Racially charged sign posted at Chicago coffee shop

CHICAGO -- The owners of Bow Truss Coffee Roasters said they were excited to open a coffee shop in Pilsen last summer. Rudy Cordero said he hoped to become part of the community, but the store has been targeted with anti-gentrification signs four times.

The signs have grown increasingly more aggressive, he said. The last one was racially insensitive: White people out of Pilsen.

"The shop is supported by the neighborhood and a lot of individuals that live here," Cordero said. "More businesses are always a great opportunity for neighborhood income, neighborhood growth. I don't think that Bow Truss Coffee Roasters is part of a problem."

Pilsen is going through a transition with more millennials moving into the West Side neighborhood. It's not the neighborhood's first. Pilsen was once comprised of Western European immigrants and then Eastern European immigrants before Latinos moved in. It's been predominately Latino for about 50 years.

Gentrification of the neighborhood is and has been a hot-button issue for years. Michael Pichowsky, who moved to Pilsen 10 years ago, doesn't see that changing.

"I suspect people don't like to be displaced. Or they don't like change. I don't think that's unusual. It happens. Tough luck in a free country where people come and go and things change," Pichowsky said.

Alexis Esparza is with the Eighteenth Street Development Corporation. He said the people behind the signs posted at Bow Truss are not invested in the neighborhood.

"It's a handful of people I can pick from the neighborhood that aren't open-minded, are not looking at the future of what Pilsen could be," Esparza said.

Esparza doesn't call what's happening in Pilsen gentrification. He calls it "change" and said it makes life better for people in the community.

"I'd much rather see business fulfill their dreams of growing rather than see empty store fronts on 18th Street," Esparza said.

Cordero said he doesn't know who is responsible for the signs, but said he welcomes a conversation. He also said he does his best to keep coffee prices low and his cafe is open to everyone.
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