New Washington Park store features products from Chicago entrepreneurs

Chicago News

CHICAGO — In the shadow of the Green Line on Garfield Boulevard in Washington Park, the L-1 is now open for business.

“This is where all my inventory can live and I’m just really excited,” ReformedSchool owner Peter Gaona said.

Gaona launched ReformedSchool in 2013, but now he’s sharing a brick-and-mortar location.

“ReformedSchool is an eco-fashion brand that uses fashion and accessories to teach Black and Latinx history while using sustainable and eco-friendly products. It first started out as a side hustle and it turned into two full-time jobs,” Gaona said.

Gaona’s collection includes clothing, enamel pins and home décor, weaving together the past and present.

“It was a way to engage people and start conversations about race and what’s happening in the world,” Gaona said.

Gaona is one of three local entrepreneurs sharing the space.

You can also buy Hemp Heals body shop products from owner Tiffany Joi and products from Solo Noir for Men and Zen Soul Apothecary owned by Andrea Polk.

They’re the first group selected as L-1 fellows, receiving support and mentorship to help them grow their businesses. The newly renovated retail space is part of the arts block, managed by Arts and Public Life, a University of Chicago initiative.

“At APL, our mission is to really knit all of those things together, economic development, social development, cultural development and preservation,” Adrienne Brown, director of Arts and Public Life said.

Community leaders gathered Saturday to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Arts and Public Life and the L-1 opening, which was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are so excited to be back in person, to have people gather to bring people together physically, socially and joyfully to celebrate and rediscover what it means to be together as a community,” Brown said.

Gaona, who lives nearby, said he is excited about the possibilities.

“The felt I used is made out of recycled plastic bottles. I would like to see my items in more gift shops and museum stores across the country. I think the education component of it is so important because when you wear something, you should be able to know what it means and talk about it to other people,” Gaona said.

L-1 is located in the 300 block of East Garfield Boulevard and is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

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