Business

Community drives three independent bookstores to thrive despite digital-heavy environment

By Hannah Farrow
Medill Reports

Between same-day shipping and instant Kindle ebooks, Amazon dominates book sales. Borders went out of business in 2011. Barnes & Noble was sold this year after its worst year in sales to date; they’ve also closed over 150 stores in the last decade. Yet the entire country is seeing a spike in independent brick-and-mortar bookstores and their sales. In Wicker Park alone, a neighborhood known for the arts, three thrive: Volumes, Myopic and Quimby’s.

“Myopic is the used books. Volumes is the family friendly. And we’re the weirdos,” said Liz Mason, 45, manager of Quimby’s. “We all have different vibes, and we all fulfill different needs. Honestly, in my mind, it feels like I have collaborators in getting Wicker Park to be more literary.”

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Chicago’s Illegal drug market likely to thrive in the wake of marijuana legalization

By Shirin Ali
Medill Reports

Illinois will soon become the 12th state in the country to legalize the sale and possession of recreational marijuana on January 1, 2020, but legalization doesn’t come without significant uncertainty and risk. In particular, the law establishes a high barrier of entry for individuals interested in entering the industry, which could allow the underground drug market to continue to flourish.

Malcom Gray is a 25 year-old native of Chicago’s Austin neighborhood who says he’s been dealing in Chicago’s illegal drug market since he was 10 years old. He is confident that Chicago’s illicit drug market isn’t going to suffer from legalization, because dealers will simply resell marijuana that was purchased legally from a dispensary.  “They’ll most definitely still do it because of the easy access. The price for cannabis on the streets is now going to go up because the access to it is more easy. Anybody can walk into a shop and get the top notch stuff.”

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Compulsive loyalty at Starbucks and clues to it from a neurology lab

By Annie Krall
Medill Reports

Starbucks has learned how to make customers keep coming back for more thanks to their rewards program.

And they’re not alone.

Thousands and thousands of businesses use rewards programs to draw customers in and keep them loyal. But why is potentially getting the next stamp or another level up so enjoyable to us?

Talia Lerner, a neurobiologist at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, and her team of researchers are trying to answer that question and many more. Using mice as test subjects they are analyzing the neurological pathways that make compulsive behaviors so difficult to stop, especially when it comes to alcoholism or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

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Local guitar pick vending machine business donates a share of profits to Planned Parenthood

By Lucia Whalen
Medill Reports

Chicago music venues Gallery Cabaret, The Empty Bottle and Cole’s Bar have new additions to their décor: adult vending machines that, for the price of four quarters, deliver a small plastic container that holds a one-of-a-kind guitar pick and a condom.

The business, Glitter Picks, is owned by local Chicago musician-turned entrepreneur Alen Khan, and 10% of all proceeds are donated to Planned Parenthood. Rock and roll meets safe sex.

According to Khan, the idea for Glitter Picks came to him while in search of a guitar pick at the Gallery Cabaret music open mic in early 2019.

“I went up there to play and no one had a pick, and I’m notorious for never having a pick. So I said, ‘Hey, why don’t places like this have a machine that just has picks?’ And that’s kind of how it started,” Khan explained.

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Campus Kitchen back in action amid recent move

By Selah Holland
Medill Reports

Campus Kitchen, a Northwestern University student organization that redistributes unused food to nonprofit organizations and food insecure individuals in Evanston, recently moved into the Great Room kitchen in Great Hallon campus  a few weeks ago.

This relocation, into a 1920s dining hall that later morphed into a café and catering space, keeps volunteers busy revamping the space to match the scale lost with the move from Allison Dining Hall.
Campus Kitchen president Laine Kaehler said the group is gradually working to rebuild its food stock and work volume. Over the summer, the group operated for only two months before coming to a temporary halt early in September when the university chose to relocate them to Great Hall.

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Comer Conference scientists show global impacts of climate change

By Chris McConaghey
Medill Reports

The glaciers are melting faster, accelerating sea level rise. Ocean currents are changing, altering weather and rainfall that millions of people rely on. And wind patterns are shifting as the climate heats up. These are among the global climate challenges deliberated at the annual Comer Climate Conference in southwestern Wisconsin this fall.

Veteran researchers with some of the most decorated backgrounds in climate science as well as the next generation of researchers gathered to present their findings from Nepal, the North Pacific, the Indian Ocean, and the glacial mountains of Uganda, Mongolia and Europe. They came to present findings that can help tackle the troublesome state of our planet with the urgent need to address climate change.

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Scott Travis: On call for farm, foundation and science

By Chris McConaghey
Medill Reports

Scott Travis didn’t know what to expect when he put in an application to work for Lands’ End clothing company in 1987. He was 32 years old then and got the position.

During that time, he had several opportunities to meet and talk with the late Gary Comer – founder and owner of Lands’ Ends – and was promoted from the sales and packaging department to eventually becoming a safety manager of the plant in Dodgeville, Wisconsin.

Comer never forgot those conversations. Six years later, Travis got a call from the boss asking if he wanted to help build and manage a new corporate retreat to host meetings and conferences for business leaders across the globe in southwestern Wisconsin.

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Rat-eating monkeys hold promise for sustainable agriculture

By Elena Bruess
Medill Reports

A macaque sits patiently on the forest floor, waiting by an oil palm tree.

There’s a rustling and a thump as two more macaques gripping a nearby trunk remove some of the tree’s leafy base. A large rat falls from its hiding place. It attempts to run, but the macaque is faster. A scuffle, a jump, a chomp. The pest hangs limp from the macaque’s mouth, a tasty snack. The monkeys move on to the next tree.

On the oil palm plantations of Malaysia, the southern pig-tailed macaque – a primate primarily found in Southeast Asia – loves to feast on rats. In a recent study, researchers spent three years following two groups of these monkeys around forests and plantations, monitoring their daily activities. The findings showed that, not only do macaques go out of their way to eat an outstanding number of rats, but their eating preference also a proved to be a great benefit to the oil palm plantations by ridding the workers of their greatest pest. According to the research, the rat-eating monkeys are astonishing and make a pretty good case for wildlife preservation and reconnection.

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When science needs a little art

By Elena Bruess
Medill Reports

Imagine you broke a bone in your left toe while paragliding.

It was intense. And now you can’t walk, so you hobble to the doctor’s office and await an x-ray. When you finally learn what exactly is broken, the doctor pulls out a brightly illustrated and tightly labeled drawing of a left foot. She points. “It’s right here.”

The drawing is practically made for you. It’s not very complicated and it makes so much sense. You are really starting to understand your left toe.

And that’s because the drawing is made for you. Continue reading

Open House Chicago brings visitors inside Chicago’s skyline icons

By Nicole Stock
Medill Reports

Tourists and locals alike enjoy the vista of Chicago’s skyline,  often lauded as one of the most beautiful in the country.

But for one weekend in fall, Open House Chicago let’s people see the skyline from the inside out. This annual tradition benefits both visitors and the building owners, as it shows people the interiors  of the buildings in and around the city that they so often just bustle past.  

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