Friends of Wells plans student apprenticeships

Epic Spices, 1725 W Chicago Ave
Epic Spices, 1725 W. Chicago Ave.

East Village Association membership meeting minutes, March 3, 2014
Submitted by Meghan Quinn

Business Minute: Epic Spices, 1725 W. Chicago Ave.

Owner Steven Tobiason lives in the neighborhood and has formal culinary training. He trained in the spice industry for 14 years and can duplicate spice from taste. He acquires products from all over the world and processes them in house, giving his customers maximum freshness. Since there are so few people involved in the process, he is able to keep prices surprisingly low. Tobiason also provides spices for many high-end restaurants in the area, such as Girl & the Goat and Nico Osteria.

The store is open Tuesday through Sunday from 11am to 7pm, and Tobiason welcomes neighbors to stop in and chat. Members attending the meeting touted the exceptional quality of Steven’s products and mentioned that he also sells ready-made spice mixtures for easy dinner preparation.

Guest Speaker: Matthew Sharp, Friends of Wells

Matthew Sharp and Ashley Crosby both live in the neighborhood and recently began their Friends of Wells initiative. Wells Community Academy High School was recently demoted to performance Level 3, which is a probationary level. Friends of Wells aims to help the students strive and to keep the school open.

They want to serve as a bridge between the students and local community members & business people. Through the initiative, students could be paired with local businesses, explore business interests and their own paths, and start to see a life for themselves after high school.

Currently, Friends of Wells is using personal networks to get started and has a pilot partnership with Vicki Kim of Ruxbin. She's interviewing students who have expressed interest in the culinary arts, and will place two students in apprenticeships this summer so they can get extensive restaurant experience in both the front and back of house.

The initiative is still in the planning phases and will evolve as time goes on. Friends of Wells is looking for community members to get involved in many capacities. Sharp and Crosby are asking business owners to consider crafting an apprenticeship, web designers to help build out their website, people with knowledge of 501(c)(3) structure to help secure that status, legal advice regarding liabilities, and all community members to consider mentoring a student or volunteering at Wells High School.

If you have ideas about the program or would like to participate, Matthew and Ashley would love to brainstorm with you. Please contact them at matthewallensharp or crosby.ash

EVA annual board elections

Current President Neal McKnight presented the slate of candidates:
President – Neal McKnight
Vice President – Dan Johnson
Secretary – Catherine Garypie Treasurer – KK Goh

McKnight called for additional candidates and there were none, so a show of hands was requested for the slate. There were no objections, so the slate was elected as the 2014-15 EVA Board.

Some attendees expressed disappointment in not being able to become members as they live slightly south of Chicago Avenue, which would technically be considered part of Chicago Grand Neighbors Association. McKnight discussed the history of the borders and said EVA did not want to take members from any neighboring groups (such as CGNA, Ukrainian Village Neighborhood Association, Wicker Park Committee) but stressed that EVA welcomes all opinions from community members, whether within the borders or not.

A possible alternative would be a "buffer zone" surrounding the current EVA boundaries, within which neighbors could choose which group to be involved in, or perhaps even be a member of both groups. To move such a proposition forward, there will need to be more discussion, some paperwork and changing of the EVA bylaws.

Planning, Preservation & Development: Forbidden Root

McKnight gave some history on the liquor moratoria agreement with Ald. Proco Joe Moreno in the neighborhood, pointing out that EVA was constantly responding to requests to lift the moratoria for businesses like convenience stores, which EVA did not see as positive additions to the neighborhood. The organization signed an agreement with Moreno to uphold the moratoria for a set period to spend time working on other issues facing the neighborhood.

Under these circumstances Forbidden Root approached McKnight in December 2013. Initially, McKnight dismissed the request because of this history, but has since been in extensive discussion with Forbidden Root about creative ways to incorporate the business into the neighborhood. EVA has long been interested in creating tools that are more flexible than the moratoria through changes in legislation, to incorporate appropriate businesses into the neighborhood.

The compromise being worked on currently would be one of those tools. Currently, the law allows liquor sales as incidental to other operations, such as food in the case of a restaurant. This compromise would allow sales of Forbidden Root beer to be incidental to the production onsite. Forbidden Root is not like Revolution Brewery, which serves food, so Forbidden Root would not fall into the current incidental allowances. Forbidden Root will be a production facility and a 150-seat tasting room, with a small retail area (two coolers) selling Forbidden Root products.

Forbidden Root's current proposal seeks a Type 1 rezoning from B to C. The Type 1 narrows the focus of the rezone, allowing only for a very specific use of the building, so a tavern could not come in if Forbidden Root ever leaves the space. There will also be a detailed Plan of Operation attached to the business, dictating conditions such as hours of operation, brewing capacity, limitations on Public Place of Amusement licenses, delivery truck sizes and routes, parking, environmental and safety issues.

Forbidden Root's attorney, Rolando Acosta, along with EVA representatives, drafted language to address the incidental to production compromise. Moreno introduced the requested change to the City Council in February. The request is being reviewed by the liquor commissioner and will hopefully move forward. Forbidden Root has also filed for Type 1 rezoning, which will be introduced to the City Council at the March meeting.

USPS Mail Delivery Problems

Many in 60622 have noticed problems with lost, slow and/or stolen mail recently. Steve Niketopoulos and Catherine Garypie have been working to create a series of public forums to help connect neighbors with mail delivery employees.

The first forum will be focused solely on the United States Postal Service, and will feature speakers and employees from various departments of the USPS.

This forum is meant to help community members get perspective on what the USPS has to go through to get us the mail, and how to help them solve delivery problems. As a community, we can set goals for the USPS as well as work with them to help improve mail delivery for our ZIP code (mainly 60622, but also included nearby ZIP codes).

There will be some presentations by the USPS on how they operate. This will be an opportunity to directly submit feedback, so community members are asked to share their stories about what they've dealt with over the last few months, or years. The meeting will have limited time for questions, but the organizers will make sure everyone gets their story submitted to USPS either in person or in writing.

The best solution is to have open two-way communication with the USPS about what we can do to help them deliver the mail safely and more efficiently.

The meeting will be held at A.N. Pritzker School (2009 W. Schiller St.) at 7pm Monday, March 31. Space is limited, so please RSVP to the Facebook event page March 31st Public Meeting to address mail delivery problems: USPS.


There has been a lot of graffiti, and community members are encouraged to call 311 or report it using the Chicago Works app. Additionally, if it's gang related, let the alderman know. If you're unsure if it's gang related, you can find out more here. The next Beat 1213 meeting will take place March 20 at the Northwestern Settlement House, 1012 N. Noble St. More parking has been secured for the meetings.

Next meeting

Fifield Cos. will present the most current plans for 1822-50 W. Chicago Ave. at EVA's March 10 board meeting.

Meeting commenced at 7:10pm, adjourned at 8:35pm. Board attendance: Board members Neal McKnight, KK Goh, Meghan Quinn, Gladys Anselmo, Rob Schickel.

Tom Tomek business card
Anselmo @properties business card,
Ask Nagel business card.

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