL is a great example of how manufacturing has pivoted from large companies to smaller neighborhood businesses that provide high-quality jobs without requiring advanced degrees.

The company’s continued growth and success highlights the valuable role that manufacturing plays in Chicago. It’s timely that KOVAL’s tasting room and patio opened during Manufacturing Month.

North Branch Works is proud to advocate for policies and programs that strengthen local manufacturers like KOVAL.

Our members and supporters can help KOVAL by visiting the new tasting room, suggesting venues carry KOVAL products if they don’t already, and purchasing its products.

To participate in on-site activities, KOVAL requires all visitors to be vaccinated and masked.

KOVAL’s tasting room is open Tuesday-Friday from 5-10 p.m. and Saturday-Sunday from 12-10 p.m. The adjoining patio (see below) will be open for seating as long as the Chicago weather allows.

To learn more about KOVAL Distillery and its co-founders, please see this member profile.

North Branch Works would like to recognize Dr. Sonat Birnecker Hart for her dedicated service on our Board of Directors.

With questions and to connect with KOVAL, please reach out to: info@koval-distillery.com

Image credits: KOVAL Distillery

Paddle the North Branch showcases area destinations

Nearly twenty people joined us in late September for our first-ever kayak tour that featured dynamic businesses and development projects in our service area.

We met at Rockwell on the River (pictured below right), an incredible food and events space in Avondale along the North Branch of the Chicago River.

Well-known as the home of Metropolitan Brewing and Metropolis Coffee, the campus also includes a dock where you can hop in an electric boat or kayak and escape into the natural habitat.

North Branch Works was honored to partner with a small business, Wateriders Kayaks. The owner, Charlie Portis, gave us a quick lesson on how to paddle. The business prides itself in being able to serve people of all ages and abilities.

After departing from Rockwell on the River, the first stop was the dock at Lathrop Homes (pictured above), which is located just north of Diversey Avenue on the Chicago River.

Formerly the largest public housing complex on the North Side, Lathrop has been converted into mixed-income housing by developer Related Midwest.

During our time at Lathrop, a representative from Related Midwest discussed recently built riverfront improvements including a new trail, landscaping, benches, trees, and a boat and kayak launch.

The trail runs for half a mile north and south of Diversey Avenue. If you follow it south of Diversey, it curves out into the river, offering spectacular views of downtown before its terminus at Leavitt Street.

Following this stop, we paddled south to 1229 W Concord Place where developer Sterling Bay will soon break ground on the first building in Lincoln Yards, a structure designed for life sciences companies called ALLY at 1229 W. Concord.

While we floated in the Chicago River, a spokesperson from Sterling Bay (pictured right) talked about plans to improve public infrastructure in the area and a general timeline for the entire project, which is expected to span ten years.

Then we kayaked south past North Avenue to visit the Wild Mile Chicago, a seventeen-acre floating park in the North Branch Canal.

The Wild Mile (pictured below left) will run in-stream from North Avenue to Chicago Avenue directly behind Whole Foods and REI Lincoln Park.

During the tour, a representative from Urban Rivers talked about the next step in the project, which involves installing a walkway, and volunteer opportunities.

For group and corporate volunteering opportunities at the Wild Mile, please contact Nick Wesley at 708-606-0637 or nick@urbanriv.org.

North Branch Works would like to thank everyone who joined us for the kayak tour. We’d also like to recognize our partners who came along and discussed their businesses and development projects.

They include Friends of the Chicago River, Rockwell on the River, Wateriders Kayaks, Chicago Minority Supplier Development Council, Related Midwest, Sterling Bay, and Urban Rivers.

Stay tuned for more opportunities to explore local businesses and destinations in our service area.

Image credits: Kevin Hartmann, Sterling Bay

Sign up for North Branch Works’ Fall Gala on Oct. 21st

Join us at the Hideout for our Fall Gala on Oct. 21st from 5-7 p.m. Please sign up here.

Our program includes live music from the Lawrence Peters Outfit, food from Calihan Catering, drinks, and opportunities to network.

We’re excited to hear remarks from Tim Tuten, President of the Hideout,  Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd Ward), Tammy Phillips, President and CEO of Howe Corporation, and Ald. Michele Smith (43rd Ward).

The event will be held outdoors on the Hideout’s front porch. In the event of inclement weather and/or a rise in COVID-19 cases, the Fall Gala will be streamed via Facebook Live.

We hope you can join us in-person to celebrate our businesses, partners, and the North Branch as a great place to work and do business.

Proof of COVID-19 vaccination is required to attend the Fall Gala. Masks must be worn indoors per state and local regulations.

If you are unable to attend, please consider making a donation. Proceeds support our economic and community development work.

With questions, please contact Steve Simmons, Director of Business and Economic Development, at 773-929-5552 x2226 or steve@northbranchworks.org

Image credit: Hideout Chicago

     

 

         

Ozinga building a sustainable future

A fourth-generation, family-owned American company, Ozinga serves the entire spectrum of customers—from small residential homeowners to large cities with public works projects.

Founded in 1928 in Chicago’s Evergreen Park neighborhood, the company initially started as a small coal and coke yard. After surviving the Great Depression and World War II, Ozinga pivoted to supplying building materials, setting it on course to play a major role in the Chicago region’s vibrant growth.

Today, Ozinga is a premier supplier of sustainable concrete, bulk materials, and logistics and energy solutions to builders in Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan, and South Florida.

The company runs a sophisticated operation in Chicago from its regional headquarters in Chinatown (see below right). Well-known for its red and white concrete mixer trucks (pictured above), Ozinga employees monitor and support each truck in real time to ensure a safe and on-time delivery.

In order for the concrete mix to be viable for a project, each truck must deliver the product to the job site within an hour.

Currently, Ozinga Chicago employs three-hundred people in high-quality, head-of-household jobs.

Having industrial companies like Ozinga located in Chicago creates many benefits for the city, including the ability to build essential infrastructure and development projects quickly, high-quality jobs that do not require advanced degrees, and significant contributions to the city’s general revenue fund.

Some of Ozinga’s high-profile projects include supplying the concrete for renovations at Wrigley Field (see below left), Comiskey Park, Soldier Field, and the reconstruction of the Dan Ryan Expressway, which required 250,000 cubic yards of concrete.

Ozinga’s vast product offerings include a variety of limestone, gravel, concrete, recycled concrete, sand, and topsoil—all designed to meet the specific needs of its clients. With seventy company locations and two hundred source locations, there’s really no limit on what you can accomplish with Ozinga.

The company also helps clients finish their projects on time and budget by transporting these products through an extensive network of truck, rail, barge, and ship terminals.

By delivering materials to its locations via its fleet of barges, Ozinga keeps seventy trucks off the road with each barge shipment.

And for large projects that require a high volume of concrete, Ozinga can build a portable location called Ozinga On-Site that protects the environment by eliminating transportation costs and using less energy.

The company also specializes in portable crushing, which keeps concrete and asphalt out of our landfills, reduces costs for their clients, and allows them to reuse materials.

Indeed, these are just a few of the ways that Ozinga embodies its core value of protecting the Earth and its natural resources.

North Branch Works is proud to have a strong partnership with Ozinga and grateful for the company’s longtime financial support.

Our vision for Chicago includes ensuring that we protect land zoned for industrial use so that companies like Ozinga can make valuable contributions to the city over the long-term.

We would like to thank Marty IV and Paul Ozinga for their dedicated years of service on our Board of Directors.

North Branch Works would also like to recognize Chad Herst, Vice President and General Manager, for his current service on NBW’s Board of Directors.

With questions and to network with Ozinga, please reach out to: info@ozinga.com

Image credits: Ozinga 

Paddle the North Branch on Sept. 25th

Join us on Saturday, Sept. 25th for a fun and informative kayak tour of the North Branch from 9-11:30 a.m.

Along the way, we’ll visit local businesses, area destinations, and enjoy the sights and sounds of the Chicago River. The length of the tour is approximately seven miles.

At each stop, our partners will talk about their businesses and provide updates about their development projects that will have a major impact on the North Branch area in the coming years.

To sign up for the kayak tour with North Branch Works and Waterider Kayaks, please go here.

After meeting at Rockwell on the River, we’ll hear from Friends of the Chicago River about its important work to improve water quality and the natural habitat.

Then we’ll leave from the docks at Rockwell on the River and visit Lathrop Homes, Lincoln Yards, the Wild Mile Chicago (see below right), and REI Lincoln Park.

Following our stop at REI Lincoln Park, we’ll paddle back to Rockwell on the River where the tour will wrap up.

And everyone is welcome to join us at Metropolitan Brewing (see below left) for drinks after the tour. Proof of COVID-19 vaccination is required to enter Metropolitan Brewing.

North Branch Works is excited to partner with Wateriders Kayaks, a small family-owned business in our service area on the tour. The owner, Charlie, will serve as our guide.

We hope you can join us for the kayak tour on September 25th.

Proceeds support Wateriders Kayaks and North Branch Works’ neighborhood economic development work.

With questions, please contact Steve Simmons at 773-929-5552 x2226 or steve@northbranchworks.org

Image credits: REI Lincoln Park (top), Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill (middle) & Metropolitan Brewing (bottom)

Halsted Pointe project comes before Plan Commission on Aug. 26th

This week, the Chicago Plan Commission will review a zoning change request for the Halsted Pointe megadevelopment project proposed by Onni Group at 901 N. Halsted Street.

Formerly a Greyhound bus maintenance facility, the project features the construction of five towers ranging in height from 309 to 691 feet on the southern tip of Goose Island.

The towers would add 2,650 new residential units, 300 hotels rooms, a grocery, an outdoor market, and a new pedestrian bridge across the North Branch Canal connecting to 600 W. Chicago Avenue.

North Branch Works has some concerns about the project, most notably limited transportation options in the area and its close proximity to industrial companies.

Our letter to the Chicago Plan Commission highlights these and other concerns.

At the same time, we appreciate that Onni Group modified its original plan based upon input it received after doing outreach to nearby industrial companies.

Our member businesses on Goose Island and in the surrounding area have achieved great success and continue to provide high-quality jobs because they can plan for and rely upon compatible surrounding land uses.

If approved by the Plan Commission and City Council, North Branch Works will work closely with Onni Group, Alderman Walter Burnett (27th Ward), and the Chicago Department of Planning and Development to ensure the project succeeds.

We are pleased that Onni Group will be required to submit traffic studies at each plan review.

Indeed, if the plan is approved, we urge the Chicago Department of Planning and Development to do a comprehensive transportation plan for Goose Island that includes promoting alternative modes of getting around including walking, biking, and public transit.

Such a plan would ensure necessary infrastructure improvements can be identified and built that address the needs of new residents as well as existing industrial companies.

One way to follow the progress of Halsted Pointe is to tune into the virtual Chicago Plan Commission meeting on Thursday, August 26th at 9 a.m. by going here.

You can also send written comments about the project here up to twenty-four hours in advance of the meeting.

North Branch Works will continue to monitor the progress of Halsted Pointe and keep you updated.

With questions and comments, please contact Steve Simmons, Director of Business and Economic Development, at 773-929-5552 x2226 or steve@northbranchworks.org

Image credit: Onni Group

Bike the North Branch celebrates local businesses

Around thirty-five people joined us in early August for a bike tour that promoted neighborhood economic development, including visits to several of our dynamic member businesses.

The ride began with a tour of the Morton Salt redevelopment project at 1357 N Elston Avenue (pictured above) commonly known as the Salt District.

Led by developer R2 Companies, the so-called Salt District is expected to be completed in 2022 and will turn the well-known 4.25 acre site into a mixed-use office, retail, and entertainment complex.

Next, we visited the Hideout Chicago, a family-owned business, beloved bar, and live music venue located at 1354 W. Wabansia Avenue. Owner Tim Tuten (pictured below right) talked about the Hideout’s long history of supporting industrial businesses and prominent musicians who’ve come through the Hideout.

By the way, the Hideout currently offers live music and programs outdoors on its front porch. You can support the business by purchasing tickets and merchandise from its online store.

The Hideout tentatively plans to welcome people back indoors in October.

After visiting the Hideout, we traveled north along Elston Avenue passing Horween Leather Company, a tannery that produces all of the footballs used by the National Football League.

Taking Elston Avenue all the way to Rockwell Street and then turning right, we visited Guild Row (see below left), a social club that connects creative and civic minded people. Our stop included a tour of the company’s event space, full-size kitchen and member lounge.

Following Guild Row, we traveled a short distance to see Rockwell on the River, a dynamic craft foods and events space on the North Branch of the Chicago River.

Rockwell on the River (pictured below right) is home to many well-known businesses such as Metropolitan Brewing, Metropolis Coffee, Wateriders Kayaks, Chicago Electric Boat Company, and Judson and Moore Distillery.

The final stop on the bike tour was Ravinia Brewing Company’s new taproom in Logan Square located at 2601 W Diversey Avenue.

We enjoyed Ravinia Brewing’s (see below left) outdoor beer garden as well as its innovative beers and hand-made Mexican Street fare.

North Branch Works would like to thank everyone who rode with us and our partners for a successful inaugural Bike the North Branch.

They include Active Transportation Alliance, North River Commission, and the North Branch Trail Alliance of Greater Chicago.

We’d also like to thank our member businesses including R2 Companies, the Hideout, Guild Row, Rockwell on the River, and Ravinia Brewing Company.

Stay tuned for more opportunities to explore the North Branch with us.

Image credits: Jim O’Reilly

Vibrant custom furniture, cabinetry, and artwork by Geodesic Designs

Operating in Bucktown near the Elston Avenue Industrial Corridor, Geodesic Designs produces custom furniture, cabinetry, and public artwork for Chicago’s residential and commercial community. 

Owner and founder Keith Skogstrom has extensive experience in woodworking, carpentry, and design with an expertise in developing his clients’ ideas and desires into polished pieces and installations.

Some of Geodesic Designs’ high-profile projects include the build out for the new Grainger offices in the Merchandise Mart, the mural at Stanley’s Fresh Fruits and Vegetables, the façade of the Violet Hour, a cocktail bar in Wicker Park (see below right)––which he did twice––and a mural for the River Shannon on Armitage, an Irish pub in Lincoln Park.

Keith also fabricated the German and Brazilian exhibits for the Chicago Architectural Biennial in 2019.

Recently, WTTW Chicago interviewed Keith and featured Geodesic Designs in a segment on Chicago Tonight.  

Throughout the pandemic, Geodesic Designs has seen strong demand for custom furniture and artwork. The business has experienced success due its location in the Elston Avenue Industrial Corridor where it is surrounded by compatible land uses. 

Unfortunately, one threat to the company’s operations is the continued rezoning of nearby industrial property to residential and commercial uses. For example, Keith used to purchase materials locally from Elston Metal Tanks; because this company closed, he has to drive to suburban Addison to buy these essential products.

Manufacturing districts add great value to businesses by creating local supply chains and circulating local dollars through an area multiple times.

Like North Branch Works, Keith is a passionate advocate for maintaining properties zoned for manufacturing along the North Branch of the Chicago River.

North Branch Works members can support Geodesic Designs by placing orders and joining collective advocacy opportunities to protect land zoned for manufacturing and industrial uses. 

We’re honored to welcome Keith and Geodesic Designs to North Branch Works as a new member business and highly recommend working with him and his team. North Branch Works is excited to support the company’s continued growth and success. 

Please visit his website and follow Geodesic Designs on Facebook and Instagram.

With questions and to network with Keith, please contact him at 937-215-4106 or geodesicdesignsks@gmail.com.

Image credits: Geodesic Designs

 

Apply for a low-interest business loan from North Branch Works

Having access to North Branch Works’ low-interest business loan fund is a valuable benefit we provide to our members.

Our mission is to strengthen economic development in our service area by helping businesses get started, grow, and expand so they can provide high-quality jobs to Chicagoans.

Toward that end, we have a microloan fund that can make loans of up to $25,000 to startup companies and up to $50,000 to existing businesses.

Our interest rates range from 2-8% and the term ranges from 6-36 months with a small 2% closing cost. In some cases such as when a business has received a Small Business Improvement Fund (SBIF) award, we can make loans above these limits.

Because SBIF projects must be financed by a business before it can submit for reimbursement from the City of Chicago, our loan fund is a great way to avoid diverting capital or taking out a loan from another lender at a higher interest rate.

Loans from North Branch Works can be used for business purposes such as purchasing equipment and inventory, customizing and repairing your physical space, and working capital.

The primary goal of our loan fund is to help businesses grow and expand while incurring the lowest possible costs. For example, let’s say a business in our service area needs to make $17,000 worth of improvements to a physical space before it can move into our area and open.

The business could apply to our loan fund; for the sake of this example, let’s assume our loan fund committee reviews and approves the loan at 2%. We can issue the check immediately. At this rate, it would cost the company $340 to borrow $17,000 and the 2% APR would be amortized over the term of the loan.

And if your business needs a loan that is larger than what we can offer, we’d love to connect you to other lenders in our network like Allies for Community Business and LISC Chicago.

Coming out of the pandemic, North Branch Works would like to see our resources deployed in our service area and positioning our members for present and future success.

Currently, we have a goal of making two low-interest loans by the end of 2021. For more information, please see our business loan fund one-pager.

With questions and to express interest in applying to our business loan fund, please contact Steve Simmons at 773-929-5552 x2226 or steve@northbranchworks.org.

SR Solutions Inc. joins North Branch Works

A family-owned construction business, SR Solutions Inc. helps commercial and residential clients improve their quality of life by completing projects using high-quality sustainable materials.

Located in North Center, the company offers a wide range of full interior remodeling services including customizing offices, small restaurant spaces, kitchens, bathrooms, and basements.

For over twenty-two years, the owner, Stoyan Rizov (pictured above with NBW staff Steve Simmons), has completed incredible remodeling projects using reclaimed materials across the Chicago region from Northbrook to the South Loop.

His company grew out of his passion for the building trades at an early age. Because he grew up in an artistic family, it was natural for the company to combine high-quality craftsmanship with innovative design services.

As someone who loves the City of Chicago, Stoyan prides himself on providing customers with honest advice and helping them make the best choices according to their needs. He knows his customers are counting on him to pay close attention to details and complete the project on budget.

Indeed, the company has never received a complaint from a client in its fourteen-year history.

SR Solutions can repair masonry, remove pesticides and mold, fix leaky faucets, install doors, and fix or replace HVAC building systems. There’s really no project that is too big or small for the company.

Hiring SR Solutions for your project is a great way to support a local family-owned business and jobs along the North Branch. In order to complete larger projects, the company partners with window crews, demolition teams, designers, and a kitchen cabinet company.

In a typical year, SR Solutions finishes between twenty to twenty-five projects because the business prioritizes carrying out high-quality work over doing a large volume of projects. And usually that focus results in the company completing about two projects per month.

Currently, SR Solutions is hiring skilled remodelers and general laborers. If you or someone in your network would like to find out more information and apply, please call 773-799-6560.

North Branch Works is thrilled to welcome SR Solutions as a new member business.  If you’ve been thinking about and/or putting off a repair project, we highly recommend making an appointment with SR Solutions Inc.

We would also like to recognize Marina Rizova, Designer and Sustainability Director, for her leadership and service on our Board of Directors.

Stoyan Rizov would like to network with his fellow North Branch Works members. With questions and to reach out to him, please call 773-799-6560.

Image credits: SR Solutions Inc.