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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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Boiled Eggs to Business: Eric Williams

Founder of the Silver Room transitions from street vendor to boutique owner

At age 7, Eric Williams began working his first job: selling boiled eggs at his father’s bar. When he reached his teenage years, he worked at Taco Bell. Then, throughout the better part of his 20s, he made his living selling peanuts outside football games. 

Now, Mr. Williams is a business owner. He’s the founder of the Silver Room, a well-known boutique on 53rd Street in Hyde Park that sells fashion, jewelry, art, political apparel and cultural artifacts. He founded the business in 1997 after deciding that the peanut trade wasn’t going to cut it for him long-term.

“I think it was romantic in some way for the first couple years, that hustle,” Mr. Williams said, “And then I was like, ‘OK, I’m 27 now, you know? I can’t be doing this forever.’ So I wanted to take what I knew about selling and take it inside.”

When Mr. Williams created the Silver Room, it was little more than a small jewelry store, and he continued to grind each day in order to make a living. The “hustle” did not become easier for a considerable time. 

“Oh, man, I mean, when I started off, I just did not have any money,” Mr. Williams said, laughing. “You know, phone getting cut off, gas getting cut off, just the struggles of trying to make it. Those were probably the toughest times.”

But as the store grew and changed, and Mr. Williams began to make connections with many people, he started to consider these relationships to be among the most valuable parts of running the Silver Room— which is now a bustling, vibrant retail space, art gallery and community hub.

“I would say the best times are probably just the people,” Mr. Williams said, “I’ve met so many people over these 26 years, just thousands and thousands. We’ve had two weddings in the store. I’ve sold folks so many wedding rings, and there are so many couples. It’s just the people, for sure.”

Even more than weddings, Mr. Williams bears witness to the ambitions and hopes of so many people — whether they’re successful and accomplished or just starting out. He hopes the store can serve as a foundation of creativity and artistic expression for anyone who needs it.

“We are a platform for other people’s dreams,” Mr. Williams said, “so be it the first time someone DJed in the store. First time someone had an art show. First time someone read their poetry. First time someone made a T-shirt or a candle or something and sold it. Those are really important things to me, and the fact that it’s somewhere people can come and just try things out.”

For Mr. Williams, the Silver Room is more than just a business endeavor: the shop is a physical reflection of his passions, many of which stem from his young adulthood. For years, Mr. Williams has had an affinity for music and art and even sought to be a professional DJ.

“It’s not just a retail space,” Mr. Williams said. “It’s actually like my living room. It’s turntables in the space. It’s art on the wall. It’s poetry, you know, happening.” 

Mr. Williams is currently at work on a new project: the Bronzeville Winery, a restaurant located at 4420 S. Cottage Grove Ave. that offers a “well-curated wine list and perfectly executed local menu.” He looks to the future excitedly, wondering what’s next in his career and personal life. 

“I’m really curious on what is next for me,” Mr. Williams said. “Being at the store has been such a staple in the community, and it’s so meaningful to so many people. But I don’t think it’s all that I have. I think there’s something else — and maybe I don’t even know what that is yet.”

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About the Contributors
Light Dohrn
Light Dohrn, Assistant Editor
Light Dohrn is a member of the Class of 2026 and a Midway assistant editor. As a ninth grader, she joined the journalism team during the 2022-23 school year. Her favorite piece she has written for the Midway is “Through authenticity and humor, biology teacher inspires passion among students.” Outside of journalism, she enjoys Middle-Earth fantasy books and Tarantino films. Awards: 2023 Journalism Education Association National Student Media Contests, Boston convention: Excellent, review writing 2023 Journalism Education Association National Student Media Contests, San Francisco convention: Honorable mention, press law and ethics
Delaney Connell
Delaney Connell, Photographer
Delaney Connell is a beginning photojournalist and a member of the Class of 2026. Her favorite part of photojournalism is taking photos for school sports and school events. Outside of photojournalism, Delaney enjoys taking walks with her dog, talking with her brother and cooking.

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