Negrow League featured in Best of Chicago 2020: Goods/Services

Part of the 2020 Best of Chicago edition.


Best (And Only) Black-Owned Design Center
Bourdeau Griffin Interiors and Architectural Supplies
Boasting a 46,000-square-foot luxury interior design showroom, museum-grade fine art gallery and upscale event venue, the Bourdeau Griffin Design Center is the only Black- and woman-owned design center in the country. The pandemic “has forced everyone to stay at home.” says co-owner F?rantzie Bourdeau. “People are rediscovering their homes. Not many people are going away on vacations, so they are investing in their homes making their living spaces more comfortable. Lots of basement, master bathroom and kitchen renovations.” Despite the challenges of merging the complex tapestry of architectural designs, Bourdeau sees a stronger embrace of minimalist styles. “I think designer lines will become simpler and cleaner. And the world of architecture will trend toward the new modern.” (Michael Workman)
8237 S. Princeton

Best Way to Stay Sane During the Pandemic
Brandon Breaux, Reset Sunrise Meditation Series
“Access Is Key,” “Facilitate a Safe Space,” “Seeking Genuine Representation.” Artist-designer Brandon Breaux, who has experience in painting, sculpture, web, video, print and interactive projects—and let’s not forget he’s the one behind all three covers for Chance the Rapper’s mixtapes—takes his practice one step further: Breaux created a capsule collection with the Museum of Contemporary Art—T-shirts, pencils, notebooks, even wine tumblers—with one thing in mind: to promote accessibility and representation as well as the inner peace we all need during these challenging times. To add to this mission, Breaux, vocal about mental health issues, invites you to Instagram live every morning at 6am to join his Reset Sunrise Meditation series. (Vasia Rigou)

Best Place to Buy Pandemic Reading Materials
Semicolon Bookstore and Gallery
Semicolon, the city’s only bookstore owned by a Black woman, is thriving despite the pandemic and months of protests over police brutality. Owner Danielle Mullen says the pandemic means people have more time on their hands to read, but also that Chicagoans are interested in supporting Black- and woman-owned businesses. “It’s been important to pay more attention to businesses that were maybe ignored or set aside before,” she says, adding that eighty to ninety percent of her customers over recent months have been first-time visitors. (Rebecca Holland)
515 N. Halsted

Best Way to Become a Dapper Dude
Agriculture Custom Clothiers
“We can style anyone, and we have something for everyone,” says Agriculture boutique owner and fashion designer Milton Latrell. Along with business partner Christopher Brackenridge, Latrell opened Agriculture in the heart of Bronzeville in 2005. Both were born and raised in the neighborhood to seamstress mothers and came a long way since then. Besides dressing prominent clients, including NBA players Luol Deng and DeMarre Carroll, and actor C. Malik Whitfield, they opened a second shop downtown last year. To bring out the individual style of each client, they offer custom-made suits and shirts in luxury fabrics and a slew of accessories—which now include face masks. “COVID hurt us badly,” Latrell says, “and we are selling the masks to keep our day-to-day operations going.” A GoFundMe page under “Agriculture Custom Clothiers” was established to sustain their mission. (Isa Giallorenzo)

Best Historic Shoe Store
Wesley Shoe Corral
Nestled between a post office and one of the best-kept secrets in the city—Ascione Bistro—is a shoe store that is so legendary it’s an insult to call it simply a shoe store. Wesley’s Shoe Corral has been a staple on the South Side for generations. Located in the Hyde Park Shopping Center, Wesley carries iconic brands ranging from Pikolinos boots and loafers to Hoka running shoes. Their sit-and-fit OG method of shoe investing harkens back to the day when purchasing footwear was an experience, not the click of a button. (Bob Arthur III)
1506 E. 55th

Best Way to Understand Chicago’s Segregation
Tonika Lewis Johnson and the Folded Map Project
Visually connecting residents who live at corresponding addresses on the North and South Sides of Chicago, Tonika Lewis Johnson’s Folded Map Project dives into urban segregation in Chicago. “Essentially, I wanted to reveal the inequity, a way that would be visually captivating for people to understand how Chicago’s legacy of segregation has [affected] the neighborhoods,” says the social justice artist and photographer. The project that started as a photographic series before it became a short film earlier this year is bound to change your perspective of the city’s neighborhoods, the people who inhabit them, but most importantly, shed light into the social, racial and institutional conditions that segregate our city. (Vasia Rigou)

Best Medical Facility
Premier Urgent Care and Occupational Health Center

Of all the Black-owned businesses and entrepreneurs featured in this issue, Premier Urgent Care may be the one that not only serves the greatest need but may be the most important. Premier Urgent Health Care and Occupational Health Center in Kenwood-Oakland—not Hyde Park—stands as the only medical center in Chicago owned by Black doctors, all former trauma and emergency-room physicians, who are making a purposeful and conscious effort to bring comprehensive and immediate health care to service the direct and specific needs of the members in the community which surrounds it. (Scoop Jackson)

Best Use of Telling Black History Through Clothes
Negrow League
It was the great Maya Angelou who once said, “You can’t really know where you are going until you know where you have been.” The inspiration of Donte Harmon’s Negrow League lifestyle brand begins with the path laid by the trailblazers of baseball’s Negro League. Since growth is a necessary part of evolution, the brand is meant to highlight and educate the contributions from the past, own the present, and continue laying the foundation for the future. (Chris Cason)

Best Booze-Themed Bath and Body Care
Danielle Martin, Soap Distiller
Danielle Martin wasn’t happy with the typical body product offerings at local natural foods stores in 2012. That’s when she decided to make her own. Soap Distillery, a Black- and woman-owned company, makes soaps one-hundred percent from scratch—but with a twist. Martin puts a boozy spin on it. “The idea wasn’t to smell drunk, but to make cocktail-themed soaps with deliciously layered scents,” she says. Rye Whiskey, Fig Bitters, Long Island Iced Tea or Pumpkin IPA—whatever your go-to is, there’s something for everyone. From soap bars and mineral salt soaks, to body oils and scrubs, to beard and hair care, to candles, Soap Distillery will make you smell like a bar in the best way possible. (Vasia Rigou)

Best Place to “Level” Up
Levels Barber & Beauty Salon
Pull up to Levels and you’re reminded of “the Circle” (It’s a West Side thing). Fresh-washed whips line Kedzie while storefront pimpin’ commences. The social scene outside makes the business that’s handled inside all the more important. Three heads in front of you? No problem. Walk over to Maxwell’s to grab a bite to eat and return and engage in colorful West Side dialogue before getting your fade. (Chris Cason)
749 S. Kedzie

Best Guy to Cater Your Big Event
Xavier Vance of Vance Events

Xavier Vance heads up Vance Events, and if you’re looking to have an event successfully catered, he’s the man to call during this time when a) winter is a-coming and b) we’re in the middle of a damn pandemic. Vance Events can help, and if you’ve never had to plan and stage your own wedding, family reunion or any other disaster-prone get-together, Xavier can deliver a stellar dinner that goes way beyond rubber chicken (David Hammond)

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