LOGAN SQUARE — When Shayna Norwood opened her letter press storefront three weeks ago, she figured neighbors she had gotten to know over the past eight years while living in Logan Square would be some of the first customers.
What she didn't expect was a stream of shoppers from all over the globe walking into her neighborhood storefront in her first weeks in business. So far, about half of the customers who walked in Steel Petal Press, 2321 N. Milwaukee Ave., were international visitors.
"We've had anyone from all over Europe — Portugal, Germany — to Australia," Norwood said. "Also national tourists. People from Florida, Michigan, Ohio, not even just the Midwest region."
Paul Biasco on what is bringing tourists to Logan Square.
The flood of tourists into the shop might have been unexpected, but it's not entirely new.
As restaurants in Logan Square such as Lula Cafe, Longman & Eagle and Revolution Brewing gained national attention over the past decade, tourists have begun to make the trek out of Downtown hotels and into the neighborhood.
"I'm not surprised about people going to Revolution Brewery," said Norwood, whose shop is next door to Revolution. "I was surprised about people who are just like 'I'm trying to be a tourist in Logan Square because I heard it's an area to check out.'"
On Thursday night, Chris Wiesenmüller and his soon-to-be fiance fit that bill as they wandered down Milwaukee Avenue, peeking into shops and restaurants while looking for a place to eat.
It was the 39-year-old Wiesenmüller's last night in town while on vacation from Berlin.
He had visited Chicago only once before, in 2012, and stayed in a hotel Downtown while visiting the usual sights and museums.
This time he decided to rent an apartment through Airbnb in Logan Square near the square.
"You read about this area and it sounds good, Logan Square," Wiesenmüller said. "It's a cool area ... cool shops, cool restaurants."
On Sunday, the New York Times' travel section also took notice of what lies beyond the Loop.
In a "36 Hours in Chicago" feature the Times focused on the neighborhoods on the near Northwest Side, calling them "an invigorating blend of reflection and reinvention."
The article includes Lost Lake, Jam, the Logan Square Farmers Market, Rosa's Lounge and The 606, among other spots in Humboldt Park, Ukrainian Village and Wicker Park.
“The idea that 2 million-plus people might have had or had the opportunity to see something positive about three neighborhoods in Chicago given the negative [image] that we have been getting because of the increase in violence and random shootings made me very happy," said Paul Levin, executive director of the Logan Square Chamber of Commerce.
Long-time vendors at the farmers market have also noticed, according to Levin, whose chamber sponsors the market.
Whether it's visitors from out of town or from within Chicago, the market is more packed than ever this year and a large portion of the customers are new, Levin said.
During the second market of the season, Karl from Karl's Craft Soups racked up purchases for 40 customers he had never had before on credit card swipes alone, according to Levin — very abnormal.
"There were a lot of new faces. I attribute much of that to population change, but I can believe that some of it is in fact tourists."
Earlier this month Global Traveler placed a handful of Logan Square businesses such as Analogue, City Lit Books, Felt, Longman & Eagle and Scofflaw in an edition that included stories on Barcelona, Athens and Cape Town.
The neighborhood's restaurants that seem to be a major factor in the tourist draw have helped boost business at many of the neighboring independent shops.
Ann Kienzle, who opened the kids toy and book store Play six years ago and more recently Shop 1021, said she started noticing foreign travelers heading into the neighborhood about three years ago.
On Thursday, while doing an email interview with DNAinfo, Kienzle had three people from France come into her shop along with two girls from elsewhere in Europe.
"I was like, how random is that?" she said. "It does happen all the time. My thought is always that they hear about the restaurants in the neighborhood and they kind of walk around and discover the shops."
Play's location next to the farmers market at 3109 W. Logan Blvd. on Sundays also helps.
"When I moved here 10 years ago from L.A. it's not anything I imagined would happen, even though people kept saying this is the next great place," Kienzle said.
Levin said he believes tourism in the neighborhood has been helped by the push by Choose Chicago, the city's tourism agency, encouraging visitors to check out the city's vibrant neighborhoods.
About a month ago Levin said he was standing outside Lula Cafe when he struck up a conversation with a guy who was in town from San Francisco.
The man had just left City Lit Books.
"Here were genuine out-of-town tourists who had left downtown and come out to a neighborhood, and the neighborhood they had chosen was Logan Square," Levin said. "It's happening. It's happening."
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