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Chicago Southland is Still a Great Place to Start a Small Business - Here's Why

By published September 10, 2021

By Molly Barnes, Digital Nomad Life

Chicago Southland consists of more than 60 south Chicago suburbs. Home to over 2 million residents, the community is full of opportunities for success. Many shopping districts and cultural sites dot the area, and recent funding in rail and highway improvements helps keep the area moving. The region provides ample value for new and expanding small businesses. 

Read on as we highlight just a handful of the local businesses that call Chicago Southland home. Also, enjoy a few helpful hints in case your small business wants to join them.

CreteEvil Horse

Evil Horse Brewing is known for its award-winning beers and exciting live entertainment. It is one of the many breweries in the Southland area. The building was first used for horse grain storage. In 2015, the brewery refitted the historic building to bring back its prime charm. Along with beer, it provides open mic nights and chili challenges. This gem of Southland is a great venue for fun with your friends and neighbors. 

Chicago is no stranger to breweries. The city has the most breweries out of any metro area in the country. However, that in no way limits any potential for new stores. Even after the pandemic, breweries continue to thrive.


ThorntonThornton Distilling

Thornton Distilling opened its doors in 2017. The historic site was once Al Capone’s largest production facility. And, the original building is Illinois’ longest-standing brewery. The renovated area highlights the majesty of its old brewing history. The distillery now produces a range of spirits, and each product highlights the unique style of Chicago.

The area is bordered by I-80 to the north. This gives Thornton and the nearby areas great access. And with a direct connection to I-94, downtown Chicago is just 45 minutes away. Historic buildings and the rich Southland heritage make Thornton a unique district for businesses.



Just south of I-94 in Lansing, Gayety’s Chocolates & Ice Cream Co. has been dishing up tasty treats since 1920. The old-school business uses classic equipment to create its treats. With hungry guests routinely packing each booth, Gayety’s is a community staple.

The family-owned store is designed to draw the eye. The main counter, for example, is covered in sweets and treats. Large windows allow customers to watch the magic happen. Gayety’s is a testament to the Southland community’s love of its traditional favorites


Chicago Heights

The Drama Group is a theater located in the Chicago Heights suburb. The theater has been providing Broadway shows to the area for 90 years. It owes its lasting success to the surrounding community. Its donations and advertising ensure that The Drama Group remains part of the culture.

The pandemic forced the group to switch shows to virtual engagements, but the future is bright for the theater. Live dramas and musicals are soon to return. Budding artists and Broadway fans will quickly be filling seats once more.


Starting a Business in Chicago Southland

Obviously, Chicago Southland is still a great place to start a small business, thanks in part to the resources available specifically for small business owners. The local Small Business Development Center provides free services from local experts. These centers are also perfect places to network with other small business owners in the region, allowing you to build mutually-beneficial relationships and share best practices. From creating a business plan and securing financing to building a website and designing your store layout, the Southland SBDC can help guide you to success. 

Additionally, the local area chambers of commerce offer opportunities for businesses of any size, ranging from continuing education to community involvement to government advocacy. In addition to monthly meetings and events, members serve on committees, based on individual interests. Chambers help build better businesses by encouraging owners to connect with their employees, their customers, and their neighborhoods in meaningful ways. 

The Chicago Southland community remains a diverse collection of suburbs. The area has had its share of economic struggles, but it continues to mirror the spirit of Chicago. The location is prime for development, ready for new, local businesses to embrace its history and heritage. 



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