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Photograph: Courtesy Boxville

24 Black-owned businesses that are shaping Chicago right now

Show some love to these amazing Black-owned businesses that are making a difference in Chicago.

Written by
Aaron Oliver
Courtney Sprewer
Isaiah Reynolds

Black History Month is always an excellent reason to celebrate and amplify Black-owned businesses. But our support shouldn't be limited solely to the month of February. That’s why we’re shining a light on these 24 Black-owned businesses that are shaping Chicago right now. This list features excellent local Black-owned eateries—some of which are among the best restaurants in Chicagomarketplaces, bookstores and platforms, as well as products, entrepreneurs and activists from a variety of sectors. And while they're a great starting point, we encourage you to get familiar with the Black-owned businesses in your own backyard and form relationships that make it easier to cultivate a shared community all year round. In the words of Chicago poet Gwendolyn Brooks: "We are each other’s harvest, we are each other’s business, we are each other’s magnitude and bond."

Black-owned businesses that are shaping Chicago

Black Ensemble Theater
Photograph: Courtesy of Black Ensemble Theater

1. Black Ensemble Theater

Founded in 1976 by actress, producer and playwright Jackie Taylor, Black Ensemble Theater has grown from a small community arts organization to a world-renowned fine arts institution and an absolute staple in Chicago’s Black arts and culture community. The mission of the Black Ensemble Theater is to combat racism and its damaging effects on society through the theater arts. It's working proof that when you help foster dialogue, you help foster understanding and acceptance.

Follow: @blackensemble

  • Shopping
  • Grand Boulevard

Boxville was founded in 2014 with the mission to disrupt the typical startup model, which is rife with obstacles for inner-city entrepreneurs. What started as a single shipping container offering bike repairs has grown into a bonafide commerce district in the heart of Bronzeville with room for 20 small businesses to operate. Boxville shows no signs of slowing down—the shipping container marketplace now boasts a book store (Da Book Joint), a wellness-inspired perfumery (Stoviink), a custom apparel printing business (The Work Spot) and an independent bakery (Buy The Pound), among many other small, BIPOC-owned businesses that operate year-round.

Follow: @boxvillechi

  • Restaurants
  • Soul and southern American
  • Hyde Park
  • price 2 of 4

Usually when you think of a popular Chicago restaurant group, your mind goes to some of the city's larger, more well-known conglomerates. But over on the South Side, Chef Erick Williams has been bubbling up, creating a restaurant empire of his own that focuses on elevating and showcasing Black flavors through heritage ingredients, bold flavors and impeccable culinary experiences. You can get a taste of Chef Williams' culinary skills at any of his four ventures. Try Virtue, his James Beard Award-winning upscale Southern eatery in Hyde Park when you want to treat yourself to a night out. If you would rather opt for a more casual experience, you can still get all the flavors and flair (minus the white tablecloths) at Daisy’s Po-Boy and Tavern. Or stay home and experience it from your couch with delivery or carryout from Mustard Seed Kitchen or Top This Mac & Cheese. No matter how you spin it, you’re in for a great meal.

Follow: Virtue, Daisy’s, Mustard Seed Kitchen and Top This Mac & Cheese

Like so many in the food service industry, Q. Ibraheem didn’t let the pandemic stop her from doing what she loves. The fine dining chef who typically charges upwards of $250 per person for her over-the-top underground dinner parties pivoted during COVID-19 to provide more than 60,000 free meals to families who have been financially impacted by the pandemic. While Chef Q has a continued focus on activism and advocacy, now that we’re getting back to group dining you can once again sign up to experience a themed dinner party from the 2021 CNN Hero and 2021 Red Cross Disaster Hero award recipient. 

Follow and get pop-up dinner tickets: @teertsemasesottehg

Cherry Mountain Arts
Photograph: Jeffrey Obinna Onyeka

5. Cherry Mountain Arts

West Side native Terrell Jones has found consistent success exerting his influence (inspired by his Chicago roots) on the streetwear world through his clothing brand Paradise Design House and popular clothing and accessories boutique Fat Tiger Workshop (owned in partnership with Joe Freshgoods & Vic Lloyd). More recently, Jones has turned his eye to fine arts by converting his brick and mortar gallery, Cherry Mountain Arts, into a non-profit arts center. In between exhibitions, you’ll find the space filled with people not just viewing art, but learning about and creating it. Cherry Mountain Arts stands out thanks to its focus on educational programming, open studio days and community outreach for aspiring local artists.

Follow: @cherrymountainarts

Now in its ninth year, Chicago Black Restaurant Week is a delicious celebration of Black-owned food and beverage businesses in and around Chicago. Founded in 2015 by Lauran Smith, the mission of CBRW is to increase the visibility of Black-owned businesses that haven’t always gotten time in the spotlight. For two weeks (Feb 11-25), over 30 Black-owned restaurants participate in showcasing their top meals. Smith’s mission doesn’t stop once the event is over, you can visit her page year round to find more information on Black-owned eateries all over the Chicagoland area.

Follow: @chiblackrestaurantweek

Chicago Mahogany Tours
Photograph: Manuel Martinez

7. Chicago Mahogany Tours

You may know him from his popular Tik Tok videos, where he fills the world in on little-known Chicago history facts and makes the case for why this is the best city on earth. But “Chicago Urban Historian” Shermann "Dilla" Thomas, a.k.a. @6Figga_Dilla, is much more than just the latest viral sensation. Since gaining internet notoriety, Thomas has parlayed the online attention into IRL history tours all around Chicago, available through his newly formed Chicago Mahogany Tours. Ticket holders can catch a ride on the “Dilla Bus'' and cruise through some of Chicago’s oldest, most interesting neighborhoods. Soaking up the scenes, and hearing about local landmarks, tradition and historical facts all narrated "The Chicago Way” by the city’s favorite Urban Historian. 

Follow: @chicagomahogany

It’s no secret that there’s a stigma around mental health and therapy in the Black community. No one knows this better than musician Christopher LeMark, who founded Coffee, Hip Hop & Mental Health after personally grappling with depression, PTSD and social anxiety. By working with licensed therapists to create safe, coffeehouse-style spaces, LeMark has helped communities normalize therapy and have honest conversations around mental health. The organization has expanded its operations with Coffee, Hip Hop & Mental Health University, a free therapy program that aims to make cost-prohibitive mental health resources more easily accessible for the Black communities of Chicago. CHHMH also runs a concept shop in Lakeview that sells coffee and merch, with proceeds benefiting nonprofits like The People’s Food Drive.

Follow: @coffeehiphopandmentalhealth


Back in 2018, Liz Abunaw founded Forty Acres Fresh Market with the goal to provide high-quality produce to Chicago’s West Side food deserts. The organization tackles food insecurity by providing pop-up markets and daily delivery in underserved communities. Visitors can shop farm-fresh fruits and vegetables on-site or sign up for a subscription box for as little as $10 a month. Abunaw is now turning her attention to setting down roots, with a brick-and-mortar retail space to come in the Austin neighborhood.

Follow: @fortyacresfreshmarket

Hugs No Slugs
Photograph: Courtesy of Hugs No Slugs

10. Hugs No Slugs

In addition to Black-owned businesses, it’s important to remember to support our home grown activists. We can’t think of a more worthy candidate than Dr. Aleta Clark, a.k.a. "Englewood Barbie," and her Hugs No Slugs campaign. Since 2015, Dr. Clark has been using her platform to aid Chicago's housing insecure communities through food and cash donations, events, mentorship and most importantly, allyship. The overall goal? To help get our houseless friends some permanent shelter and address the systemic issues that lead to homelessness in the first place. After being named Chicagoan of the Year in 2020 for raising and distributing tens of thousands of dollars in direct relief to the streets, Dr. Clark's activism didn't stop when the pandemic did. She is currently raising funds to open a permanent shelter for her friends, and has committed to sleeping under the viaduct in a tent of her own until the goal has been met.

Follow: @englewoodbarbie and donate to Hugs No Slugs

ILA Creative Studio
Photograph: Courtesy of ILA Creative Studio

11. ILA Creative Studio

Located right in the heart of Bronzeville, ILA Creative Studio is a collaborative platform meant to educate, celebrate and elevate Black artists. Founder and South Side native Rachel Gadson has made it her mission to remind aspiring Chicago artists that they don’t have to leave home to gain success and notoriety. With ILA, a younger generation of artists can find educational experiences and programming that feature hard-earned wisdom from Chicago-made and Chicago-paid professionals. While the industry may tell talents to head for the coasts, ILA wants them to know they can put down roots here and still grow to have sustainable careers in the arts.

Follow: @ilacreativestudio

Pies with a purpose? Yes, please. Founder Maya-Camille Broussard launched Justice of the Pies to honor her late father, criminal defense attorney Stephen J. Broussard, and celebrate his love of baking. She also gives new life to her dad’s belief that everyone deserves a second chance at reforming their lives. In continuing this mission, Justice of the Pies partners with the Cabrini Green Legal Aid (CGLA), an organization dedicated to providing aid and supporting low-income individuals adversely affected by the criminal justice system. It makes buying a slice of caramel apple crumble or strawberry basil key lime taste even sweeter. Justice of the Pies opened a brick-and-mortar bakery in Avalon Park in 2023.

Follow: @justiceofthepies

  • Restaurants
  • Coffee shops
  • Beverly

Head over to Beverly to check out Afro-Joe’s for a great cup of coffee and plenty of community events. Every month, Afro-Joe’s hosts everything from book giveaways, live performances and education appreciation days. The café is rooted in four major principles: maternal health, supporting living artists, children’s literacy and building community. Through its many events and external partnerships, Afro-Joe’s expands its warm hospitality beyond coffeehouse itself and into the lives of its community members.

Follow: @afrojoes

Michael Lavelle Wines
Photograph: Melody Bilbo

14. Michael Lavelle Wines

Michael Lavelle Wines is the dream project of Chicago native Terrence "Lavelle" Low, along with partners Aaron "Michael" Coad, Brandon L. Crump and Sommelier Devin M. Kennedy. The group noticed a void in fresh, culturally relevant wine craftsmanship and decided to disrupt the space. And we’re so glad they did. Michael Lavelle offers well crafted, easy drinking vintages marketed towards the often overlooked (in the wine world, at least) Black millennial audience. Since launching in June 2020, they’ve done some impressive expansion—well earned from honing in on their local homegrown audience, and putting on for the city in a space that is both notoriously white and difficult to break into.

Follow: @sipmicheallavelle


Whether they’re shoveling snow in Englewood or cleaning up debris from a tornado in Rogers Park, My Block, My Hood, My City’s mission is clear: Taking care of people, no matter what. In addition to volunteering, MBMHMC provides opportunities to underprivileged youth to explore communities and cultures outside of their own, helping young people network and expand their knowledge of the world they live in. Their core values—interconnectivity, empathy, hope and civic responsibility—help guide their mission and provide a foundation for the youth to ensure a successful future no matter what.

Follow: @myblockmyhoodmycity

Party Noire
Photograph: Lyric Newbern

16. Party Noire

Party Noire knows Black joy is transformational, and it embodies this principle with every event it throws. The collective prides itself on operating as a safe space where Black femmes, Black women and the queer, trans and enby community in Chicago can let loose and feel free without fear of judgment or persecution. It consistently stands out as a revolutionary concept in a world where the party scene can often be anxiety-inducing at best, and downright unsafe at worst. Voted Best Dance Party and Best Party Promoter by The Chicago Reader three years running, Party Noir wants to share space with you if you fall into any of the aforementioned categories and also just so happen to dance to the beat of your own house music drum! 

Follow: @partynoire

  • Things to do
  • Loop

This monumental non-profit based on the South Side strives to inspire “art, cultural development and neighborhood transformation.” Led by artist Theaster Gates 2010, the organization has implemented programs to incubate Black businesses, revived cultural institutions like the Stony Island Arts Bank and created public spaces to cultivate community at the Kenwood Gardens. The group is grounded in the idea that “Black spaces matter” and continuously reinvests in community projects that enrich their mission.

Follow: @rebuildfoundation

Refine Collective
Photograph: Rena Naltsas

18. Refine Collective

With Refine Collective, founder IB Majekodunmi recognized a gap between the growing purchasing power of people of color, women and members of the LGBTQ+ community and the advancement of businesses in those same communities. As a practical solution, Refine Collective was bornstarting off as a free-to-use directory of over 1,500 businesses and freelancers. More recently it's evolved to become a series of live events and pop-up “Makers Malls,” all of which are meant to funnel purchasing power back into the hands of those often underserved communities who need them the most.

Follow: @refinecltv

  • Shopping
  • Bookstores
  • Wicker Park

Chicago’s largest Black woman-owned bookstore is a community space dedicated to both literature and artwork from female, BIPOC and LGBTQ+ creatives. Proprietor Danielle Mullen and her team work around the clock to provide a safe space for customers to relax and release—all while addressing the ongoing challenges of low-literacy skills that are commonly seen in low-income communities of color. With the help of donations through their ongoing program #ClearTheShelves, Semicolon has raised over $175,000 to provide books and financial aid to those in need. The bookstore currently operates as a non-profit and recently closed its River West location with expectations to reopen in East Garfield Park later in 2024.

Follow: @semicolonchi

  • Dance
  • Hyde Park

Led by Chicago Magazine’s Rising Star of 2023 Kia Smith, the South Chicago Dance Theatre aims to fuse classical dance styles while preserving historic dance work. Since 2017, this Hyde Park-based dance studio has traveled internationally and uplifted historically underrepresented communities in the vast world dance community. It is a fast-growing dance institution on the South Side of Chicago and a collection of talent that's reinvesting into the arts.

Follow: @southchicagodancetheatre

  • Shopping
  • Jewelry
  • Hyde Park
  • price 1 of 4

For the past 24 years, Eric Williams has dedicated his life to curating authentic and creative spaces that bring value to the communities it serves. His vehicle? The Silver Room in Hyde Park and more recently, his upscale eatery, Bronzeville Winery. By providing unique, expertly curated dining and shopping experiences, Williams aims to empower Chicagoans to embrace a bit of the indulgent and to hone their own sense of personal expression in every aspect of their daily lives. Williams is also the mastermind behind the annual Silver Room Block Party, a beloved summer event that brought together people from far and wide in celebration of the culture and freedom of expression through vendors, food and of course, the amazing music.

Follow: @thesilverroom

The TRiiBE
Photograph: Courtesy of The TRiiBE

22. The TRiiBE

Founded in 2017 by Chicagoans Morgan Johnson and Tiffany Walden, The TRiiBE is a digital media platform that is reshaping the narrative of Black Chicago through independent journalism. Featuring stories told by and from the perspective of native Black Chicagoans, The TRiiBE provides an alternative voice in a space that is typically dominated by and often drowned out by non-Blacks speaking on Black issues. The TRiiBE’s reporting captures the truly multifaceted essence of the Black experience both in the city and beyond.

Follow: @thetriibechicago


Founded in 2017 by Laurell Sims and Erika Allen, Urban Growers Collective is a nonprofit organization dedicated to building and supporting community-based food systems that provide affordable and sustainable eats to the communities they serve and mitigate food insecurity. In addition to agricultural services, they also operate Fresh Moves Mobile Market (maybe you spotted it on Somebody Feed Phil?), which provides farm-picked produce and healthy eats to Chicago’s South and West Sides every week.

Follow: @urbangrowerscollective

  • Restaurants
  • Soul and southern American
  • River West/West Town

This Lawndale-based soul food restaurant has been reinventing Southern cuisine since 2017. Chicago native chef Bridgette Flagg brings the taste from her Mississippi Delta Southern roots to the tables of Soulé and continuously evolves classic flavors into contemporary dishes. With its sister location, Soule to Soule, opening in 2023, the brand has become a central pillar for Black-owned restaurants in Chicago and has proudly fed Chicago icons from Scottie Pippen and Lil Rel Howry.

Follow: @soulechicago


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