The 103rd Street business district is often thought of as downtown Beverly.

With many small shops and eateries nestled near 103rd Street and Longwood Drive, it is an ideal place for consumers to shop locally.

The district is now growing thanks to new businesses opening and an outdoor social-gathering space set to open later this year.

Made, an artisan collaborative featuring exclusively homemade items, debuted at 1802 W. 103rd St., on Aug. 2

Offering everything from kids shirts to ceramics to photography, owners Allison and John Papara, who are from Evergreen Park, are thrilled to be there.

“We just really love the area here in Beverly,” Allison Papara said. “Beverly is such an artistic community. We just felt that it would be fantastic to showcase all the amazing talent from all the amazing artists.”

Made, which is open Tuesday through Friday from 11 a.m.-7 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m.-4 p.m., also features fine art, stickers, dog accessories, candles and skin-care products.

The shop will take part in the Beverly Art Walk on Sept. 18, and the Paparas plan to host in-store events with the creators of the items they sell.

They also sell their own children’s clothing line—Rocco Bee—which is named after their son, Rocco. Those items, too, are homemade.

“I was dissatisfied with the selection of shirts and clothing that was available for him,” Allison said, “so I started making my own.”

Morgan Park Beverly Hills Business Association (MPBHBA) Executive Director Caroline Connors is pleased to have a place like Made that can serve as a home base of sorts for artists. Many showcases have been canceled during the pandemic, so Made offers another outlet for artists to sell their items.

“I just feel like this is a really great opportunity to support our local artists,” Connors said. “They have some great gift items.”

Just west of Made, Bookish Literacy Center, 1830 W. 103rd St., hosted a ribbon cutting on Aug. 5.

Owner August Smith and her team offer workshops, classes, intervention and enrichment, and they host book clubs, birthday parties, book signings and poetry slams.

Smith has a master’s degree in teaching from National Louis University and a bachelor’s degree in marketing from Hampton University. For the past 15 years, she has been a primary-grades teacher and principal in Chicago Public Schools.

Made and Bookish are located just east of the Metra Rock Island Line 103rd Street station, and many shops are on the west side of the stop.

Connors would love to see shoppers from near and far make that area a destination.

“I think that our shopping districts along the Metra line are a really nice feature of our neighborhood,” Connors said. “They’re pedestrian friendly; they’re bike friendly. They have that main-street charm people are looking for in a shopping district. There’s a variety of shops there.

“I feel like the Metra line is a true asset to our community,” she added. “We’d love to see people jump on the Metra and take a ride down to Beverly and spend half a day or a day doing some shopping.”

Connors credited the community for supporting the local economy.

“I think it’s evident that entrepreneurs are seeing that people are shopping locally and supporting local businesses,” she said, “and therefore, even during a pandemic, they’re willing to go out on a limb and open a business because they see how successful the other businesses have been.”

The 103rd Street corridor will soon become more pedestrian friendly. In May, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced that a greenspace at 103rd and Wood streets, outside Ohana Ice and Treats, will be converted into a “People Spot,” with individual benches constructed to offer a place for people to eat, drink and enjoy the outdoors for a few minutes.

That location was one of 15 selected citywide as part of Chicago Alfresco, which is a continuation of the city’s expanded outdoor dining program that was started last year during the pandemic.

The MPBHBA spearheaded the effort to secure the grant, and Connors said funding has arrived; she hopes construction will begin by the end of August, and she envisions unveiling the space on Oct. 7, during a party after an annual Sip ’n’ Shop at businesses along 99th Street and Walden Parkway and those on 103rd Street.

The 103rd Street corridor also now features a marked lane for bikes, between the roadway and the parking lane, and a Divvy station was installed recently.

That’s another feature that Connors feels makes Beverly more attractive.

“It just makes it a little more accessible to people from outside the neighborhood,” Connors said, “to spend a day or afternoon doing some shopping.”

Away from 103rd Street, Levraddigans Studios, 10517 S. Western Ave., hosted a ribbon cutting on July 17. Owner Darvell Jones offers services including music recording, podcasting, photography, videography, vocal coaching, sound design and mixing/mastering.

Storefront vacancies in Beverly/Morgan Park are few, Connors said; however, interest in opening a new business is high.

“I get a lot of calls,” Connors said, “about people looking for commercial space.”

This article is part of The Beverly Review's annual special section "The Good News"