Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Banking on People: Local Soloists Shine

(The following is from the Sept. 29th issue of The Pipeline, reposted here due to the fact that the emails expire every four weeks and I am referencing this story in today's issue) 

If the 2016 Olympic games portend a new gilded age (and we'll find out this Friday), it'll be talented folks who work mainly alone, and with focus, who will figure out a way to breathe new life into our city's homes, violins, shoes, bodies, and dresses when the party's over. In fact, they're doing it now, and, The Pipeline is pleased to "back" the following entrepreneurs in this week's issue!

Dina Petrakis of Renovation Coaching  doesn't work with any new construction clients, though she admitted she's not sure why. What's obvious is Dina can only work with things she loves, and what she loves are vintage buildings like the Wicker Park Landmark District single family home built in 1887 that she converted from a two flat in just under a year--she kept its original trim and moldings and added modern touches like radiant heat. The project I'm referring to is Dina's home, and it was both a smart move (she took advantage of the city's eight-year property tax freeze for historic homes) and a long time coming after many years of working for others, which ultimately led to her own business in 1994. Initially focused on kitchen and bath work, in recent years Dina has expanded to include more challenging projects like converting one client's dark and dingy basement from a place no proper guest would dwell, except maybe a troll, into their most treasured spot.

It is Dina's expertise, enthusiasm, eye for style, and the fact she's got "a stair guy," a plumber, and probably a bunch of other professionals on speed dial that makes her a trusted go-to "coach" when HDTV influenced ambitious projects go awry, and require someone willing to take a gargantuan task like renovating a home, and break it down into manageable pieces by overseeing each component on an as needed basis, which sounds easier in theory than practice, and is exactly why Dina has a full client load, and, if my pop in this past Thursday was any indication, an ever ringing sink basinphone strapped to her head. In many ways, working as a renovation coach is an interesting way to apply her formal training from Northern Illinois, which was in Family Social Services. "I'm working to satisfy both parties, so it takes compromise, and it's a lot like counseling," she noted. Though I initially snapped a photo of Dina in her kitchen, ultimately she hid those few dirty dishes in the background for nothing as I ended up liking the photo of her alongside an unfinished piece of embroidery that she purchased many years ago for twenty-five cents at a Salvation Army in her hometown of Freeport much better. The piece, which hangs at the top of her stairs, seems a metaphor for the renovation process and her life's work--seeing beauty in the unfinished. 
About 10 months ago Paul Wargaski moved his luthier business, Paul Wargaski Violins, back to the hood. After a stint working downtown, Paul reports that the lower parking costs here are nice, as is his convenient location at 1900 W. North just a few blocks off the expressway. "Nobody wants to run in and drop off or pick up an instrument, and pay $20," he noted on the recent afternoon when I popped by his third floor violinsstudio. Within seconds of him saying that, almost as if on cue, a local musician buzzed Paul's bell to pick up a newly restrung bow. Though repairs are part of his daily drill, Paul also crafts violins, violas, cellos, and double bases, both for the professional musician and serious students. Pictured here is Paul showing me a double bass which he plays after I asked him if he plays violin, which he doesn't, though his wife is a violinist and instructor in the northern suburbs.

Dr. Otylia Hoberland, DC, set up Conservative Chicago Care practice about two months ago at 1654 W. North (in the spot where Gabriella Shoes used to be) after working in the field for three years. With her mission implicit in the name, Otylia's goal is to explore a variety of natural, noninvasive, conservative  treatments for alleviating pain in an effort to  cut surgeries out of the equation, no pun intended, though in some cases Otylia notes that surgery is necessary. Fluent in Spanish, Polish, and English, Otylia wears at least as many hats as languages she speaks by acting as receptionist, chiropractician, and office housekeeper. Now in the height of "marathon season," Otylia is currently working with a variety of runners at different skill levels with their with neck, leg, and back pain. An unusually large number of local women all seem to be pregnant at the same time and experiencing lower back pain, and, Oylia has a remedy for those patients too. Pictured is Otylia holding onto a Thera-Band. While I could have used a more professional shot of Otylia taken from her web site, or even used photographer Jennifer Bisbing's portrait of her, which will be featured in the upcoming benefit at Chrome Gallery, The Pipeline likes to snap people in action, and when possible at the time of interview. It's just more fun that way, so thanks Otylia for introducing me to the Thera-Band, and for bearing with goofy photo requests! Oh, there's a 45% off coupon for new patients that I did not do a good job of weaving into this blurb...

 "People seem to be treating their shoes better, trying to make them last longer than they used to," noted Elijah of Your Shoe Repair at 2240 W. North. This observation from the front lines of the economy is perhaps bad for stores selling new shoes, but it's job security for Elijah's shop, which is seeing a surge in steady business in recent months. Elijah opened his store about two years ago, and he's often seen playing chess, but he cautioned me that I should let potential challengers know that if they want to play chess, they should bring along a pair of shoes, too, or else he'll really feel like he's not working. There was a bit of awkwardness as I drew a complete blank on Elijah's name during a recent pop in, and after many attempts at names blurted out, none of which were the correct one, I turned the tables, and retorted, "Wait a second, I bet you don't remember my name!" He then responded with my name, and even pronounced it correctly, which came out of left field as most people either forget it or mispronounce it. He dug more salt into the wound by mentioning how could I forget the name of someone that I once lent a book to? He asked me if I wanted the book, The Psychology of Selling, back, and I said no, though maybe I should reread it as there's probably a rule in it about the importance of never forgetting anyone's name. As an apology I threw his photo, snapped last week, at the top of today's newsletter, and I am also sharing a photo of Elijah from August of 2007 when I had unsuccessfully tried to sell him advertising space in a newspaper.

I didn't get a chance to interview Liz Meyer of Silver Moon Vintage at 1721 W. North. Instead, I watched her work with a client during a fitting. Though the custom made, royal blue vintage inspired dress was stunning, the wedding has yet to occur, thus the bride, a local, and her gown, will not make an appearance here until at least after her Halloween wedding. About 50% of Silver Moon's clientele are brides, mother-of-the-brides, members of bridal parties, and people looking for unique vintage fashions to wear to retro weddings, which are all the rage these days. The other half of Liz's shop, which recently relocated from a block or so away, offers impeccably maintained vintage clothing. Fun fact: In high school Liz worked the makeup counter at Fantasy Costumes in Portage Park. 

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