Big Shoulders — Katherine Darnstadt, Latent Design

| Adam J. Hecktman

The economic vibrancy of a city depends on more than a few (or even many) large enterprise employers. Economic opportunity exists in all sizes…and in all parts of the city. Neighborhoods make for vibrant places to operate small business. Small business owners tend to know the neighborhood and its residents, their needs, their unique buying patterns, etc.

But opening even a small business has some (often prohibitive) costs and barriers. One of the highest barriers is finding and renting visible, viable space in which to sell. Cue the Boombox. I’m not talking about glorified speaker/cassette player/radio combination you had in your dorm, if you lived through the 80’s. I’m talking about the recycled shipping containers-turned storefront that Boombox Chicago has placed in neighborhoods across Chicago.

Boombox does not call these “recycled” shipping containers. Rather, they are “upcycled.” That is a far more appropriate term for these ready-to-use units, designed by Latent Design. The units are climate controlled, customer accessible, pop-up storefronts. Certainly more up-scale than a shipping container as is. Further, they can be used for all kinds of experiences. In addition to retail, they have been used for community events, cultural experiences, and a few that might surprise you (watch the video).

Boombox provides a platform for startup businesses in neighborhoods. Neighborhood-based businesses have special needs to help them grow, and Boombox fills those needs, removing barrier after barrier. For one thing, they have very reasonable rents, allowing entrepreneurs to start their business with low costs before moving into a space with a longer-term commitment. For another, they are strategically placed. The current locations anchor neighborhood commercial corridors across Chicago, including Englewood, Chatham, Austin, Wicker Park, and others.

Katherine Darnstadt is the founder and principal architect at Latent Design. Her background in both architecture and design, and her inspired knowledge and appreciation for the potential of neighborhoods gave her the ideal combination of qualities to take this model from vision to “doors open for business!!” Please join me as we chat with Katherine on Big Shoulders:

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Adam J. Hecktman

You may recognize Adam. He’s a regular on TV, you can hear him on the radio, he’s penned numerous articles and is the co-founder of the Chicago City Data Users Group. But some of Adam’s most important work is done behind the scenes in his role as Microsoft’s Director of Technology and Civic Engagement for Chicago. Tech giants, universities and government leaders turn to Adam for guidance on all matters technology, and he happily obliges, helping Chicago overcome challenges and capitalizing on new, exciting opportunities.