Winning the contest will net one of two businesses more than $100,000 in benefits, including a year of free rent at 1325 W. Wilson Ave, a storefront beneath a Flats residential building undergoing renovation, free consultation and marketing and legal assistance.
The two finalists are the Public Barber, a barbershop envisioned by Andersonville resident Michael Setjskal — and Pine & Plastic, a brand of handcrafted, hand painted totes and accessories from Edgewater couple Brett Marlow, 26, and Andrew Wayne, 25.
Voting ends Aug. 31.
#FlatsProject is the child of the "Up the Block" initiative, a partnership between Flats and the city. In May, the city announced the business accelerator program to "activate vacant sites, revitalize communities and support small business," according to a news release that named Flats as the city's inaugural partner.
The Public Barber's Setjskal, 33, hopes to take his one-man barber shop from his Andersonville apartment to the Wilson Avenue storefront.
It would offer hot lather shaves, facials and scalp treatments in addition to haircuts and the "opportunity to catch on jokes and gossip." He also plans to have monthly community events. Making a trip to the barber shop "less of a chore, more of a lifestyle event" is his aim, he said.
"I just want it to be a place where anyone can feel comfortable to stop in, even if they're not getting a haircut," he said. "I don't want televisions, I don't want magazines, I just want really good music."
His vision for the shop is a "new traditional," fairly unadorned place with off-white walls and reclaimed wood floors, 1950s style barber chairs, bird taxidermy above large round mirrors at barber stations, and bourbon or rye for waiting customers as well as waiting areas with comfortable lounge chairs.
The other #FlatsProject finalist is Pine & Plastic, a venture of Edgewater residents Brett Marlow and Andrew Wayne.
If they win the Wilson storefront, "We would have it be a creative space, and an interactive space for people it wouldn't just be for us to sell our totes," Marlow said.
Wayne and Marlow, partners in both business and life, said their store would be like "a T-Shirt deli" where people, including children, can design their own totes and express their inner artist. The couple, which lives in an Edgewater Flats location, said they would also host events showcasing local artists, photographers and writers, and promised to hire from the community.
"We want it to be something where the community walks by and feels they have pride that we're there and that they're involved," Wayne said.
Flats partner Jay Michael said Flats' parent company Cedar Street Co., is funding the program, and helping the winner with branding and marketing, while Flats retail partner Heritage Bicycles and DOSE Market would also provide business consultation.
That's in addition to what the city is pitching in, which includes help navigating bureaucratic red tape to open the store.
"I wish I had that 12 years ago," Michael said. "I wish i had that today, actually."
Flats also plans to use #FlatsProject to find a retail tenant for its building at 1020 W. Lawrence Ave., also known as Lawrence House, but that application hasn't been released yet.
To vote for Pine & Plastic or Public Barber and learn more about the businesses, click here.
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