By JEFFREY BISHKU-AYKUL
Assistant to the Editor
A host of local entrepreneurs, community figures and politicians convened last Thursday, Nov. 1, at the 73rd Annual Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce dinner, held at Congregation Rodfei Zedek, 5200 S. Hyde Park Boulevard.
High-profile attendees of the event – which kicked off with a 5:30 p.m. reception in the building’s atrium – included Toni Preckwinkle, Barbara Flynn Currie, Will Burns, Kwame Raoul and Rebecca Janowitz, among others.
Over the meal’s courses, catered by Piccolo Mondo, 1642 E. 56th St., prizes donated by 32 chamber businesses were given away in a raffle. At the beginning of the dinner, chamber President and Herald Vice President and General Manager Susan Walker shared her optimistic outlook for the organization.
“We’ve had a remarkably successful year at the chamber,” Walker said. “Our membership is in an upward trajectory.”
Citing the City Hyde Park development and new establishments on 53rd St., Walker referred to business in Hyde Park as “booming.”
“So we are going to see the largest transformation of Hyde Park’s retail environment since the days of Urban Renewal,” Walker said to applause.
The raffle’s grand prize also referenced Hyde Park’s new developments: it included, among other gifts, a night’s stay in the Hyatt hotel currently under construction at the intersection of Lake Park Avenue and 53rd Street and a certificate for Yusho, a Japanese restaurant opening in Hyde Park in 2013.
Harry Parson, a director of the chamber, announced the launch of a new Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce smartphone application, citing the central role of mobile phones in communication.
“The chamber of commerce recognizes this growth in the mobile area,” Parson said, later describing the program, which would include a directory page for each chamber business.
The event concluded with an awards ceremony recognizing as business of the year, the Medici on 57th, 1327 E. 57th St.; as organization of the year, St. Thomas the Apostle Church, 5472 S. Kimbark Ave.; and as volunteer of the year, Neighborhood Schools Program founder Duel Richardson.
In accompanying remarks, ceremony emcee and chamber Executive Director Wallace Goode praised the business model of the Medici restaurant and the performance of St. Thomas the Apostle School, 5467 S. Woodlawn Ave, pointing to its “ability to draw an increasing number of quality students from all over the city.”
Duel Richardson, who received a standing ovation, contrasted his youth in rural Illinois with his life in Hyde Park.
“Fifty-one years ago, I came to [Hyde Park] from a town of 350 people very deep in the corn-belt of central Illinois,” he said. “For all of you that I have made great friendships with over these years, I thank you.”