Navy Pier shop raises money for Chicago Lighthouse

August 12, 2011 12:25:40 PM PDT
A local disabled organization has become part of Chicago's most popular tourist attraction, Navy Pier.

For the first time, a not-for-profit organization serving people with disabilities has a business at Navy Pier. They are selling items connected to their name, which is perfect fit for their location.

The Chicago Lighthouse is the name of the store that is run by staff from Chicago's Lighthouse for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired.

"We sell a variety of things," said Rob Cancilla, director of new business development for the Lighthouse. "We try to focus on a couple of different target audiences. We have a whole entire kids sections. We try to draw children in.

"We have a lot of different stuffed animals, games that celebrate the Lighthouse. We also have a lot of adult products, home goods decor. We've got wine stoppers, we've got plates, candles.

"This is a small shop, and what we're doing is, we're celebrating two different brands. We're celebrating the Chicago Harbor brand with the Lighthouse out on the harbor, as well as a historic non-profit agency with over 100 years of history in the Chicago area."

President and general manager of Navy Pier Marilyn Gardner agrees.

"People for years have asked us, Is there a place where I can buy a replica of the lighthouse?' Well now we have it," said Gardner.

The store just opened in June. All of the staff, including Cancilla, are legally blind or visually impaired.

"We'd been looking for opportunities to create job opportunities for the visually impaired and the blind, so when we saw different opportunities it was a natural fit to come to Navy Pier," said Cancilla.

Brittish Cheeks loves working at the store.

"I get to meet and interact with different people from all over," said Cheeks. "Wednesday I met a couple from Australia and London, so it's really nice, and letting people know that because without talking to me and actually telling you, you wouldn't know that I'm visually impaired, so giving people the awareness of what's going on here."

Cheeks says the most popular items so far are:

"The harbor lights. Chicago harbor replicas, those sell pretty good . We sell at least two a day, and then the life jackets for the wine, those are really popular," Cheeks said.

"As we move into the future, we are looking to make Navy Pier a place where you can really celebrate all aspects of Chicago," said Gardner.

Summer hours for the Chicago Lighthouse are 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday. On Fridays and Saturdays they are open until midnight.

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