Eric Williams, owner of The Silver Room, went in search of a neighborhood with more diversity and a richer cultural vibe when his Wicker Park retail space’s lease ended in 2015.
With the help of UChicago’s Commercial Real Estate Operations (CREO) department, he opened a pop-up shop on 53rd Street in Hyde Park — and fell in love with the street’s creativity and energy. Now, it feels like the store has always been in its University-owned space at 53rd and Harper.
One of a number of thriving black-owned businesses that form the heart of Hyde Park, The Silver Room is much more than a retail store: it’s also an art gallery and community hub where people gather to enjoy everything from tango lessons and DJ sets to language lessons and storytelling showcases.
Williams also partners with the University on community-wide arts events such as the Silver Room Block Party — which drew 50,000 people to 53rd Street and brought about $2.5 million into Hyde Park in 2019, he estimates — and the Harper Court Summer Music Series. “I love Hyde Park,” Williams says. “People appreciate what we do — they shop here and they get the connection between where their money is going and what we do,” such as showcasing local vendors’ products in the store and at the block party.
Williams also appreciates the support CREO provides to University tenants, including marketing services that help indie businesses build their profile. “That’s one of the ways this street is a great model for how public and private institutions can work together,” Williams says. "The University isn’t some monolith — it’s a collection of people who have a vision of trying to create a better community.”