By Venus Brady
When The Silver Room opened its doors in Wicker Park in December of 1997 the Chicago Bulls had secured their sixth NBA title and H-Town, Big Pun, and Naughty By Nature were in the Top 100. Twenty-two years later the retail shop is still going strong, in Hyde Park on Chicago’s south side.
On Friday, December 13, 2019, the Silver Room celebrated 22 years in business with sounds by DJ Ron Trent and sights by photographer Seed Lynn whose showcase, “Traveling Mercies,” currently adorn the walls.
“Beyond legacy, The Silver Room is very necessary for what it does for Black culture,” said Lynn. “It’s a sight of what’s possible for this generation of entrepreneurs because being around for 22 years is very rare, especially for a Black business.”
According to Business Insiders, the United States is witnessing a retail apocalypse. The last two years saw the closing of 257 million square feet of store space across the country, and 2019 is expected to end with more of the same. With the loss of department stores like Sears and several Payless stores, which is facing the largest liquidation in retail history, Chicago has not been immune to the retail apocalypse. Despite the trend, The Silver Room is growing, and it would be remiss not to attribute at least some of that success and staying power to Eric Williams, the shop’s owner and creative director.
“You have to be responsive to the climate, listen to your consumer and provide good service,” said Williams. “For me, my motto is be consistent and flexible at the same time.”
And the customers appreciate it. With the sidewalk sandwich board outside announcing the party along with the silver number 22 balloon in the window, customers buzzed about, shopping and celebrating. Customers like Brian Williams, a native south sider, who was introduced to the Silver Room through the annual Block Party when it moved to Hyde Park.
“I think that it’s awesome that they have been in business for 22 years, especially one that sells the type of items that The Silver Room sells,” he said.
This was just Tamala Johnson’s third visit to the Silver Room.
“Every time I come here, it feels like I’m a part of the family,” Johnson said.
Aline Kaze, who has worked for the Silver Room for nearly two years, echoed the same.
“My coworkers and I have essentially become a family,” Kaze said. “People are still finding out about this space and I think that shows that we’re a staple in the city.”
When asked what’s next for The Silver Room, the customers agreed that expansion – more square footage -- should be in the cards. Even if The Silver Room doesn’t grow in square footage, it will certainly increase in accessibility and visibility.
“When you think of The Silver Room you may think of a certain thing,” Eric Williams said. “But we’ll always create something new.”
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