All posts by alykkenlan2020

The other lender of last resort

By Alyk Russell Kenlan
Medill Reports

COVID-19 has caused a role reversal in pawnshop borrowers.

During the first four weeks of Illinois’ stay-at-home order, some pawnshops in lower-income areas of Chicago saw fewer new loans taken out and old loans being paid back early. Pawnshops in wealthier parts of the city, however, faced a rush of new loans as people scrambled for cash.

Federal government relief has not come equally to all. For some middle-income earners, the overnight disappearance of jobs a month ago cast many into financial turmoil, despite stimulus payments and unemployment benefits. For those who were already struggling financially, however, government aid provided more income than before the pandemic employment.

“I’m completely baffled at what happened,” said Daniel Lebovitz, owner of Chicago Pawners & Jewelers located on Chicago’s west side. “People trying to get money is down 50%.”

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The man in the skyscraper church

By Alyk Russell Kenlan
Medill Reports

“An unexpected raise! #blessed,” the Rev. Dr. Myron McCoy, 64, told his congregation during a recent service. “You don’t want one?” he teased.  From the tallest church in the world, he delivers messages of inclusivity and diversity every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday.

The pastor’s journey to the 23-story Chicago Temple started almost two centuries ago, when his ancestors founded a Methodist church in Maryland. He grew up in New Jersey and spent many of his boyhood summers around that church. “One part of my family, even in the 1800s, was free,” McCoy said. Influenced by his ancestral legacy, McCoy has wanted to be a preacher as long as he can remember.

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The giant of Michigan Avenue

By Alyk Russell Kenlan
Medill Reports

Imagine waking up on the 80th floor, going down to work on the 35th floor, grabbing lunch on the second floor, stopping by the grocery store or dry cleaner on the 44th floor and eating dinner on the 95th floor before going back home to the 80th floor. Residents of 875 N. Michigan Ave., formerly the John Hancock Center, don’t have to imagine. Their amenity-rich, mixed-use skyscraper epitomizes the idea of a city within a city.

On March 7, 1970, the dedication of the John Hancock Center marked the beginning of a new architectural movement and the renewal of Chicago’s urban life in the Gold Cost. Since then, lessons from the building’s construction have inspired other iconic structures like the Willis Tower and the Trump Tower.

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Patrick Brower builds a community around comics

By Alyk Russell Kenlan
Medill Reports

Two sleeves of superhero tattoos make Patrick Brower, 51, look like a comic book. Twelve years ago, he and co-owner Dal Bush, 41, opened Challengers Comics and Conversation in Bucktown. Then last November, they opened a second store in River North. They also curate a selection for Chicago Board Game Cafe, which opened near Challengers’ first store in February.

Brower’s childhood love of comics inspired him to study art in college. Though he didn’t expect to go into retail, he found his first job after earning a bachelor’s degree in art history and illustration at his local comic shop. He never left the industry. Nearly two decades ago, he started mentoring Bush, who, as a teen, spent three hours a week selling comics with him. Seventeen years later, the friends opened a store of their own. The two wanted to remove the stereotype of their field as “only being for Comic Book Guy from the Simpsons.” Brower recently discussed how they designed Challengers Comics and Conversation to be a welcoming space and a community center. Continue reading