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Chicago French Press
Photograph: Andrew Jamar Photography

10 women-owned businesses to support in Chicago right now

Check out local women-owned coffeehouses, breweries, sex shops, bike stores and boutiques throughout the city.

Written by
Samantha Nelson
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Women’s History Month provides an opportunity to look at the exceptional efforts that have been made to earn social, political and financial equality for women, while also acknowledging the ongoing efforts to push the movement forward and make sure past gains aren’t erased. History isn’t just made by sufragettes and feminist authors—innovators in every industry help to provide jobs and spaces for women to shine.

You can help by supporting Chicago’s women-owned businesses, including a feminist sex store, one of Chicago's best breweries and a coffee shop focused on sweet brews. These 10 entrepreneurs and trailblazers showcase the diversity and versatility of women throughout Chicago—and many of them are giving back to their communities in an effort to help lift up others.

10 women-owned businesses to support in Chicago right now

  • Bars
  • Breweries
  • Irving Park

Michelle Foik and Katy Pizza restored and refurbished a Masonic temple in Old Irving Park in 2018, converting it to a pub where they make their own beer and blend cider made with Michigan apples. The duo named their business for the Greek goddess of chaos and have managed to find creative ways to adapt to the disruption caused by the pandemic—including expanding their patio and installing heaters, while also growing their to-go business and kicking off cider canning and distribution. In March, Eris Brewery and Ciderhouse host a socially distanced St. Patrick’s Day celebration featuring a three-course Irish meal with beer and cider pairings, plus a performance by the Trinity Irish Dancers.

Kris Christian worked as a Wall Street financial analyst and ran a marketing agency before founding Chicago French Press in 2017. Her collection of more than 15 blends of locally roasted coffees includes flavors like maple pecan and chocolate blueberry, and are available to purchase online or at her recently-opened shop at the Roosevelt Collection. Coffee subscriptions are available if you get a taste for the various roasts and don’t want to run out—and 5% of the proceeds from each bag sold benefit Chicago nonprofits.

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  • Shopping
  • Sex shops
  • Uptown
  • price 2 of 4

Searah Deysach dropped out of grad school to found Chicago’s first woman-owned sex shop in 2001, providing a welcoming environment for women and people of all genders who might not feel comfortable at a typical adult store. The knowledgeable staff at the Andersonvile shop can provide advice on a wide selection of vibrators, lubricants, toys and other gear that helps customers explore their sexuality and maximize their pleasure. Deysach strives to create a sex-positive haven, focusing on outreach to women and the queer community through workshops and donations to a variety of progressive causes.

  • Shopping
  • Womenswear
  • Lower West Side

Merl Kinzie started her eco-boutique in 2015 to make it easier to shop green, outfitting a Pilsen space with a workshop and metalsmith studio, where Kinzie makes jewelry from recycled materials and hosts regular DIY workshops (which have gone virtual during the pandemic). The store also stocks plants and vintage women’s clothing and accessories, plus handmade ceramics and vegan bath and body products that are made by local female artists and entrepreneurs.

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  • Shopping
  • Bookstores
  • Andersonville
  • price 1 of 4

Women & Children First opened in 1979, seeking to prioritize the voices of women and has grown to focus on all underrepresented voices by promoting BIPOC and LGBTQ+ literature. The founders sold the Andersonville store to staffers Lynn Mooney and Sarah Hollenbeck in 2014 and the pair has continued to build on the shop’s mission by currating a robust children’s section that focuses on nontraditional family structures, kids of color, girls and nonbinary kids. The store reopens on March 10 for limited browsing, though shoppers can still opt for curbside pickup. Over the past year, Women & Children First has been hosting virtual author events, and partnering with local nonprofits including Sit Stay Read, Liberation Library and Chicago Books to Women in Prison.

The quest to find a good cup of coffee led South Side native Melissa Stinson to leave her job working in wardrobe for television and film shoots and open Everybody’s Busy, which began serving drinks in Bronzeville before moving to Pilsen last July. Rather than embracing the dizzying array of options found at some cafes, Stinson keeps her offerings simple, showcasing Onyx coffee and espresso drinks made with oat milk—there aren’t any flavors offered (sorry vanilla latte fans). Loud talking is prohibited so that guests can enjoy the shop’s playlists, which also inspires mugs bearing hip-hop lyrics.

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Marylee Bussard opened Chaturanga Fitness in Hyde Park in 2010 to provide a relaxed space for people of all ages to be active and healthy. While the studio still offers private and two- to six-person Pilates classes that require equipment, Chaturanga’s yoga, mat Pilates, zumba and active aging classes have all moved online due to the pandemic. To keep people connected virtually, Bussard has set up a free online community that includes book clubs, meditation lessons, and other wellness-focused resources.

After starting a fashion and art blog in 2015, Omotola Akinbiyi became keenly aware of how unrepresented women were in the art world and set about trying to share their work and stories through Bon Femmes, a digital storefront featuring art, beauty products and home decor that is all made by women. The digital storefront adds new items monthly, ranging from prints to candles, and Akinbiyi donates a portion of her proceeds to female-run charities. Throughout March, Bon Femmes’ beneficiary is Sarah’s Circle, an Uptown nonprofit that assists unhoused women.

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Zakiyyah Muhammad closed the Hyde Park storefront housing her boutique and consignment shop in October, choosing to expand The Silver Umbrella eBay store, which she’s run since 2004. Muhammad and her staff offer curbside consignment throughout the Chicago area, buying new and gently used designer and vintage clothing, shoes, handbags and jewelry. Prices for each piece are decided on the spot, getting some extra cash in the sellers’ hands and affordable fashion in shoppers’ closets.

  • Shopping
  • Sports
  • Uptown
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Maria Barnes took over Urban Bikes from her partner in 2004 and renamed it Uptown Bikes, which is now entirely staffed and managed by women. The business strives to get the community on bikes and build lasting relationships with customers, ranging from first-time riders to professional bike couriers. While Urban Bikes sells new bikes, accessories and a small selection of used bikes, service is its bread and butter—whether its staff is fixing flats, overhauling bikes or building custom rides. Throughout the pandemic, the business has been curbside-only and appointment based.

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