Going green with Circuit ridesharing

By Stephanie Racine

With Mayor Lightfoot’s new proposal on taxing solo rideshares, Circuit is a new viable option.

Circuit is a free and green rideshare company that made their debut in Chicago over the summer. New Eastside is a popular stop. The cars resemble shuttles, with each of the six passengers having their own door. The vehicles are fully electric and are hailed just like other rideshare companies, by using an app. Circuit has almost completed its pilot period in downtown Chicago and is winding down in November, but the company has no plans to leave.

“By no means do we want to leave Chicago. We’d love to be there full time,” said Circuit Co-Founder Alexander Esposito.

Circuit is looking for new ad partners for Chicago, but ideally they’d like to operate in Chicago by working with the city itself.

“We’re hoping to secure a longer-term service agreement with the City, local transit agencies or another local organization,” said Esposito.

In San Diego, there are 22 Circuit cars in operation with around 21,000 rides a month. Chicago’s ridesharing numbers are much larger than that, with the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning reporting 286,000 rideshare rides per day. 

Esposito said they want to help with downtown congestion by making Circuit easily accessible at parking garages. They also want to help promote public transportation use.

“If more people could get a ride to the train, I think more people would use public transportation,” Esposito said.

According to Co-Founder James Mirras, there was a trend of Circuit customers using the app to get to and from the Washington/Wells CTA station.

“I was visiting family in the suburbs and used Circuit to get from the Metra to an appointment I had,” said Ana Ayrempour.

Ayrempour was surprised at how smooth the process was, especially with it being a free service.

“It was a quick pickup and the driver was nice,” said Ayrempour.  

Circuit employs drivers full-time and wants to focus on having local people driving their cars. Esposito thinks this helps bring a more comfortable feel to the experience.

“I’ve seen a driver taking time to teach an older woman how to use the app,” Esposito said.

Circuit was started by Esposito and his partner, James Mirras, as a beach shuttle in the Hamptons in New York, and was originally called The Free Ride. Now, Circuit has grown in different cities—both big and small. South Florida, Texas, California, and the Jersey Shore currently have Circuit.

For more information and to download the app, visit thefreeride.com

Christkindlmarket brings German Christmas to Chicago

By Elisa Shoenberger

Entering its 24th year, the Christkindlmarket brings a bit of German Christmas to Chicago. Debuting in Pioneer Court in 1996, the market grew to three markets in 2019, expanding to locations in Daley Plaza, Wrigleyville and Milwaukee, Wisc.

The German American Chamber of Commerce (GACC) founded the market for business and cultural reasons. They wanted an opportunity to provide small businesses in Germany with a place to feature their products before deciding to invest in the U.S., explains Maren Priebe, CEO of German American Events, a subsidiary of the GACC.

But it wasn’t just about commerce. Christkindlmarkets are popular across Germany and the rest of the European Union. The tradition of Christkindlmarkets grew out of medieval markets going back to the 14th century, said Kate Bleeker, Director of the German American Events. Annual holiday markets began to evolve into social occasions where families and entire communities came together.  

The Chicago market was modeled after the Nuremberg market, reflected by the red and white huts.

The market was a bit of a risky venture given Chicago’s snowy winters, Priebe said. But the risk paid off in the first year when 300,000 people showed up to enjoy the market with 13 vendors in Pioneer Court. The following year, Mayor Richard M. Daley’s office invited them to Daley Plaza, where the market has been since.

The Christkindlmarket “has become a centerpiece of the city’s holiday celebration for locals and tourists,” Priebe said. The central location of the market, close to transportation, hotels, and the business district, and free admission have helped the market grow.

In 2014, the market expanded to Wrigleyville and in 2018 Christkindlmarket opened in Milwaukee. GACC has consulted with other fairs across the country but as far as they know they are the most traditional of the Christkindlmarkets in the US.

Bob’s Belgian Hot Chocolate and Wacky Wonderworks are two new vendors in this year’s market. Based in Downers Grove, Wacky Wonderworks sells 3D wooden puzzles, such as Tyrannosaurus Rex or Pegasus, that do not require additional tools. Bob’s Belgian Hot Chocolate will sell his hot chocolate, made from combining Belgium dark and milk chocolate, as well as other chocolate products. 

For many, collecting the Christkindlmarket cup is a long tradition. Priebe said the new Christkindlmarket cup will be unveiled Nov. 4. 

The Milwaukee and Daley Plaza markets are open from Nov. 15 to Dec . 24  and the Wrigleyville market is open Nov. 22 to Dec. 31.

PureCircle Ice Cream trucks bring late summer flavors to Chicago

By Angela Gagnon

Staff Writer

PureCircle, the leading producer of stevia sweeteners for the global food and beverage industry, is distributing its new gourmet ice cream in Lakeshore East Park. 

Food trucks will be parked near The Tides from 2-4 p.m. and by The Streeter Apartments in Streeterville from noon-2 p.m. every Saturday through October.

Based in Chicago, PureCircle is known for its natural-origin, zero-calorie sweetener made from stevia plants. The ice cream, which launched in August, features the next generation non-GMO stevia leaf sweeteners and is intended to show consumers how this sweetener tastes great and offers a healthier alternative to high calorie foods and beverages. 

“We’re looking to raise awareness about stevia and what it is as a natural plant that has zero calories and is non GMO,” said PureCircle’s Global Marketing Manager and Streeterville resident Dan Kubiak.

New Eastside resident Morgan Vawter stopped by the truck on a sunny day in September to stock up on her favorite flavors of PureCircle ice cream. 

“It is the best low sugar ice cream I’ve ever had,” she said. “And I’m keto, and it’s keto-friendly which is really special.” 

PureCircle Ice Cream comes in five flavors: vanilla, chocolate, salted caramel, coffee and Rabanaberry, a vegan fruit-flavored dessert with raspberry, banana and blueberry.

“Ice cream has been our opportunity to have people experience the best kind of stevia products that we produce,” said New Eastside resident Alina Slotnik, PureCircle’s Vice President of Global Marketing.

“Our next phase is engaging companies and encouraging them to create next generation products with stevia,” Slotnik said.

In connection with the ice cream launch, PureCircle has partnered with the Illinois chapter of Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), which funds research, advocates for government action and provides support to fight Type 1 Diabetes. 

“JDRF understands the challenges and limitations of finding really delicious, but healthy and safe products for people with diabetes,” Slotnik said. “They were excited to bring this product to their audience and help educate them about stevia and show that it’s a safe sweetener.”

JDRF will have PureCircle ice cream samples and products as well as coupons and promotional materials at its One Walk Events this fall. PureCircle will also be the official dessert sponsor of JDRF’s One Dream Gala in Chicago at the end of the year. 

For more information, visit purecircleicecream.com.

Don’t leave home without it, the best back to school buys

(Published Aug. 31, 2019)

By Stephanie Racine, Staff Writer

Fall is upon us, which means a fresh start on the schoolyear and brand new items to purchase. Be prepared for back-to-school with these useful for parents and fun for kids trends!  

Home Sweet Locker

Decorating lockers has always been a way to showcase personality while at school, but options have been upgraded since the days of magnets and magazine clips. Target has options such as magnetic succulent plants, magnetic and battery-powered “chandeliers,” and removable wallpaper. Specifically, check out UBrand at Target, which has all the previous options, plus more, like a disco ball!

Fashion is Clear

A trend for all ages, that’s also helpful for parents. A clear plastic raincoat is cheap, easy to clean, and also fashionable for a kid of any age. Currently, there’s one available at Walmart online for $10. Clear backpacks are also cool, and won’t require parents to ask if their kid forgot anything on their way out—it’s easy to see inside!

A Bento-Style Lunch

Bento Boxes are no longer just for mom or dad’s sushi lunch. The omieBox, available on Amazon, has spaces for both cold and hot foods. It comes with different inserts, depending on what’s for lunch that day, and can include cutlery. Everything in the box can be put in the dishwasher, to make daily cleanup easy. There are simpler versions, like the stainless steel LunchBots containers on Amazon.

Eraser Fun

Put a smile on their face with fun erasers in all sorts of shapes. Yoobi’s fast food eraser set, available at Urban Outfitters, includes a mini hamburger, hotdog, French fry, and sandwich all for erasing. Acbell’s erasers are in the shape of macaron cookies and brightly colored. Handy Basic’s erasers are ice cream treats. Both are available on Amazon.  

At the draw of a window blind, BCBS gets the word out

(Published July 30, 2019)

By Jesse Wright

When Blue Cross Blue Shield wants to send a message, they don’t buy a billboard or send out emails—they light up the night sky along the building’s south-facing tower in letters that stretch several stories.

Blue Cross Blue Shield recently honored nurses with a We Love Nurses display. Recently the company honored the United States with a patriotic Fourth of July message in red, white and blue and prior to that they celebrated Pride month in June. 

The lettering is familiar to New Eastsiders, but the story behind the lights may not be.

BCBS spokesperson Colleen Miller said it’s not a high-tech operation.

“It’s just our internal lights that are left on [and] the blinds are left open to show messages,” she said. “It’s very low tech. It’s literally people going and opening blinds.”

In all, it takes a team of five people to control the window coverings based on a design created in an Excel program. It’s an approach that hasn’t changed much since the tradition began 20 years ago. 

The tradition dates to November 1999 when Bears great Walter Payton died. To honor him, Blue Cross Blue Shield displayed a memorial along the south tower. Blue Cross Blue Shield employee Chris Gillott had the idea to write 34, Payton’s jersey number, along the south tower to honor the football star. From there, a tradition was born.

Miller said the company has used the wall to promote public health.

“We look at it as an asset,” she said, “to send a message to promote community health.”

Other community groups can request a message, though Miller said there are guidelines on what Blue Cross Blue Shield will promote.

“We vet the requests so they’re aligned with our messages,” Miller said. “We don’t do personal messages. It’s not for personal billboarding or that sort of thing.”

When Gillott died in 2013, the company offered “Thanks, Chris” as a farewell to the man who started the New Eastside tradition.

Although the side of the building isn’t visible to many people, Miller said the company will post pictures of the messages to social media and some of those go viral.

“Talk about low tech, high impact,” she said.

Sports messages are among the most shared. Miller said popular posts were when the Cubs and Blackhawks won championships.

“We get great feedback,” she said. “It’s really about civic pride.”

Primark fashion to open first Midwest store in Chicago

(Published July 5, 2019)

Primark to bring its “Amazing Fashion at Amazing Prices” to the Midwest for the first time

Primark, the international retailer that offers “Amazing Fashion at Amazing Prices,” in July announced it will open its first store in the Midwest in Chicago. Primark has signed a lease with The Georgetown Company for 35 N. State St., Chicago, the largest lease on State Street since 2014. 

The company has not announced an opening date yet. The location is a former GAP store. 

Primark will take over the entire 45,000-square-foot building and will trade from 36,200 square feet of retail space over three levels. Before an opening date is announced the iconic property is undergoing a complete renovation tailored to fit Primark’s specific needs, including modernization of the exterior and complete interior remodeling. 

Located at the intersection of State and Washington Streets, 35 N. State St. sits in the heart of the Loop. Home to an eclectic mix of restaurants, entertainment options, cultural institutions and world- famous landmarks, the immediate neighborhood has long been known as one of the top shopping destinations in the United States.

“Primark has been searching for a Midwest location as part of the company’s continued expansion into the United States,” said Tom Meager, Property Director for Primark. “We are fortunate to have found and secured such an impressive location in the heart of the vibrant Chicago market.”

“We recognized an amazing opportunity with the State Street corridor as one of the most sought after retail destinations in the country,” said Adam Flatto from Georgetown. “As one of the fastest growing retailers in the United States, Primark is a perfect fit for the building and will be a welcome addition to a popular list of neighboring businesses in the Loop.” 

Founded in 1969, Primark is a leading fashion retailer headquartered in Ireland. Primark offers a diverse range of the latest trends in women’s, men’s and children’s wear, homeware, accessories, beauty products and more at affordable prices.

Rentable electric scooters come to city’s west side

(Published June 30, 2019)

By Angela Gagnon

Electric scooters arrived in Chicago June 15 as part of a pilot program that will run through Oct. 15. After the trial period, the city intends to assess feedback before making decisions regarding the program. 

The scooters are provided from 10 different companies including Lyft and Uber and number in the thousands. The shared scooters are limited to a 50-square mile-test area on the west side, which omits the downtown area including the Loop and Lakefront Path because there are already many transportation options there. 

“Scooters are an environmentally friendly alternative to car travel that can provide increased transportation access for residents throughout the city,” said Isaac Reichman, Policy Analyst for the City of Chicago’s Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP). “Those wary of the plan should understand that this is a short-term, limited pilot designed to test scooters as a viable transportation option. We welcome feedback from all residents.”

Things to know about the new shared electric scooters:

  • Scooters are limited to 15 mph
  • They cannot  not be ridden on the sidewalks
  • They operate from 5 a.m.-10 p.m.
  • They must be removed from the public way by the vendors
  • The cost is typically $1 to unlock the scooters  and .15 cents per mile
  • Helmets may be provided by some vendors but are not required. Users are advised to bring their own helmets
  • Scooters will slow and shut down if riders attempt to ride outside the designated boundaries

Concerns include safety, congestion and scooters left haphazardly on the streets. 

“Users should ride scooters in the same manner as they would a bike. This means avoiding the sidewalk and sticking to the bike lanes,” Reichman said. “We will be monitoring utilization and sidewalk clutter closely to understand the impact of this mobility option.” 

“I think it’s fantastic.” said Chicago resident Mike Hayes, who recently checked out the electric scooters in the West Loop. “It’s a great way to move around the city if you aren’t going far.”

“I’ve been hearing a lot of good things and want to try it out,” added resident Jeremy Hayes. “It’s a fast ride, and you can just use the Uber app.” 

For New Eastside and downtown residents concerned about the possibility of electric scooters coming to the Lakefront, Reichman adds, “Any decision about the future of scooters in Chicago will wait until after the pilot is completed. We will be evaluating the performance of the companies and the impact of the scooters on residents and users before making any decisions on what will come next.”

Build a Bear Workshop offers a “pay your age” promotion

(Published June 12, 2019)

By Jesse Wright

Build a Bear Workshop, a popular retailer that allows customers to design their own teddy bears, is offering a limited time “pay your age” promotion.

The chain has a retail outlet at the Navy Pier and through June 16, customers can enter to win a birthday party and a new bear.

“More than 200,000 Guests around the world are expected to receive a Pay Your Age limited ticket,” the Build a Bear website says. “With their ticket, Guests will be able to visit a Build-A-Bear Workshop during one of two redemption periods in the week of June 24 through June 28 and make one furry friend per child present, limit two furry friends per ticket. Additionally, ten Guests will win the Count Your Candles Sweepstakes grand prize of a birthday party experience to use any time in the next twelve months valued up to $250.”

Customers must be Bonus Club members (it’s free to join) and anyone can sign up online at buildabear.com.

Kaliflower restaurant launches on Michigan Ave.

(Published May 29, 2019)

By Jesse Wright

Next month New Eastsiders will see a new restaurant in Kaliflower, a fast-casual spot that offers healthy options packed with flavor.

Owner Ben Arnstein said his 333 N. Michigan Ave. restaurant is a passion project for him and his fiancee. Arnstein, a former management consultant, travelled a lot with his fiancee and, by necessity, they ate out a lot. He said, it was awful.

“We’re eating out almost every meal and we’re travelling a ton and there weren’t a lot of options that were flavorful and had spices and warm options that were also healthy options,” Arnstein said.

The tired of eating salads or settling for burgers and pizza for every meal either. From that, the idea of Kaliflower was born.

The restaurant will offer bowls and salads as well as sides, like daalafel, a baked lentil dish with chickpeas, cilantro, parsley and a hint of jalapeno. It will be served with a side of cucumber and mint yogurt.

The bowls are equally flavor-packed. One of the offerings is the path to enlightenment bowl, which includes daalafel, roasted carrots, marinated lentils, cucumber and red pepper salad, marinated kale, creamy avocado yogurt, finished with chopped cilantro and lemon garlic vinaigrette dressing.

The bowls and salads are $11.50 and all of it, Arnstein said, will be fast and ready to go for area residents and professionals.

“It is fast casual, so there will be almost no seating,” he said. “It is designed to take away. We’re really focusing on quality food and a good value price point.”

Arnstein said he designed the menu himself with a chef advisor, and the selections combine flavors he and his fiancee are familiar with.

“My fiancee is first generation Indian on her mom’s side,” he said. “The spice road type flavors are something I grew up eating.”

Arnstein said Kaliflower is still under construction and he doesn’t have an opening date yet but is hoping to launch in mid-to-late June.

Kraft Heinz appoints new CEO

By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer|May 1, 2019

The Kraft Heinz Company in April announced that the company’s board of directors has appointed Miguel Patricio as Chief Executive Officer effective July 1. Patricio will succeed Bernardo Hees, who will remain CEO through June 30, to ensure a seamless transition.

“Miguel is a proven business leader with a distinguished track record of building iconic consumer brands around the globe, driving top-line revenue growth through a focus on consumer-first marketing, innovation, and people development,” said Alex Behring, chairman of Kraft Heinz’s board of directors, in a press release.

Patricio is an Anheuser-Busch InBev executive with two decades of experience there and a native of Portugal. Hees has been with the company for six years, though over the last 12 months, Kraft Heinz stock, which closed at a record low of $31.87 on March 14, has tumbled 43 percent after a failed buy of Unilever.

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