Angie explores the side yard where it is hoped a patio and outdoor seating area for "Tom's Place and Pancake House" will emerge by summer.
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Angie Kolacinski shares her vision for Tom’s Place as a gathering space in Chicago’s Back of the Yards neighborhood
Tom’s Place (and Pancake House) has been a dream of ours for many years. We [Bruce and Angie] want to provide a gathering place for neighborhood residents and are hoping to be open by the end of May. Covid, along with financing challenges, slowed down our process, but we have carried on! Located here in the Back of the Yards on 47th Street near Ashland, we are amazed and grateful to have three lots in addition to the one the building sits on. Soon after closing the mortgage arrangements in 2019, we invited neighbors in to help dream possibilities for the first floor of the building and our west yard (two lots wide). Each word on the newsprint spoke of nature, relaxation, and beauty. Some young people even wanted to see cows and horses! That experience strengthened our own values in creating space for our neighbors to meet and renew themselves, both indoors and outside, and to find ways to participate in a genuine circular economy in all that means.
How might your experiences as a businesswoman and resident of Back of the Yards aid your mission to create gathering space within the community? And how do you envision Tom’s place will embrace and promote circular economy principles?
In most dwellings in the Back of the Yards, the kitchen is the central gathering space, where people – women especially - share food but also share the stories of life. Relationships deepen as we do so, and relationships are the main building block of peace. After 30+ years in the Back of the Yards, my husband/partner and I have been privileged to share the joys and sufferings of many families, often right in those very kitchens. We know that this part of the neighborhood offers few community gathering spaces, and it has long been a dream to offer one.
If a person strolled through the Back of the Yards 30+ years ago, one would have discovered a variety of stores and storefronts, owned and run by residents, meant to serve the residents. As the age of the Stockyards grew further into a distant memory, a certain depression seized much of the area, and many residents moved further southwest in search of a ‘better' life. Large corporate structures moved into the commercial zones, both big box and ‘dollar stores’ – with little relationship to the wellbeing of the community. The young adults of our community are spearheading a movement to change that back – to re-create and re-foster the interdependence that for so many years made the Back of the Yards a very special place to live and grow up, despite the poverty.
Sourcing our ingredients and materials from our local community, along with focusing on local residents (youth) for the job openings, we join in other nearby small business efforts to regain the heart of the Back of the Yards.
Angie Kolacinski is a member of Plant Chicago's 2021 Circular Economy Leaders Network, and an active member of the Peace and Education Coalition.