Photography campaign features West Town small businesses affected by Chicago coronavirus stay-at-home order

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The Illinois stay-at-home order to combat the spread of coronavirus has left many businesses shuttered. A photographer is showcasing the faces behind the shuttered storefronts in West Town, hoping to give these local businesses a voice during a tough time.

Like the businesses she's highlighting, Candice Cusic's doors are closed. It is that common ground she has with other area businesses that moved her to take on this project.

"I started Save Local Businesses because I am one of them," she said. "Like the businesses I photograph, I have a beautiful storefront on Chicago Avenue and we are locked down. So, I feel for them. This is the time we need to share our stories, and fight for our businesses, and stand together and pray people don't forget about us."

It has been just about two years since Cusic opened her own photography studio. Being forced to close her doors so soon has been heartbreaking.

"Closing it is a scary reality we live in right now. Driving down Chicago Avenue, I don't really recognize it. Everyone is closed. That's why showing the faces behind these locked doors was so compelling and important to me," Cusic said.

For the last few weeks she has been interviewing business owners for her project Save Local Businesses to give life, a face and a voice to those impacted by the pandemic. The series features individual business owners and gives them the opportunity to highlight why they started, how they are coping and what this new reality is like for them now.

"I have connected to every story that I have shared, and some quotes I will never forget," she said. "Some businesses were just getting ready to have their one-year anniversary, then the virus hit, and some business were ready to open and didn't even have a sign up yet, and then the virus hit. I mean it is unbelievable how the virus is affecting Chicago businesses and I'm honored to share their stories."

Cusic said they have all truly connected to one another through this, and they are hoping everyone else in the community can too.

"I hope people don't forget us and I really hope people will continue to support us and want to come see us," she said. "These are not just your local businesses; these are your neighbors and friends and when this is all over, I hope we all can just have a big round of hugs and get back to life."

Learning about one another, sharing business survival plans and coming together as a neighborhood have all been positive outcomes for one photographer's passion project during this pandemic.

If you want to learn more about save our local business and see how you can help, click here to visit the Save Local Businesses website.
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