In 2015 President Obama designated the Pullman neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago as the state’s first national monument. The neighborhood has a rich history, headlined by the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (Pullman Porters) — the first Black labor union to receive a charter in the American Federation of Labor (AFL). Once the monument is fully on its feet, those who visit will surely need a place to grab a bite. A new food hall featuring three restaurants run by Black chefs will be there to serve them.
One Eleven is the hall’s name and it’s located at 756 E. 111th Street. The hall features three restaurants: Majani, Laine’s Bake Shop, and Exquisite Catering. All three are Black owned, Laine’s and Exquisite are also woman owned. By contrast, three new food halls opening up on the North Side do not have, to date, one Black owned chef headlining any of the restaurants between them. The three chefs at One Eleven are getting a boost from Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives, a local nonprofit that “seeks to revitalize neighborhoods and create jobs by developing high impact projects, providing financial resources to entrepreneurs and sustaining long-term community partnerships.”
The food hall concept is a manifestation of “cooperative economics,” a way for Black entrepreneurs to pool resources and share costs. This particular development is important in that it gives Black entrepreneurs, in a Black neighborhood, opportunity to capitalize on the growth and development anticipated from a monument commemorating a very important chapter in the history of Black people. Pullman porters were exclusively Black until the 1960’s and have been credited with helping to develop the Black middle class in America, under the leadership of A. Philip Randolph. Randolph was the architect of the March on Washington movement, which called for “jobs and justice,” for Black people. With this new development Black entrepreneurs have more opportunity to create those jobs.
The porters who lived in the Pullman neighborhood fought for better working conditions and pay for Black workers. In that same neighborhood, today, Black entrepreneurs are moving forward as the owners of the companies who employ other Black workers. One Eleven features three restaurants, all Black owned. Pullman is a Black neighborhood — why shouldn’t the businesses there reflect the people who live in it?