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Anti-Gentrification Sign Makers Strike Bow Truss Pilsen For 2nd Time

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Even Nick Kokonas chimes in on the subject as conversation erupts online.

Signs at Bow Truss Pilsen
Signs at Bow Truss Pilsen
Phil Tadros
Ashok Selvam is the editor of Eater Chicago and a native Chicagoan armed with more than two decades of award-winning journalism. Now covering the world of restaurants and food, his nut graphs are super nutty.

More anti-gentrification signs popped up overnight on Saturday at Bow Truss in Pilsen, giving the coffee house a matching set to accompany the signs left on Thursday.

Owner Phil Tadros and staff kept the signs inside the coffeehouse, and there's still no damage. Is it vandalism? Tadros said he still doesn't feel the need to file a report with police although he reached out to the officers of Ald. Danny Solis of the 25th Ward for advice. An email to Solis' office wasn't returned for comment.

Unlike the first round, this time the sign makers used some Spanish, perhaps in response to commenters. For those uninitiated, we'll translate into English: "Know where you are? The [Mexican people] live here." The second sign reads: "Do you want milk with your coffee?" Then continues in English: "Sugar with your gentrification?"

Gentrification is a complex issue that often accompanies a discussion on racism. This time, the sign makers were direct in their accusations: "Racism and classism smell like your coffee!" Many, as shown in comments over the weekend, feel new businesses in Pilsen ignore the Mexican roots of the community, eager to cater to transients without becoming a part of the community.

Humboldt Park saw this to an extreme in 2012 after the white owner of TipsyCake made insensitive comments about the Puerto Rican neighborhood. She later apologized, admitting she never spent much time in Humboldt Park.

For that, Tadros said he sees his coffee shops as places where these types of discussions should occur. He would prefer to be directly addressed, instead of someone anonymously leaving messages. He also says he's sensitive about affordability, and will now offer a $1 coffee every day. There's also a free cup of coffee with purchase of a bag of coffee beans. The latter also drew criticism via the phantom sign maker(s).

As for affordability, though the menu changes, drinks at Bow Truss range from $2 (before this weekend) to $5, and $10 to $20 for whole beans. Over at Cafe Jumping Bean, a Pilsen stalwart for 20 years, hot drinks range from $1.45 to $3.50. Tadros said he justifies the higher cost from higher quality and how the beans are obtained. Bow Truss has championed direct trade coffee, which tend to cost more than the average bean.

Over the weekend, conversation erupted online. Some residents justified the signs, saying Pilsen didn't need another coffee house (the community has six) and they continue to feel pushed out. The fear is Mexican-owned restaurants will shutter in favor of white-owned restaurants. Those comments ignore that Tadros is an Arab Catholic of Jordanian descent. Despite the number of coffee shops already in Pilsen, Tadros said the area didn't have a shop that serves coffee like Bow Truss.

Even Nick Kokonas, whose famed restaurants in Chicago like Alinea and Next have drawn critical global acclaim, chimed in:


Will more signs pop up? Will commenters sling more mud online? What's the best-case scenario right now? Raise your voice in the comments.

Bow Truss Coffee Roasters

1641 W 18th St, Chicago, IL 60608