Healthy Salad Chain Sweetgreen Growing in Chicago Area

The line features over 30+ items that rotate all year long. Customers can choose from the 8 signature salads, 3 seasonal salads or customize and make their own. Photo by Eestroff.
The line features over 30+ items that rotate all year long. Customers can choose from the 8 signature salads, 3 seasonal salads or customize and make their own. Photo by Eestroff.

Come August 23rd, 2016, Chicagoans will be able to enjoy the good, healthy salad offerings at the healthfood and salad chain Sweetgreen.

The newest branch of this corporate-owned chain which has its roots in Washington, DC will be opening its doors on State Street in River North.

A second store is scheduled to open in the earlier part of 2017, at 1000 Randolph Street, in West Loop. Reports have it that a third location is being scouted in the Loop or another city area. The final goal is to have three Sweetgreens by next year in the greater Chicago area.

“We think it’s going to be a great market for us,” said Sweetgreen co-founder Jonathan Neman.

The company was launched in 2007 and is based in Los Angeles. It is backed by investors Danny Meyer of Shake Shack, David Chang of Momofuku and Steve Chase, founder of AOL. Sweetgreen is also located in Maryland, Virginia, New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, as well as California and Washington, DC.

The River North location is the first branch to open in the Midwest, and the 50th store to open, period. Customers can expect to pay between $7 and $12 for a hand built salad with dressing and bread. Sweetgreen prides itself on its dealing directly with local farmers and having a supply chain that provides ingredients as fresh as possible. Each day food is prepared fresh, including the dressings, and the chain changes its menu five times per year.

Robert Jordan Retiring as WGN News Anchor

WGN-TV's Bob Jordan with Luella's Southern Kitchen general manager Tyris Bell. photo by Cindy Kurman, Kurman Communications, Inc.
WGN-TV’s Bob Jordan with Luella’s Southern Kitchen general manager Tyris Bell. photo by Cindy Kurman, Kurman Communications, Inc.

Popular Chicago TV weekend news anchor Robert Jordan announced his intention to step down from his job at Tribune Broadcasting WGN-Channel 9.

In an email to his colleagues Jordan, who is 72, expressed “deep and ambiguous feelings” about the move.

“There are not sufficient words to express my profound gratitude for your wonderful friendships to those of you whom I have known for so long,” he wrote. “It has indeed been my pleasure to have known you and to have been able to call you a colleague and friend.”

Jennifer Lyons, WGN news director, said about Jordan that he, “…has dedicated his career to informing Chicago for more than four decades. His dedication is unparalleled; he is truly a legend in Chicago broadcasting.”

His last weekend news broadcast is scheduled for September 25th, but viewers can expect to see him from now and again filling in for anchors who may be away on vacation during what is left of his year-long contract.

Rumors Rising that Cake Boss Might Settle Down in Chicago

Bartolo Buddy Valastro. Photo by Jen Knoedl
Bartolo Buddy Valastro. Photo by Jen Knoedl

Buddy Valastro, reality TV celebrity baker, is considering locating a new branch of Carlo’s Bakery in Chicago. Valestro, who is from New Jersey, has been enthralling his fans with his incredible baked creations at his bakeries all over the country, and he is now ready to bring his craft to the Windy City.

The headquarters of Cake Boss, Valastro’s own bakery, is in Hoboken, New Jersey, Valestro’s home state. There are now six New Jersey locations, one in Philadelphia, another in Las Vegas, and one in New York. He also owns nine bakeries on Norwegian Cruise Lines.

The reality TV show, called Cake Boss, takes place in the various Carlo’s bakery locations.
According to Nicole Valdes, Carlo’s spokesperson, “[Valastro] goes to Chicago multiple times a year and I think Buddy can’t travel anywhere without thinking of opening a bakery.”

This summer Cake Boss was stationed in Chicago for the TLC Summer Block Party at Soldier Field in Chicago.

Chicago Corporations Score Low Marks in Public School Support

According to inquires made by a new collaborative task force called Generation All, only 8 out of 300 school principals answered in the affirmative as to whether they had a corporate partner. Furthermore, there are 400 corporate headquarters located in the Chicago area, and a total of 250,000 businesses, and only 3 percent of the city’s more than 500 public schools are getting direct support from a corporate partner.

Yes, the Chicago business community does help the district-run public schools via taxes, but the truth is, they can do more.

School principals are facing steep budget cuts. The students often come from poor families, teachers are not happy, and administrators are feeling bombarded by growing debt that can possible lead to insolvency of the system.

Chicago Public Schools, simply put, needs help, and the corporate community can offer it, and make a huge difference to the future of the city. According to the principals, investing in schools pays off in a very real way for business. Better test scores, higher rates of graduation, more internship possibilities, and better qualified future employees, are all benefits of a well-endowed CPS.

Starbucks Base-Pay Going Up

Employees work inside the Starbucks at the Taj Mahal Palace hotel in south Mumbai, India. (Erika Schultz/Seattle Times/MCT) Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
Employees work inside the Starbucks at the Taj Mahal Palace hotel in south Mumbai, India. (Erika Schultz/Seattle Times/MCT) Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Beginning in October employees at Starbucks, the giant coffee retailer, will be taking home about 5 percent more money in their paychecks. Howard Schultz, CEO of the Seattle-based company, sent a letter to workers last week explaining that the exact amounts of the raises will be determined by market as well as geographic factors.

There are about 7,600 Starbucks across the country. The company does not disclose the exact amounts of starting salaries for their employees, saying it is based on the specific market factors effecting each store individually.

Wages that companies pay for entry level jobs has been an important topic for candidates this election year. The Democratic Party policy platform will most likely include a desire to see a $15 federal minimum wage slowly implemented. Republican candidate Donald Trump has said he prefers the issue of minimum wage be left to individual states to decide.

I addition to wages, Starbucks employees have been demanding that the company give them more predictable and reliable working hours. A petition advanced by a Starbucks employee said that the company was reducing work hours to save on labor costs. The petition said that it is almost impossible to work more than a 25-hour work week, and that the cuts in labor was having a bad effect on worker morale and customer service.

Schultz, who has been in touch with Jaime Prater, the employee who started the petition, said that Starbucks is ready to work with their employees to give them the hours that they need. He added that the company was committed to helping its employees find the right schedule which will insure that they are entitled to worker’s benefits.

O’Hare Expanding with New Gates

United Airlines corridor, Chicago O'Hare Airport. Photo by InSapphoWeTrust from Los Angeles, California, USA
United Airlines corridor, Chicago O’Hare Airport. Photo by InSapphoWeTrust from Los Angeles, California, USA

Nine new gates may be just the beginning of a major expansion at O’Hare International Airport, already one of the busiest airports in the world.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that he has reached an agreement with several major airlines to build as many as nine new gates, while they continue to negotiate on the possibility of an even larger expansion which could make O’Hare a more convenient airport for passengers boarding and debarking from planes.

Explaining what the expansion would mean for Chicago Emanuel said: “New York, London, Berlin, Beijing — watch out, Chicago’s coming for you.”

The airport has been expanding little by little under the ongoing long-term plans for growth, but that growth has been realized mostly in new runways. A deal on additional gates has been alluding airport planners. Most of the push-back has come from the dominant airlines of United and American, which are worried about allowing for too much competition.

It is unavoidable to add gates, however, if the airport wants to improve its on-time performance. The new runways being built will not help the airport significantly if there are not places for landed planes to park and let their passengers disembark. The result of this lack of gates is that O’Hare has some of the longest flight delays among US airports. With passengers avoiding Chicago, the city’s economy is adversely affected as well.

The plan Emanuel announced involves as many as nine gates to the 25 which already exist at Terminal 5. It is expected to cost $300 million, to be paid for with existing passenger facility charges, the extra fee that is added to the cost of a plane ticket.

Real Estate in Lake Forest is a Hard Sell

Lake Forest City Hall, Lake Forest, IL. Photo by Teemu08
Lake Forest City Hall, Lake Forest, IL. Photo by Teemu08

The iconic North Shore neighborhood of Lake Forest has one of slowest real estate markets in its peer group. Homes that were sold in May were on the market an average of 186 days. In the middle of June there were 97 homes which had been listed at least 6 months ago. Other areas with similar homes had less than 20 for sale that long. Hinsdale had 46 homes and Highland Park 57.

“It’s been slow up here,” says Marina Carney, an agent for Griffith, Grant & Lackie. “We’re all feeling it,” says Berkshire Hathaway Home-Services Koenig-Rubloff Realty Group agent Sue Beanblossom, in Lake Forest. “It takes a long time to get something sold in Lake Forest today.”

According to Midwest Real Estate Data, at the end of May Lake Forest had enough homes to supply sales for 14.5 months. In just about all its peers, such as Hinsdale and other North Shore suburbs, the inventory is quite smaller. For those other areas it was between three and 10.5 months at the end of May. A rule of thumb is that a healthy, balanced market has about six months of inventory.

Winnetka is a similar suburb to Lake Forest, but considerably smaller. Nevertheless, seven homes priced at over $5 million has sold in Winnetka in the past three years. In Lake Forest only four have sold.

Real estate agents say that the problem is three-fold: the age of the homes in Lake Forest; the extremely high asking prices; a long commute to downtown Chicago, combined with low-motivated sellers.


Southwest Third Midwest Airline to Launch New Uniform Look

Photo by MamaGeek at English Wikipedia
Photo by MamaGeek at English Wikipedia

Come next spring Southwest Airlines stewardesses will be dolled up in new, Cintas-designed uniforms nothing like their skimpy, eye-catching look of the 1970s. The new uniforms were co-designed with employees of Southwest as well.

Cintas is also creating a uniform facelift for Chicago-based United Airlines, due for exposure next year. Coming in September travelers on American will also be greeted with freshly designed uniforms.

The new uniforms for all three airlines seem to be part of an overall improvement in customer service in the wake of record profits resulting from historic low fuel prices. They are also revamping, along with their uniforms, their images and brands.

Now that Southwest Air is turning 45 it appears they are trying for a more “mature” image. There company has certainly expanded, with 90 destinations, including some international markets.

The new look for the female flight attendants on Southwest features bold blue and warm red: the colors seen on the new Southwest uniform that was launched in the fall of 2014. On top of the uniforms will be Bold red fitted jackets, and an homage to the crazy short shorts and miniskirts of the 70s with a well-placed zipper running up the dress from the hem. The men FAs will get a new look, too, consisting of dark blue pants and jackets over lighter blue shirts. Their neckties will be a bold and brave red.

Chicago Losing Lucas Museum

George Lucas. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.
George Lucas. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

George Lucas announced he was taking his Lucas Museum of Narrative Art project out of the Windy City due to objections to the project made by a city watchdog group.

Filmmaker Lucas, of Star Wars fame, could take his project back to California. The museum was first proposed for construction in San Francisco, but that city refused to give Lucas a site which overlooked the San Francisco Bay so Lucas brought the project to Chicago where he received support from Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Friends of the Parks, a green area protection organization, filed a lawsuit to prevent the museum’s construction on valuable lakefront property next to Soldier Field. Mayor Rahm is a vehement supporter of the museum despite coming under criticism for the past several months for that support. Opponents of the museum say Emanuel has been spending too much effort on getting the Lucas Museum built when the city has much more important problems which should be dealt with. The Mayor answered his critics by saying the city is missing a great opportunity:

“This missed opportunity has not only cost us what will be a world-class cultural institution, it has cost thousands of jobs for Chicago workers, millions of dollars in economic investment and countless educational opportunities for Chicago’s youth.”

Lucas also expressed frustration with the city:

“No one benefits from continuing their seemingly unending litigation to protect a parking lot. The actions initiated by Friends of Parks and their recent attempts to extract concessions from the city have effectively overridden approvals received from numerous democratically-elected bodies of government.”

Home Prices Rising in Chicago and the Nation

Photo courtesy of  Mark Moz
Photo courtesy of
Mark Moz

Several parameters have conspired to raise the price of homes in the Chicago area: mortgage rates below 4 percent; home loans are easier to come by; strongest job market since the recession; more people wanting to buy homes. And now, as the housing market enters the traditional season for home purchases, a shortage of homes has added more fuel to the fire of rising home prices.

The real estate website Trulia conducted a study showing that people across the country are finding it difficult to find a home they want to buy at a price they can afford. In Chicago and the surrounding area, and in Illinois in general, sales continue to rise, according to the Illinois Association of Realtors.

“Illinois continues to see sustained growth in sales and median prices, indicating the market is poised for a strong rollout for the spring selling season,” said Mike Drews, president of the state Realtors group, in a statement.

Home sales in the nine-county Chicago area rose by 6.1 percent in February, compared to last year, and prices rose by 7.1 percent. The median price for homes and condos sold was $187,500, compared with $175,000 in February 2015.

In Chicago itself things were even worse: The median price for homes and condos was up by 12.3 percent, to $238,000 from $212,000 in February 2015.

“There was a lot of movement in 2013 and 2014, but 2015 slowed,” said Carla Walker, an agent with Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Koenig Rubloff.