Obama-Mania: Tourism Business Booming in Obama's Chicago

Despite the cold weather and biting wind, out-of-town guests, as usual, on Thanksgiving weekend, are hitting the sites in Chicago, America's third-largest city -- including the Sears Tower, Wrigley Field and the Lake Michigan waterfront.

But this year, they are hitting some newly ascendant Windy City hotspots -- including Hyde Park Hair Salon & Barber Shop, Manny's Deli, 57th Street Books, Valois Cafeteria and Medici on 57th -- all allegedly frequented by hometown boy Barack Obama, who was elected president three weeks ago.

The signs are everywhere: Obama-mania is here.

"I definitely think it's great for Chicago that he's from here," said Dan Raskin, son of Kenny Raskin, owner of Manny's Deli, where Obama made a much-publicized lunch stop just last week. "It gives people something else to want to see when they're here."

From delis to barber shops and business offices to bookstores, visitors have been seeking out the Illinois lawmaker's favorite Chicago stomping grounds, sending business spiking throughout town.

"It's a big jump," said Antonio Coye, manager at the Hyde Park Hair Salon & Barber Shop, where the president-elect went to have his close-cropped hair trimmed until just a few weeks ago.

The city is not about to miss out on the tourist gold mine. Chicago's official tourism Web site lures travelers to "Presidential Chicago: Experience the city the Obamas enjoy." The Illinois Bureau of Tourism has launched a three-day tour of the "President-elect Obama Trail," taking visitors to 14 attractions from the state capital of Springfield, where Obama launched his presidential campaign, to his Hyde Park neighborhood in Chicago.

Of course, tourists can't exactly walk up to Obama's front door at his historic Kenwood red brick house, bought by the family in the summer of 2005. The street is cordoned off, guarded by Secret Service and Chicago police, who stand watch over the area. Even the Obama press corps is kept in a bus down the street, yards away from the residence.

But visitors can go get their hair cut at Coye's barber shop, which Obama has frequented for more than a decade.

"We have a lot of Europeans and people from different countries coming in just to get their hair cut by Barack's barber or in Barack's barber shop," Coye said, citing a "big spike" since Election Day, with about five people a day coming in, as well as numerous others driving by to take pictures.

"We try to get it as close as possible," said Coye, on duplicating the Obama 'do.

With all the newfound attention at the salon and his increased security, Obama can no longer go to the barber shop. Instead, he has his stylist go to his friend Mike Signator's place in the nearby Regents Park apartment buildings, where Obama goes for his hour-long morning workouts.

Not only do tourists come by, but so do vendors hawking Obama gear -- such as one man seen walking into Coye's barber shop recently selling wood carvings engraved with the words, "Barack Obama and the Book," accompanied by a picture of the president-elect and the Holy Bible.

"Hats, pictures -- just everything you can think of, they try to sell," noted Coye.

Not far away, Obama's favorite bookstore, 57th Street Books, is another popular Hyde Park haunt.

Business also is booming at Obama's favorite neighborhood eateries, including the historic Valois Cafeteria.

"It's been good," said manager Tom Chronopoulos, estimating that "maybe 50" tourists come in every day.

Page
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
  • |
  • 3
Join the Discussion
You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...