Just two days after Thanksgiving the Stokers are forced to close their family owned pizza shop Godfather’s Pizza that has called 1265 Wilson Ave home in Uptown for 52 years after their landlord increased their rent.
After 10 years of operation Royal Coffee run by husband and wife Yodit and David closes its doors in Rogers Park at 6764 N Sheridan.
N SHERIDAN AVE
Brothers Rick and Randy opt for retirement closing the 66 year old operation Lee Lumber that their father built from the ground up at 633 W Pershing Rd.
Within the first few weeks that I moved to Chicago, Treasure Island a local grocery chain abruptly announced that they were closing. Upon reading the news I began to think what it must feel like to go to work knowing you’re losing your job and everyone you’re interacting with also knows. I thought about the awkward and uncomfortable encounters that would ensue between employees and customers.
As a filmmaker I’ve always been drawn to stories about transition. I thought about how the stores once fully stocked would empty out and the visuals occurring within the confines of the stores. In my mind this was something that needed to be documented. I ran it by my friend Ankur and we set out to get clearance from Treasure Island to document the final days of one of their locations. They never got back to us.
Ankur and I still wanted to tell a story of transition and decided we would document the last days of closing family owned businesses. We met with various businesses across town, some were receptive others were not. We heard about closings from word of mouth and media outlets. As a Chicago transplant I began to think of the project as an archive of these businesses as community pillars and to serve as a sort of remembrance and acknowledgement of their contributions.
We are thankful to the folks and communities at Godfather’s Pizza, Royal Cafe, and Lee Lumber for allowing us to document their final days.
I’ve always been curious and drawn to the reasons why people decide to put down roots in a particular community and what happens when impacts outside of their control upend their lives and force people to leave their homes.
Last Call gets to the heart of this by capturing three Chicago families across the city who are forced to shut down their long-running small family-owned business. These closures come as broader economic and social forces are reshaping Chicago’s neighborhoods and communities struggle to maintain their sense of place.
We filmed this series from 2018 - 2019, but the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated many of the issues that small family-owned businesses face. With historic unemployment and small businesses closing in neighborhoods almost every day, it’s increasingly clear how incredibly important the corner stores, local cafes, and small restaurants are to creating the culture and character of our communities.
Documenting these families as they grappled with losing a place they considered home also helped me process losing a place I too once considered home. I saw in them the same feelings me and my family went through: nostalgia, sadness, helplessness and can only hope that our film captures the experience of leaving a community with justice and care.