A gem on Jeweler’s Row: Hamilton Jewelry makes it special by hand

By Angela Gagnon | Staff Writer

Along Wabash Avenue, between East Washington and East Monroe, sit 350 jewelers.

This two-block stretch of downtown is Jewelers Row, Chicago’s historic diamond district, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed with all the choices. Still, Kailee Swift’s Hamilton Jewelry stands out, her store a cut above the rest.

With her store nestled in the art deco Mallers Building at 5 S. Wabash St., New Eastside resident Swift has been quietly burninishing her reputation—and wowing clients—for decades by custom designing perfectly personal pieces.

Swift has been creating custom jewelry since she opened Hamilton Jewelry in 1997. Despite the Internet bringing a fundamental change in how people shop, Swift has kept with her handmade, traditional approach. It has served her well.

Swift offers a personalized, full-service experience. Due to her location on Jewelers Row, she can easily connect with goldsmiths who work nearby.

“I have more control and can oversee the projects firsthand,” she said. “Also, there is no need to ship jobs or have a messenger as retail stores do. Everything stays right here, which saves time and money.”

The hunt for the perfect piece of jewelry can seem daunting.

“Everyone’s afraid they’re going to be ripped off,” Swift said, “so I want people to trust Hamilton.”

Kevin and Allison Carnahan are longtime clients of Swift’s.

“I first used Kailee for Allison’s engagement ring,” Kevin said. “When I got there, I knew next to nothing about diamonds or bands or how diamonds were set. Kailee was able to explain the different diamond characteristics to help me design the perfect ring.”

“We love working with Kailee,” Allison added. “She is patient and she produces beautiful customized jewelry that you are excited to show off.”

Besides custom designs, Swift can also help with repairs and appraisals and help customers find a specific vintage piece.

Swift loves educating customers on just about everything jewelry-related.

“People come in so nervous,” she said, “I try to keep them at ease, provide tons of education and help them relax.”

In addition to serving her regulars, Swift is a familiar face at holiday shows, trunk shows and charity events.

“I love to give back, and [fundraising] is something that I hold close to my heart,” she said.

“We pride ourselves on quality, exceptional value and service over a lifetime,” Swift said.

Visit the store online at hamiltonjewelryinc.com

5 S. Wabash, Suite 1310

(312) 704-0404

Owner and designer, Kailee Swift, at her store Hamilton Jewelry on Jewelers Row. Photo by Angela Gagnon

The things in your home really should bring you joy

By Urban Real Estate

Winter in Chicago is the perfect opportunity to stay inside and tidy up. With the popularity of organizer-extraordinaire Marie Kondo’s Netflix hit “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo,” many are turning closets inside-out with the goal of finding happiness while decluttering.  

In real estate, decluttering ensures that a prospective buyer can “visualize” themselves in a space, so that a buyer is less focused on your life, and more focused on the home. The bonus is that living in a residence that looks and feels great is a win, all the way around.

Kondo’s six-step method is both a physical and emotional journey. The importance of loving your space isn’t just about the walls you live in – but also the momentos that share your home, as well. Michael Emery, senior partner and broker with Urban Real Estate, sees clients who struggle with what to do with belongings.

“When we are preparing a home for sale, all things will need to go at some point, so we recommend starting that packing process before we bring buyers in the door,” Emery said. “The goal behind bringing joy to your home is compounded with emotionally being prepared to remove a loved one’s belongings who has passed, clothes that simply don’t fit or you will never wear, or items from your children that simply need a new place other than your front closet,” Emeray adds.

As you declutter, think about how you want to use the items in your home. Some things you might want to keep, but it may not be necessary to keep them in your home.

“That’s what storage facilities are for. Think about what could go where, what you might keep for a second home or investment property, or what could be better used by someone else you know, and proceed confidently,” Emery added.

Contact us at Urban Real Estate for a consultation on the resources we have for organizing and staging, or for your next home. UrbanRealEstate.com or (312) 528-9200.

[Winter is a great time to declutter a home. Photo courtesy Urban Real Estate]

North Michigan Avenue Dental Group offers expert care and a friendly environment

By Elizabeth Czapski with North Michigan Avenue Dental Group


North Michigan Avenue Dental Group’s motto is simple: “We change lives by creating beautiful smiles.” The practice, run by Dr. Sanya Kirovski and Dr. Maryann Kelly, offers preventative, restorative, implant and cosmetic dental procedures in an office with large windows overlooking Michigan Avenue and the historic Water Tower.

The dental group’s core values are clinical excellence, outstanding customer service, and a pleasant patient experience. This has been the case since it was founded in the 1950s, Dr. Kirovski said. “When I took over the practice, I wanted to preserve the style of dentistry we had as well as implement new technologies and move forward,” she said. “We are highly talented and stay current with our knowledge about materials, techniques and technologies that help us diagnose and deliver the highest quality of care possible.”

The dentists at North Michigan Avenue Dental Group take a team approach to care, especially when it comes to restorative procedures. They work together with highly-skilled specialists to change the lives of patients for the better. “Restorative treatment in conjunction with orthodontics, periodontics and endodontics is a life-changing patient experience. The physical and emotional benefits of the restorative procedures dramatically improve patient’s self-confidence, which has a positive emotional impact on their lives,” Kirovski said.

When working with patients, Kirovski said, the goal is to evaluate the patient’s needs and use conservative treatments to preserve his or her own teeth as long as possible. From basic cleanings to full mouth restoration, “we want our patients to know that we are clinically excellent and provide quality materials, techniques and esthetic and functional results that will last. Also, we would like our patients to know we care for them, they trust us and know that we will help them make right decisions for long-term health,” she said.

Everyone who works in the practice ensures the office’s atmosphere is positive and friendly. “We have designed our dental space with an anxiety-free dental experience in mind.
The office is intimate, our team is friendly and the vibe is fun. We treat every one of our patients like friends and family and take time to explain treatment options and cost and to answer all questions,” Kirovski said.

“We spend a good part of our morning reviewing our entire day and discussing patients’ needs and desires,” said patient coordinator Katherine. “We strive to make patients’ visits as personable as they want.  In order to achieve that, from the moment they walk in, we are prepared to see them. I think it’s a very warm feeling to be part of our practice and makes the experience for our patients better. Not a lot of offices do that.”

Dental hygienist Kasia agreed. “My favorite part is making lasting relationships with my wonderful patients that come back for their dental visits,” she said. “It’s really exciting to them to see that you remembered, and it’s very personal—it’s not just another number, another patient. It’s a whole relationship.”

North Michigan Avenue Dental Group “Your smile is our inspiration”

845 N Michigan Ave, Suite #953W 312-337-3543
info@nmadental.com bestcosmeticdentistchicagoil.com

First dates in the digital age mean shutting down the phone

By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer

As times change so, too, does dating.

Chicago matchmaker and dating coach Stef Safra, who operates the dating company Stef and the City, said young people have more college debt than older generations. Some still live at home, and many young people work well into the evening. These factors affect dating today.  

The traditional weekday drinks or dinner for a first date has become more challenging because of cell phones—it’s hard for people to put them down and focus on the present, Safra said. “People with cell phones are still doing work. They haven’t detached themselves for a date during the week.”

She suggests people meet on the weekend for brunch when their minds are more relaxed, and she urges those about to embark on a first date to decompress for 20 minutes prior to the date.

Also, Safran pointed out, a first date dinner is a bad idea because if the date doesn’t go well, it could be a long and uncomfortable meal.

Safran also suggests treating the first date like an informal interview—don’t take it so seriously.

“It takes three dates for the person to get comfortable and think you’ll stick around,” she said. “It takes time for people to get comfortable with you and let down their guard.”

Even with the many dating apps that exist today, professional matchmaking services are still thriving because digital apps require time to navigate, and even then, matches may not pan out or, worse, the match could be a catfish scam.

“Matchmaking becomes much more necessary [now] and a lot of men actually ask for it, which is surprising because men don’t always like to ask for directions,” she said.

To find out more about Safran’s services, visit stefandthecity.com

Single this Valentine’s Day? Focus on yourself

By Elizabeth Czapski | Staff Writer

Valentine’s Day can be a bummer for single people.

While some are content flying solo, for those who are not happily alone, the holiday can provoke anxiety and loneliness as friends post photos of roses, sweets and dinner plans on social media. But it all comes down to perspective.


Relationship expert, Sara Haynes advises singles to see Valentine’s Day as an opportunity to celebrate all kinds of love, not just romantic love.

Self love is also important. “[Think] about yourself and what you love about yourself. [Use] it as the time to reflect on you, and celebrate you as a person,” Haynes said.

It’s important to treat yourself with compassion on Valentine’s Day, as well as every day, Haynes said.

”“Really lean into the hard feelings of what it’s like to be single. It’s definitely not always easy, especially if you’re at a certain stage in your life where you thought you would be somewhere else. … Say, ‘Yeah, this kind of sucks, but I am here right now and I want to focus on what is present in my life.’”

Sue De Santo, a relationship coach and licensed clinical social worker, believes loving who you are is vital. “Before we can be in [a] relationship we have to really focus on, ‘What is it that I want [and] need in my life, and what do I enjoy?’” she said.

Valentine’s Day can be a good opportunity to hone in on what your interests are. In short, do something you like.

Buy yourself flowers or make yourself a nice breakfast, De Santo said, and focus on “developing a relationship with yourself.”

“We have to give to ourselves first so that we are open to receiving that [love] from another person,” she said. “Really [allow] yourself to receive that love we say we want.”

Valentine’s Day gifts for that very special someone

By Stephanie Racine, Staff Writer

If you’re looking to go beyond the cliche of a dozen red roses or chocolate-covered strawberries this Valentine’s Day, consider these offerings.

A Red Wine … bath

Wine is often part of Valentine’s Day, but it usually comes in a glass, not a bathtub. AIRE Ancient Baths in the West Loop offers a romantic Red Wine Experience for two. With the Red Wine Experience, you receive a 30 minute private bath in an antique 17th century Venetian well, converted into a bath—of red wine.

The wine pool is “a unique and unforgettable experience that offers the opportunity to submerge yourself completely in the antioxidant properties of the Spanish Ribera del Duero red grapes,” according to AIRE Chicago’s website. The wine bath experience includes a cranio-facial massage, followed by a full body massage with grapeseed oil. Pricing for 180 minutes is $800 during the week and $900 on weekends.

For more information visit beaire.com or stop by their baths at 800 W. Superior St. They can also be reached by phone at (312) 945-7414.

Everlasting Flowers

Venus et Fleur offers real roses that last up to a year (with proper care). Roses come in a variety of colors, including gold, blue, or classic red. They also come in a variety of designs and boxes, and are meant to stay in the box for both design and longevity purposes. Price options are available from $39-$1,499 and beyond. A single rose starts at $39, a dozen is $299, and their Grandiose de Venus arrangement is $1,499.

Visit venusetfleur.com for more information.

A bespoke song

Always wanted to serenade your love, but don’t have the chops? Let Chicago-born Songfinch do it for you. Songfinch will create a song, either from scratch or from a foundation, about your love and relationship. Your tune is  delivered digitally in a week, and can include a photo slideshow if desired. There are an array of singers and styles to choose from, including rap, folk and pop. Songfinch grants you personal license usage to your song in perpetuity, meaning the song is yours (as long as you don’t make money on it) forever. For more information, visit songfinch.com.

Waiting for a heart in Streeterville

By Jesse Wright | Staff Writer

Jessica Venditto is waiting for a heart.

The 24-year-old woman was born with a heart condition known as pulmonary atresia, meaning her right ventricle didn’t develop properly. As a result, one of the most important organs in her body can’t do its job.

For Venditto, the road to a healthy life has led her to Streeterville, where she has found hope, friendship and one of the best medical teams in the world. Even though the wait for a new heart may take years, she is optimistic.

The heart condition has led to five surgeries and a pacemaker. Each surgery has been met with complications, making each operation more risky than the last. Venditto has the use of one lung after the other collapsed, and she’s developed end-stage liver cirrhosis, an occasional risk for patients who have childhood heart disease.

This isn’t the first time she has beaten the odds.

In 2010, the Long Island-based family got bad news. Debbie, Venditto’s mother, said her daughter needed a Fontan procedure, a tricky type of heart surgery. Without the surgery, her daughter would die, but Debbie said doctors in New York worried performing surgery in a patient so weak might prove fatal anyway.

“They couldn’t do it,” Debbie said.

The Venditto family began looking for a doctor who could work on their daughter. They found Dr. Cal Backer at Lurie Children’s Hospital.

“He’s the one who saved her life,” Debbie said.

Dr. Backer said the Fontan procedure is complicated, but at Lurie, the staff is used to complicated.

“We’ve done more than anyone else in the world,” Backer said of the procedure.

The 2010 surgery was a success. Things were looking up.

Until Venditto took a turn.

In 2016, Venditto developed liver cirrhosis and today, at stage four, doctors say she desperately needs a new heart to heal the liver. But again, no one in New York City would work on Venditto.

“We reached out to many hospitals,” Debbie said. “Everyone said it was too risky, she wouldn’t make it. The hospitals in New York wouldn’t do it. But Dr. Backer feels he can put a new heart in there and it will rejuvenate the liver. … We know it’s a risky procedure, but it’s our only option.”

Dr. Backer said this is a common story at Lurie Children’s Hospital, which offers one of the top pediatric heart transplant programs in the country.

“The program has been active for 30 years,” he said. “Last year we were number two in the country for pediatric heart transplants. We get some of these most complex cases that have been turned down elsewhere, and we have patients from the other side of the world in our unit right now waiting for transplants.”

Waiting for a new heart means moving to a new home, because when the heart comes in, the patient must go into surgery immediately. Debbie and her daughter left the family in Long Island and moved to Streeterville in August 2018.

In Long Island, the family had a home. But in Streeterville, the Vendittos didn’t know anyone and they didn’t know how they could afford an apartment that would accommodate mother, daughter and Debbie’s parents in addition to a mortgage back in Long Island.

They found Gail Spreen, a realtor with Jameson Sotheby’s International Realty.

“I knew relocating here would be a financial burden, but on top of it all we had to get an apartment, and that’s why God brought us Gail Spreen,” Debbie said.

Spreen heard the Vendittos’ story and was determined to help them find an apartment that was the right fit.

“When I met the Vendittos, I understood what they were needing and looking for in their housing needs. I knew it would be a unique find,” Spreen said. “They were so incredibly honest, wonderful people and Jessica’s story [was] so heart-warming, that I had to see what I could do to help them.”

Spreen was looking for a condo owner who would appreciate their situation, and she found just the couple, the Standfords.

“They were also from New York,” she said. “After everyone met and worked out the details, we got the Vendittos moved in and now part of the fabric of Streeterville.”

“A win-win for all,” Spreen said. “Besides, how could you say no to smiley Jessica and her caring mother, father and wonderful grandparents?”

With that, the Vendittos moved into the 474 North Lakeshore Building.

“It’s beautiful,” Jessica Venditto said. “I love seeing the Ferris wheel everyday.”

“We love Streeterville,” echoed Debbie. “It’s so amazing. … If my husband’s job could relocate, I would move here. Everyone is so much nicer. I don’t want to slight New York, but come on, everyone is so much nicer. It’s our home away from home all because of Gail Spreen.”

The task now is finding a heart.

Originally, Venditto was categorized as 1A, meaning she was at the top of the list for heart donations. Debbie said they might have waited only six months for a heart. But after a rule change because of her age, she was moved to the fourth category, the category for adults.

“It’s going to take years to get a heart,” Debbie said.

Dr. Backer said he hopes the Vendittos’ situation inspires people to become organ donors.

“I think organ donation is extremely important,” he said. “Organ donation takes place during very sad circumstances, but often there could be something good that comes out of it for the family who donates their loved one’s organs.”

In the meantime, the Vendittos are asking people to contribute to a GoFundMe account. Over the past two years, the family has depended on donations.

“We used all the money for medication that wasn’t covered by insurance,” Debbie said.

To contribute, visit gofundme.com/Jessicavenditto.

Jessica Venditto, bottom right, sits with her family on a beach vacation. Photo courtesy Debbie Venditto.

The Coast upgrades amenities room in latest improvements

By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer

Since summer 2017, when Morguard took over management of the Coast apartments in Lakeshore East, the management company has been improving the property one project at a time.

In January, management announced an improved amenities space: the commons area for residents at the 345 E. Upper Wacker Drive property.

“Loren Stanton was the designer, and he did a fantastic job on that,” said Laura Collins, community manager for Coast at Lakeshore East. “We made it very user friendly. There are ports everywhere for people to work on laptops there. We have new TVs and a new shuffleboard, and we got a coffee service there.”

The apartments house more than 700 residents when at capacity. Collins explained that as residents turn over, Morguard is overhauling the apartments as well.

“Last year we did about 20 unit renovations,” she said. “And then this year we’re slated to do 75.”

Those improvements include new tile, backsplashes, paint, roller shades and cabinets. The company has already upgraded the residency’s entryway and soon, Collins said, they will upgrade the gym and the pool area as part of the ongoing project.

The building got three new grill stations in August, and plans for all new pool furniture are in the works, she said.

Residents made good use of the new grills.

“They saw use all the way through early December,” Collins said. “We had people running out there to grill steak and running back.”

To find out more about Coast at Lakeshore East, visit rentcoast.com.

Snow superstars clear the way at the Aon Center

By Stephanie Racine | Staff Writer

It’s a big building, in a big city, so it’s no surprise that when winter comes, it’s a big job keeping the Aon Center’s perimeter free of snow and ice.

How do they do it? With people and preparation.

Every winter, the Aon Center employs Harvard Maintenance to keep the property dry and safe during even the worst weather. It starts with a plan. Each shift leader decides who and what is needed for the job, depending on the weather.

“Lakeside buildings generally receive more snow than properties inland, so we communicate forecasts and keep our response dynamic in case additional resources or manpower are needed if a storm worsens beyond what was estimated,” said Harvard Maintenance senior director Karen Camerano.

Project manager Kate Krolicki said security at the Aon Center reaches out when the snow begins to fall downtown and a crew is assembled to salt, scoop and dry off the paths using a squeegee.

It’s no easy feat to keep feet dry, and it takes a toll on even the most experienced workers. “Our employees have to be in the cold for long periods of time, so we educate them on frostbite, exhaustion and other potential health concerns,” Camerano said.

Pro-tips:

For those who like a walkway as immaculate as the Aon Center’s—but can’t afford employees to do it for them—Camerano emphasizes readiness. She recommends putting down salt immediately and shoveling before the end of a snowfall. “We aim to never let the snow accumulate to a level where shoveling or lifting the snow becomes too arduous,” Camerano said.  

Lakefront Trail separation project completed

New Eastside News News BriefsLakefront Trail completed

After three years of work, the Chicago Park District announced in December that the Lakefront Trail renovation project is complete.

For years pedestrians and cyclists complained of confusion, accidents and general crowds along the trail. In 2016, spurred by a $12 million gift from Ken Griffin, Illinois’ richest man according to Forbes, the city began widening the trail and separating it by direction and by use between bicyclists and pedestrians. The trail extends from Ardmore Avenue in the north to 71st Street in the south. The city has not yet completed all landscaping improvements along the trail. While the trail is completed, parts may be closed due to winter weather advisories. Check chicagoparkdistrict.com to see the status of the trail

400 E. Randolph Building increases security

By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer

After the theft of a classic car in November from the residential building at 400 East Randolph, residents at the January CAPS meeting said that the building’s management has increased its security presence in the garage.

At the meeting, residents of the building and the neighborhood expressed concern to police that not enough is being done to prevent car thefts. The police confirmed that the suspect in the November theft is a repeat offender.

Sergeant Anthony Dombrowski said that since residential garages are private property, it is incumbent on the building owner to take precautions.

Management of 400 E. Randolph did not return calls for comment.

Slalom moves to Aon Center, expands to two floors

By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer

In January, Slalom, a national business services and technology consulting agency, announced their move from the Prudential Plaza to the Aon Center.

The Seattle-based company that consults in a wide variety of departments, including organizational effectiveness and data analytics, now occupies 65,000 square feet over floors 37 and 38 of the Center. This doubles their previous office space. However, in the last 14 years since the company set up shop in Chicago, steady growth demanded a larger space, general manager Justin Odenbach said in a press release.

“With more than 700 employees now—and plans to grow beyond 1,000 in the next three years—we simply outgrew our previous space,” Odenbach said. “Because we have a local business model, our people live and work in the Chicago area, so staying in the city was key. We were thrilled to find a space that met our criteria for location, growth, flexible use, and culture fit right here in the neighborhood we know and love.”

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