Small Business Owners Around Chicago Find Ways To Deal With Supply Chain Problems

After a period of three months last year without a single order being entered, Gary Glenn felt immense relief when 2021 arrived.

Glenn, co-owner of StitchMine Custom Embroidery in Glenview, praised his employees for having had a great year, gave everyone a bonus and thought the worst was over.

Then in February, a seller ran out of plus size red Nike shirts and then XL.

“Now there is nothing left,” said Glenn. “If you put a gun to my temple, I can’t buy you a Nike jersey.

“We started out with maybe one in four or five orders where we would have a backorder,” he says. “Now it’s every order. “

From chorizo ​​and bicycle gears to plastic cup lids, Chicago-area small business owners are grappling with the global supply chain disruption that began with production downturns. and shipping related to the coronavirus pandemic and shows no signs of abating.

Like Dona Blunt, whose Buffalo Grove Newport Promotional Services company provides promotional items for events such as corporate birthdays and trade shows.

“The double challenge that we currently have is that the factories that decorate these products are either a) not having enough supplies, or b) they do not have enough employees to decorate the products and bring them out fast enough. , ”Says Blunt, who has been in business for about 30 years.

Items she buys that used to take three to five days to manufacture take 10 to 20 days to roll off the production line. So if someone wants to place an order for delivery even in a full month, she says, “I’m going to worry if I can get you something on time.”

Patrick Berger is not involved in the manufacturing and he is not a middleman, but he has faced similar issues at his West Loop restaurant, Kaiser Tiger. Berger says he had to take his traditional Irish breakfast off the menu because a supplier in Ireland can no longer deliver the black and white pudding he needs.

“Every week our suppliers are out of stock for something,” Berger says. “It was so bad that I couldn’t get simple things like flour – or, at least, the particular flour that we use. So we constantly substitute. We are constantly removing 86 items from the menu. Things that made me furious, I’m just rolling with the punches now. “

He says customers understand this, they hear about supply chain issues all the time now, but they understand less about the issues he and many restaurants have had in retaining staff.

“Most don’t realize it,” Berger says of the shortages. “Those who seem sympathetic. Where we lack sympathy with customers is with service. They don’t understand why there is one waiter for 15 tables, and they don’t get the top notch service they usually get.

Co-owner Gary Glenn checks the seams of the sweatshirt at StichMine Custom Embroidery in Glenview.
Anthony Vazquez / Sun-Times

Demetrios Panos, owner of YiaYia cafe in Hinsdale, said that after two pandemic-related lockdowns last year that left him with 150 empty seats, he has a better outlook on shortages and delivery issues.

“Maybe the pandemic has hardened me to be, like ‘If I can get over this then I can fix some of these supply chain issues,’” says Panos.

He struggled to get everything from loose chorizo ​​and chicken breasts to small take-out cups. So when someone buys a small drink, they have to give it to them in a large mug, which can be inconvenient for delivered orders.

“The delivery man came to me and said, ‘If I take this large mug with half-full orange juice, my customers will think I drank it,’” says Panos.

Unlike many companies, Timeless Toys is doing better this year despite – or even because of – supply chain issues, says Scott Friedland, vice president of the Lincoln Square Independent Store.

He says it’s because things were already so bad last year. Back then, the store could only get about half the stock it would normally have – and in an era of high demand for puzzles, games, and toys with so many people stuck at home and away. looking for entertainment.

So he predicted that the problems would continue this year. He over-ordered to make up for that, and he made a lot of his orders for later in the year in May to make sure the store would be fully stocked for the holiday season.

“People were giving warnings and I was listening,” Friedland says.

Some of the newer must-have toys and games have been delayed, but sales are generally good.

“People are buying a lot more this year,” says Friedland. “Retail is on the rise like crazy. It was one of the highest years I can remember in retail.

About Jonathan Bell

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