Devon Community Market Preview

The Devon Community Market will open for its third summer in less than two weeks. At this writing there has been no formal announcement of vendors. The only certainties are that it will once again be short on farmers and long on the kinds of offerings that have contributed to its irrelevance the past two years.

It appears that real effort has been made again this year to attract vendors who might actually attract visitors. The unfortunate insistence on retaining the “Devon” name and the Republic Bank parking lot location continue to negate those efforts. The many groceries on Devon will not support a true farmers’ market because it provides direct competition, so the Market is relegated to a dead section of the street. The Bank’s block-long presence, most of it occupied by the parking lot, discourages commerce on the other side of the street, and there’s just not enough foot traffic to make the vendors’ trips profitable. A struggling new grocery directly across the street could also be hurt.

A change of name, from “Devon” to “West Ridge” would provide flexibility. Relocating the market to another depressed area of the Ward (so many to choose from!), say, Touhy Avenue, might increase the number of visitors, especially considering that Touhy has so few groceries, in contrast to Devon Avenue.

These simple, observable truths are lost on the Market’s organizers.

There are some innovations this year, including a dedicated Web site operated by the West Ridge Chamber of Commerce from its satellite office at 2421 West Pratt (at Artesian). Sponsorship is also clearer this year, credit being given to the Chamber, SSA #3, the City, and the aldermen, Debra and Ira Silverstein. Ira’s listed in his capacity as state senator.

There will be a blog (The Crunchy Carrot) and a newsletter (The Ripe Tomato). The food names are cute, considering that very little fresh produce will be available. Only three farmers are currently on tap as vendors; two of the three will offer vegetables, with one of those two offering only sweet corn, according to the Web site.

In addition to the LINK card, which was new last year, this year’s Market will accept WIC and Senior Farmers Market coupons.

The three farmers scheduled so far are Fehr Brothers Farms (poultry, beef, and eggs); Steven Frank Farms (fruits, vegetables, and eggs); and Twin Garden Farms (Miraj sweet corn and melons).  Fehr Brothers and Steven Frank are family-owned, and Twin Garden developed its corn in Harvard, IL, so efforts have been made to support local farmers, a good thing.

Golden Rise Bakery will provide a variety of fresh bakery goods, and The Coffee Shop will sell coffee, tea, and bakery items; the Shop notes that its offerings will appeal to those who are vegetarian or vegan.

At this writing there are three vendors who will sell freshly-prepared foods: Bites of Pleasure (Jewish and Middle Eastern specialties with a modern twist); Milt’s BBQ  (certified kosher BBQ); and Trenae Gourmet (healthy foods). This year’s Market organizers should be credited with expanding the food choices to include the wider community.

Health-oriented vendors include the High Ridge Y (“health and fitness instruction”) and Whitney Young Eco Products, which could be the hit of the market. The “eco-friendly bath products” to be sold are made by students from Whitney Young High School.

Activities for kids include the return of Going Green Science (hands-on science projects for kids of all ages); Ludy Gerardi (face painting); the Northtown Public Library (storytelling and crafts); Performing Arts Limited (dance instruction); and Schmooz the Clown, always a crowd-pleaser.

Other vendors include Avon Products, Marej Sultana Henna Designs, Michael Wood Craft, and St. James Presbyterian Church, which will offer inspirational gifts and provide art experiences for kids.

The only entertainer listed so far is local jazz musician Vernon Ingram, who writes his own music. I’m looking forward to seeing and hearing him perform.

Last year’s market featured a variety of musical performers who entertained without the excessive blasting that characterized the 2013 market and proved to be such a disturbance to residents living less than ten feet away.  Reasonable sound levels are so important when events like this are scheduled alongside residential areas. Blasting music to attract customers doesn’t work and shows a lack of consideration for residents. It’s also worth noting that children standing near or passing by blasting speakers can suffer permanent hearing damage, so it’s to be hoped that organizers will insist on restraint from the performers.

The Market will operate on Wednesdays from July 8 through August 26, 3-8 p.m. Not all vendors will be available every week, and more vendors will be added as the season progresses. Vendor applications are available on the Market’s Web site,

The Market also has a Facebook page:



A Tribute to One Great Dog

My pal Paco died on Monday. All of my pets have been special, but there was something wonderful about Paco, something all his own. He could size people up from across the street, determine friend or foe, and act accordingly. He didn’t need to do that with other dogs, you see, because he was the mightiest Min-Pin ever made and the toughest little guy on the street. He inspired respect and affection–a small dog with big street cred.

Paco Reyes

Paco Reyes

Paco was a rescue. He had been passed around among a group of young friends, some of whom cut his ears and his tail (he was just a dog to them). A member of my family rescued Paco from them, and he came to me a short time later. With the fierceness of a dog five times his size, Paco immediately established himself as Top Dog, and worked out an amiable relationship with the cat who reigns as Supreme Boss in our household.  They mostly ignored each other. Paco got the prime seat on the sofa, and the cat sat everyplace but there.

A ferocious watchdog, Paco never let a sound go unchallenged. He protected his family, his home, his friends, and his block from intruders like garbage trucks and school buses, always from the safety of his leash. He never met a mail carrier he liked. I never knew if it was the uniform, or the cart, or the mail truck, but on seeing one of the three Paco went right into battle mode.

A tiny canine gourmand, Paco loved good food. Regular dog food, yes, but also a little pizza, a bite of tamale, a chunk of samosa or egg roll (no dipping sauce, please), a few potato chips, and buttered popcorn. Paco ate only the popcorn with butter on it, leaving the drier pieces for his younger, bigger brother, for whom eating is just a pastime, not a pleasure.

He was my pal, sitting up with me when I couldn’t sleep, licking my hand for encouragement when I had writer’s block, barking for a walk when he sensed I needed to clear my head.  Paco sat next to me while I read or watched TV, and woke me every morning to play his favorite game before breakfast.

Paco was my granddaughter’s buddy, too. Brittany used to hold his leash while we walked, and often referred to Paco as “my dog who lives with grandma.” She was at school when he died and didn’t get to say good-bye, but she understands that Paco has gone to heaven and God now has another pet.

Paco Reyes was one of a kind, both warrior and quiet companion, a high-spirited dog who never backed down when challenged, never failed to welcome a new day, and never let his guard down when he was on duty. In his off-hours he was sweet and playful, and even let his companions win a few rounds in their daily play.

Paco’s survivors include his two canine companions, his co-boss, the cat, his pet-mom, and numerous family members, friends, and neighbors.

All of us will miss him forever.

Construction Noise & Permits

My next-door neighbors tore up their back patio yesterday. This morning, at 7:20 a.m., the construction crew returned to resume work, throwing tools around the yard and cleaning, scraping, and preparing the elevated platform from which the concrete would be poured. I went outside and politely told them that they would have to wait until 8 a.m. because the City’s ordinance doesn’t permit construction noise before then. The worker who was already at work on the platform told me I hadn’t heard noise yet. I called the police.

These neighbors have a history of not getting permits. A year or two ago they installed a garden apartment without getting the necessary paperwork, and the City took them to court. I checked the City’s online permit site this morning, and there’s no record of a permit for this patio work, either. It’s now 8:30 a.m., and the machines are blasting away, drills and other noisy equipment producing deafening noise about 20 feet from my bedroom. Even my dogs are looking for a quiet place to settle. If you have good neighbors they may alert you to major work they’re planning to do..

FYI: The City’s construction ordinance prohibits construction noise before 8 a.m. Workers can set up, but they cannot run equipment or do any actual construction work. They must stop work no later than 9 p.m.

If you suspect there’s no permit, or don’t see one and can’t ask the property owner or construction workers for it, you can check Building Permits Online.  All you need is the first letter of the street and the address. The City’s noise ordinances apply to construction work; check City of Chicago Noise Ordinance.