Sunday, April 28, 2013

End of the Semester

Namaskar (greetings) everyone!

     I focused my last few weeks within the semester to documenting within the neighborhood and noting the new businesses and upcoming events that will take place in the summer on Devon Ave. I have been in contact with the West Ridge Chamber of Commerce and the events that they host throughout the week to help community residents and store owners. Recently, there have not only been ethnic stores opening, but more chain operations. I found out that there is another Starbucks that will open a couple blocks south of Devon Ave on Western.

     Even though semester is ending, I am pleased to inform that my work on Devon Ave. will not. I will continue to do archival and demographic research during the summer for Dr. Pincince. This will not only include taking pictures, but interviewing active members within the neighborhood and actually getting involved in the programs that are offered to primarily immigrant residents in the neighborhood. This research experience has truly opened my eyes to the complexities of demographics, migration and economy within a metropolis such as Chicago. Devon Ave was the perfect case study because of its rich diversity and immigrant population. It has enhanced my research skills and has made me much more assertive in how I approach individuals and tackle my tasks at hand. I am truly overjoyed to be taking part in this project and really appreciate the time you all have taken to read my blog and follow my journey within the internship.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Week Eleven: Spring Closings

Namaskar (greetings) Everyone!

     This week I focused on the stores that have closed down and the new stores that have opened in their place. There have been numerous new stores that have opened between California and Talman on Devon Ave. There has been a plethora of primarily restaurants and herbal stores that have opened up. Something interesting I found out was that many of these stores are the exact same as the one that was there prior. Simply the name and management has changed. A few years ago this area used to be home to predominantly Russian businesses, but there has been a decline in the recent years. I wonder if this is due to the fact that Russian residents are moving out of the area.

   I also ventured away from Devon Ave itself and noticed there were several American chain stores being established. For example, a new Walgreen and Chase Bank were built just south of Devon Ave on Western. Another store is estimated to be built this summer there as well. There is also a Starbucks scheduled to open near Broadway and Devon Ave. I recently spoke to a CAPS police officer and he stated that gentrification and the opening of these stores are good for the neighborhood. I beg to differ. There is a certain authenticity and feel to this neighborhood. I hope it remains. I enjoy going to family owned businesses and chatting with the owners in my native language. It creates a sense of home. I do not want this neighborhood to become identical to another. I want it to remain unique. The police officer also notified me that there have been plans made to add a series of murals near California and Devon and will be financed by the City of Chicago.


Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Week Ten: Mock Interviews Cont.

Namaskar (greetings) Everyone!

     This week I continued my mock interviews on Devon Ave with relatives and I have continued to keep an eye on the stores that have been opening and closing. I am sad to inform that Standard India has gone out of business. This was one of the first Indian restaurants to open on Devon Ave in the 1980s, but it relocated near Clark and Belmont in Chicago. This restaurant was a popular hotspot for locals and namely non-Indian customers. Unfortunately, it went out of business. This is interesting because the restaurant was in a different neighborhood and yet it faced the same doom numerous other Indian restaurants face. However, the restaurant did outlast the majority of Indian/Pakistani restaurants that have opened in the past three decades. Now all that remains is a "For Sale" sign across the storefront. Pista House restaurant on the intersection of Campbell and Devon has also closed down. This establishment was fairly new and owned by the same family that owns Ghareeb Nawaz. I thought that Pista House would have done well because of the success of Ghareeb Nawaz. Also Pista House was in the heart of the Indian/ Pakistani community while Ghareeb Nawaz is farther east. Again I must go back and modify the businesses that are located on Devon Ave. It is becoming increasingly difficult because a business seems to close down or spring up every week!
  I have continued with my mock interviews. I found interviewing one individual led me to so many more because families usually own these businesses. For example, I interviewed one store owner and realized that the rest of the employees of the store were all related to him. It is also helpful to know the store owners because they are really friendly and open to sharing their experience. Usually what happens is that one individual immigrates to the United States and then sponsors their other relatives to join them. These family members usually move in with the initial member or move in close proximity to them. If a family member starts a business, they usually do it with the help of their kin. The store owner also mentioned that it is more cost efficient to hire family than others. I am learning so much about the social dynamics of this neighborhood and why Devon Ave has become host to such an enormous Indian/Pakistani/Bangladeshi community in a mere two decades.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Week Nine: Trial and Error

Namaskar (greetings) everyone!

     Last week I had to figure out how to record the interviews and conduct mock interviews. My mom and uncle were kind enough to let me practice with them. Some of the problems I ran into was that I began the conversation in English, but I ended up using Bangla in large sections of the interview. Furthermore, my mom does not own a business on Devon Ave, so some of the questions did not apply to her. However, she did give me a perspective on why one would move to Devon Ave. When my mom first came to the United States, she settled in Oak Park, a west suburb in the Chicago-land area. She was not content with living in Oak Park because she missed seeing people walking around in the neighborhood and hearing cars zooming down the street. This area was too quite for her. She did become friends with other Indians in the neighborhood and they suggested that she visit Devon Ave on the weekends because it had a wide selection of Indian groceries that were not available in the local Jewel. This is how my parents came to know about Devon and its thriving Indian/ Pakistani community. My mom would really look forward to visiting the shops and neighborhood because it reminded her of India. This is why a couple years later, my parents decided to move into the neighborhood. This neighborhood provided all the amenities that were lacking in the suburbs and my mom was attracted to the hustle and bustle of the neighborhood. It felt alive to her.

     Another problem was actually recording. I used my phone to record. The first time I started, it did not actually record anything. So I had to re-conduct the interview with my mom. This was quite frustrating because I had to re-ask all the questions. Things went a little more smoothly when I interviewed my uncle. He is actually a business owner on Devon so it was interesting getting his feedback. For my next blog, I will attempt to upload the interview so tune in for next week!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Week Seven/ Eight: Crazy Weeks!

Namaskar (greetings) everyone!

     I have been working on several things over the past two weeks. I went through the information I collected from the archives at the Chicago History Museum. I specifically looked at several store-front pictures taken around the 1980's and compared them to the recent pictures I had taken. I noticed there were several stores such as the Indian Sari Palace and Taj Sari Palace that are still in business today. There were numerous others that cease to exist in the present times. I noticed there were several American chain stores such as Payless Shoe Source that were located on Devon Ave. I examined census data from the Chicago Local Fact Book  for West Ridge and the Rogers Park neighborhood for 1980 and it showed that there was a higher percentage of Caucasians residing in the area. Something interesting I came across was the Standard India Restaurant. This restaurant was located between Campbell and Rockwell on Devon Ave. but it relocated near the intersection of Belmont and Clark. I called the restaurant to find out a little bit more information a couple of weeks ago. The store is still owned and operated by Kamboj family and description of the origins and development of the restaurant can be found on their website.

  I also had to modify my list of business addresses between Damen and Western on Devon Ave. I had to walk down several blocks to make sure that the addresses that I recorded were still existent. There were several businesses that closed down. For example, a Pakistani bank, salon, and restaurant all near each other went out of business quite recently. Even Stella Espresso closed down over the week near Sheridan and Devon Ave. There is a Papa Johns that will soon open near the same location.

  My mentor and director of the internship, Dr. John Pincince, also compiled all of our proposed interview questions together and came up with a guideline of sorts to help us when we begin interviewing residents and store owners of Rogers Park. This week our task is to conduct mock interviews and attempt to record them. I will interview my mother because she is a resident in the neighborhood and I will interview a family friend because he owns and operates Shahjalal Grocery on Devon Ave. Below are the questions I will ask during the interviews. For my next post, I will attempt to upload the recording.

Interview Questions:

1. Where are you from? For how long have you been in the USA?  In Chicago?  On Devon?
2. [If individual emigrated to the USA, then these questions may be asked):
a. What drew you to the USA?
b. What drew you to Chicago? 
c. What drew you to work/open business on Devon Ave.?
3. What languages do you and your employees speak?
4. Do you live near the Rogers Park, West Rogers Park or West Ridge area? If so, why have you chosen this location?
5. Why did you choose to open up a business on Devon Ave. in particular?
6. How long has your establishment been open?
7. Are there stores that sell similar products as you nearby? Does this affect your competition?
8. Are your customers local residents or from towns outside of Chicago?
9. Which days are your busiest days of the week?  Why?
10. What have you learned from your experiences as a shop owner and do you have any advice for new business owners?
11. What memories do you have of Devon Ave?
12. How has Devon Avenue changed since you first arrived here?
13.  What changes would you like to see to Devon Ave?
14. What do you think of the future of Devon Ave.?
15.Do you think you will pass on the business to your children or another family member?
16. Do you think the diversity on Devon Ave. is beneficial to your business?
17.  How have you been affected by the recent construction?
18. Why did you choose Devon Ave for your shop/restaurant?
19. Have you lived anywhere else in the United States previously? How does life in this other location compare to life here?
20. What demographic does the majority of your business come from?

Monday, February 25, 2013

Week Six: Business Addresses

Namaskar (greetings) everyone!

This week all the interns had to begin documenting all businesses and their addresses from Broadway to Kedzie on Devon Avenue. This information will be needed in the future for the website that is being designed by fellow interns Bridget and Harman. This was a daunting and enormous task for simply one individual to take on alone, so the work was divided amongst us four ladies.

I had the pleasure of recording down all business names and addresses between Damen Avenue and Western Avenue on Devon. This was a tedious task, but using the street view of Google Maps made it much easier to record all this information and saved me from facing Chicago's bipolar weather and boots from facing the un-plowed, icy, or over salted streets of Devon. Unfortunately, some businesses did not have visible signs of the addresses so I had to Google the names to get the exact address. Also Google Maps does not update at the frequency that businesses on Devon tend to open and close down. Thus, I took a quick stroll through some of the blocks to make sure that the store still existed and not been replaced by a new business or "for rent" sign. I also divided up the addresses by north and side of Devon, because the website and tasks along with it have been divided as such. I wanted to make it easier on the interns working on the website. This task was highly beneficial for me because I was able to re-accustom myself with Excel spreadsheets and using Google Maps.

The next task I am going to take on is going through my own family albums to find pictures taken on Devon. I also want to try to find pamphlets or flyers of events that took place within the neighborhood that my family has attended. So stay tuned for pictures documenting my own history!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Week Five: Devon Ave. Business Owners Meeting

Namaskar (greetings) Everyone!

     This week I had the privilege to attend the "East" Devon Avenue Business Owners Meeting on Monday, February 11, 2013 with my mentor Professor Pincince. It invited Devon Ave. business owners located east of Western Ave. to meet with 50th Ward Alderman Debra Silverstein and the 24th District Police Department. The meeting was hosted by the West Ridge Chamber of Commerce. Unfortunately, Alderman Silverstein could not make it, but she had two representatives from her office attend the meeting. This type of meeting is usually held every four weeks on a Monday. It is designed to help business owners on Devon Ave. voice their opinions and concerns to the community leaders and police so that issues related to crimes specifically may be resolved. A resturanrant owner usually volunteers their venue to host the meeting. This month the meeting took place in the Kabul Express Restaurant. The meeting went well. The police officer stated that crime within the neighborhood has decreased 9% since last year and the police department is going to install more cameras in the neighborhood so that it can be more safe for residents and business owners. The police officers also stated that they would like the neighborhood to become more affluent and the only way to ensure this, would be to reduce crime. The next meeting is going to take place on March 4, 2013 and I hope to attend that one as well.

     Our group has also been assigned to document all addresses on Devon Ave from Broadway to Kedzie. This work has been divided amongst all four of us in the internship.  I began documenting every address (commercial and residential) between Damen and Western on Devon Ave on an excel spread sheet. This is a tedious and time-consuming task and I will continue working on it well into next week as well. Along with documenting the information, I would like to take pictures of several store-fronts within this stretch next week, so please stay tuned for some vibrant and colorful pictures!