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The Student News Site of University of Chicago Laboratory High School

U-High Midway

The Student News Site of University of Chicago Laboratory High School

U-High Midway

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Discovering Devon: Chicago’s unique Devon Avenue connects many diverse cultures

Devon+Avenue+in+the+West+Ridge+neighborhood+of+Chicago+offers+a+multicultural+experience+for+all+to+enjoy.+Numerous+shops+line+the+street%2C+their+signs+and+window+displays+inviting+customers+inside.
Hayla Shah
Devon Avenue in the West Ridge neighborhood of Chicago offers a multicultural experience for all to enjoy. Numerous shops line the street, their signs and window displays inviting customers inside.

When walking onto Devon Avenue in the West Ridge neighborhood on Chicago’s Far North Side, visitors and locals alike are met with a rich blend of various cultures. On one side of the street, a synagogue proudly displays a giant paper menorah taped to the gate, while a few doors down music can be heard pouring from a Nepalese restaurant, and across the street women browse through intricately designed lehengas and saris at one of the many Indian clothing stores. 

Although the area is incredibly diverse, it has become known as a center of South Asian culture in particular.

Despite the pandemic causing financial damage, with stores and restaurants left mostly barren, life has finally returned to Devon Avenue as it continues its legacy of bringing people together with cultural diversity. 

Among the vast array of Devon restaurants is Sukhadia’s, a sweet shop whose bright red doors have been open on Devon since 1997, when a surge of desi immigrants began settling into the area. Sneh Sukhadia, the sixth-generation owner of Sukhadia’s, described Devon as “just up and coming” when his family first moved to Chicago from New Jersey. 

“When we started, it was us, Patel Brothers, there was another grocery store called Kamdar Plaza, across the street was Mysore Woodlands,” Mr. Sukhadia said. “All these really awesome, amazing Indian, desi stores.”

While the location quickly became popular, attracting new visitors and establishments of various ethnic backgrounds, the coronavirus pandemic shut down the area completely, to the detriment of many businesses including the popular Mysore Woodlands. 

“A lot of Devon got hit really hard with COVID,” Mr. Sukhadia said. “This area is very dependent on foot traffic, so once the foot traffic started to die down because people wouldn’t go outside, it really just destroyed a lot of these desi businesses that weren’t able to survive during the pandemic.”

Tahira Hasan, who founded the desi clothing store Studio Elite on Devon after moving from Karachi, Pakistan, about 13 years ago, also spoke with a somber expression when describing the emptiness of Devon at the time. However, she feels the avenue has now returned to normalcy.

“During the pandemic, there was no business here, but then there was the vaccination and everything was done so people were confident,” Ms. Hasan said, “and then they began to start to come here. But business was very lost and COVID was not good for business.”

Azmath Ali works as a sales executive at the jewelry store Joyalukkas and also felt that the liveliness of Devon has gone back to what it once was. 

“Before the pandemic it was super crowded, especially people coming all the way from the suburbs,” Ms. Ali said. “Nothing much really changed after the pandemic. People do come here. They get everything like grocery, restaurants, gold stores, clothing stores, etc. Devon is still the heart of the Indian community.”

Unlike Ms. Ali, Mr. Sukhadia believes certain aspects of the area have changed since the pandemic, especially because more South Asian communities have developed in the Chicagoland area. 

“They’ll go to Naperville and all those other places where they started to open up more Indian communities, so that’s been tough,” Mr. Sukhadia said. “I don’t think foot traffic has really returned since the pandemic to what it used to be, but that way you have to figure out different ways to survive essentially.”

Even throughout the pandemic, U-High senior Mariama Jalloh continued to regularly visit Devon, as she appreciates the active Muslim community, and her aunt owns a convenience store on the avenue. She said the area’s diversity is apparent around holidays.

It’s really interesting to see a lot of different blends of culture, especially during specific holidays like Eid, when I see a lot of desi women or even African women go to get henna,” Mariama said, referring to a ceremonial skin decoration important in many cultures.

Despite the struggles Devon has faced in recent years, the people living and working within the Avenue continue to cherish the diverse community. 

“It’s just like a blend of all these cultures, and that’s what makes America so great, right? You have a melting pot of all these different cultures,” Mr. Sukhadia said. “I think it’s just amazing to see all of that all into one. You can just walk down the street and basically walk through different parts of the world.”

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About the Contributors
Sahana Unni
Sahana Unni, Editor-in-Chief
Sahana Unni is a member of the Class of 2024 and serves as an editor-in-chief. She began journalism as a ninth grader in the 2020-21 school year and has since appreciated the exposure to different ideas and perspectives. Her favorite story she has written is about the Jane Collective, a group of women who provided safe abortions before the procedure was legalized in the early 1970s. Outside of journalism, Sahana enjoys creative writing and reading, while also serving as an editor-in-chief of the Renaissance literary magazine and a captain of the Mock Trial team.
Awards: 2024 Scholastic Press Association of Chicago, special coverage: (with Audrey Park and Clare McRoberts) superior 2024 Columbia Scholastic Press Association Gold Circle Award: First place, personal opinion: on-campus issues, "New auditorium name at odds with values" 2024 Columbia Scholastic Press Association Gold Circle Award: Second place (with Zara Siddique), photo layout: full page (Page 3) 2024 Columbia Scholastic Press Association Gold Circle Award: Certificate of merit, news feature, “Dazzling drag city” 2023 Journalism Education Association National Student Media Contests, San Francisco convention: Honorable mention, online package 2022 Columbia Scholastic Press Association Gold Circle Award: Cultural feature, certificate of merit, "‘Bridgerton’ effectively represents Indian culture" 2022 Journalism Education Association National Student Media Contests, St. Louis convention: Honorable mention, feature writing 2020 National Scholastic Press Association Fall Best of Show: Sixth Place, Election Reporting (contributor), “As trailblazer for multiple identities, Harris inspires students”
Hayla Shah
Hayla Shah, Photographer
Hayla Shah is a beginning photojournalist and a member of the Class of 2026. Outside of photojournalism, Hayla swims and runs track for U-High, plays piano and loves to read. 

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