Hidden Gems: Our Favorite Chicago Businesses and Their Impact

February 15, 2024

12 Minute Read

Though the Be Found Online team stretches across the country, there’s one place we hold especially close to our hearts: Chicago. Founded in the Windy City in 2009, we've had the privilege of getting to know a handful of local businesses that are not only thriving but remind us of why we love our hometown so much.


Below, we’re shining a spotlight on some of our favorite Chicago businesses—ones that might not always make it to the front page but are undoubtedly deserving of an epic *slow clap.* From record shops to bathhouses, each of these spots has our stamp of approval.

So, if you’re a Chicago-based business yourself or are simply heading to our neck of the woods soon, here are our favorite Chicago hidden gems!


gethsemane garden center

(Photo Credit: Gethsemane Garden Center)

Gethsemane Garden Center

Kyle Geib

Director, Marketing & Digital Communications

“Tucked between the Edgewater and Andersonville neighborhoods is one of my favorite plant shops in the whole city. Choosing a favorite plant shop is the hardest decision I've made in a while, but there's one reason that puts Gethsemane in the top position—their greenhouse. 


Chicago is fortunate to have incredible plant shops with impressive selections, fair prices, and incredibly dedicated shop owners, but Gethsemane has all that AND a greenhouse that makes it feel like you're strolling through a botanical garden. Gethsemane wins out because you don't have to be in the market to buy a plant to go experience a unique, tropical getaway...especially during February in Chicago!”



(Photo Credit: Yelp)

Edgewater Beach

Adam Woodburn

Sr. SEO Analyst/Content Manager

“A lot of people don't realize it, but Chicago has the longest stretch of public coastline of any other city in the country, about 28 miles, along with some pretty great beaches. I no longer live in the neighborhood, but I lived about 2 blocks from Edgewater Beach on the far northeast side of Chicago for several years.


In the warmer months, I would pack up my little collapsible wagon with a chair, a cooler, a blanket, and whatever other snacks and beach stuff I needed and wheel over to the sand for a few hours after work. It's one of the lesser visited beaches in the city, so it was always a very calm vibe.


The ice cream carts came by frequently, so I was always sure to bring some cash. I'd like to sit in the sun and listen to music or a ballgame (Go Brewers} until I get warm enough to wade into the cool lake water for a bit.


Then, as the evening airplane traffic started to pick up in the skies above (the beach sits right under 3 distinct air routes into O'Hare), I'd be dry enough, hungry enough, and sometimes buzzed enough to toddle back home to make some dinner. Love those lazy weekday evenings on Edgewater Beach.”



(Photo Credit: Yelp)

Bric-a-Brac Records/The Brewed

Jon Phillips

Director, Analytics

“What goes better than records and coffee? These two spots are joined at the hip, sharing owners (and sometimes employees!). Bric-a-Brac Records specializes in rock-n-roll vinyl and cassettes and has fun toys and souvenirs to check out as well. Personally, I am a huge fan of their collection of vintage Simpsons memorabilia.


Meanwhile, The Brewed is horror-themed. Lined with posters, they even have a menu that feels like you’re at the theatre. The combination of all these things creates a unique spot in the Avondale neighborhood of Chicago that is a must-visit for just about anyone.”



(Photo credit: Jewel-Osco)


Curtiss Gulash

Director, Paid Media

“I found Jewel during my very first trip to the BFO office about 9 years ago. Being a new (and remote) team member, I didn't know anyone, so I went meandering about the neighborhood by my hotel and saw what I thought was just a run-of-the-mill grocery store. Boy, was I wrong!


Jewel is a mecca for the hungry. No matter your craving or your diet, whether you're looking for snacks, sandwiches, salads, or the regional brands you love, Jewel has what you need. In addition to their grocery selection, everyone at Jewel is friendly, and unlike a lot of grocery stores, the layout/floor plan makes sense.


My personal favorite at Jewel is their fried chicken (it pairs well with Daisy Cutter, another Chicago favorite!). As someone who eats A LOT of fried chicken, it's the #1 in-house grocery store fried chicken I've ever had!


Whenever I come to the office, I stop by Jewel at least a couple times: It's my home away from home away from home. And whenever my family joins me in Chicago, they begrudgingly accompany me to Jewel to pick up snacks and chicken. So stop into Jewel the next time you're in town, stroll the aisles, try the fried chicken, and tell me what you think!


One more thing: They have a rewards system, so you can save money on future trips each time you shop. If you're not local, don't fret; you can use someone else's phone number to get them points. (You're welcome, Erica!)”


garfield park conservatory

(Photo Credit: Choose Chicago)

Garfield Park Conservatory

Dain Sundstedt

SEO Account Manager

“Located in Garfield Park in West Chicago, the Garfield Park Conservatory is a perfect warm gateway in the middle of winter but also a beautiful place to visit year-round. The conservatory is a massive and historical place that first opened in 1908! It boasts many rooms themed for different environments (palm, desert, arid, and fern rooms, to name a few), most of which have towering trees nearly touching the tops of the greenhouse.


The conservatory also has a large outdoor area with gardens and a labyrinth and hosts special events like concerts, sometimes in their events room. This is a great place for dates, family outings, or a stroll through nature. Pro Tip: Go during weekdays to avoid weekend crowds.


chicago bath house

(Photo Credit: Chicago Bath House)

Chicago Bath House

Dain Sundstedt

SEO Account Manager

“Located in Wicker Park, this sauna and bath house is a perfect winter activity to get warm and relax your mind and body. Rooted in traditional European bathhouse culture, the Chicago Bath House offers all types of saunas and amenities but is Co-Ed (unlike many traditional bathhouses).


There is a shared dry sauna and separate areas that both include a warm pool, steam room, wet sauna, chill plunge pool, and cold shower. They also offer massage and spa amenities and have a bar and restaurant on-site. It is a truly relaxing experience to alternate between the warm and cold, and leaves you feeling meditative and relaxed.”


chicago's moveable bridges

(Photo Credit: Cruise Chicago)

Chicago's Moveable Bridges

Melissa Attard

Sales and Solution Enablement

“I think Chicago’s moveable bridges are a remarkable example of how engineering and architecture can adapt to the natural conditions and the urban needs. I admire the creativity and innovation that went into designing and constructing these bridges.


Chicago’s swampy soil posed a challenge for building skyscrapers and bridges. Chicago’s bedrock is buried beneath silt, mud, and clay, which are very wet and oozy. In 1856, Chicago lifted itself up to 14 feet off the ground to keep from sinking and sliding around in the marshland.


Taking into account these unique conditions, builders and engineers looked toward a trunnion bascule bridge design for the city's road bridges. The moveable leaf is balanced by a hidden counterweight so that it can be quickly lifted by an electric motor of approximately 100 hp. The leaf rotates on an axle or trunnion, which keeps the weight of the bridge on a single spot that can easily be supported by foundations in Chicago’s swampy soil.


Chicago’s moveable bridges are a unique part of the city’s character, made necessary by the city’s many crossings of a busy river with wet, swampy soil and low banks in the business district. They provide the city with function and architectural interest to locals and visitors.”


margie's candies chicago

(Photo Credit: Margie's Candies)

Margie's Candies

Erica Carpenter

Director, Client Strategy

“Very simply put—Margie's Candies is an old-fashioned ice cream parlor and candy shop. Don't get me wrong, their candies are delightful, but the ice cream is where it's at. If you haven't been, make a point to visit one of their two locations (Bucktown or Ravenswood) next time you come to town or, for Chicago locals, next time you have an ice cream craving. You will spend at least $10 on ice cream, but as long as you stay away from the pistachio, I promise you will be happy.  


Margie's has been in business for over a century (founded in 1921) and, to this day, is still family-owned and operated. Almost everything is homemade, and you can count on having a plethora of ice cream flavors to pick from, as there are usually 25+ on the menu.


If you have a little time to spare, I highly recommend dining in and getting one of their famous sundaes or banana splits. They're obnoxiously large and served in white clamshell bowls. You will most certainly be embarrassed when it arrives at your table but trust me, you'll get over it after your first bite. Besides, what do you think everyone else is doing there?”


fountain of time chicago

(Photo Credit: Chicago Park District)

Washington Fountain of Time

Steve Krull

Co-Founder & CEO

“I can't say when I first visited the Washington Fountain of Time in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood, yet it's always stuck with me for some reason. Every time I'm nearby, I visit the fountain. For me, it's a humbling piece of art that helps me put the world around me in perspective. It certainly came in handy when my wife was going through cancer treatment nearby at the University of Chicago Hospital. That was during Covid, and I wasn't allowed in the hospital, so I spent my time near and around the fountain.


While the core message is time marches on, for me, there's so much more, it's deeper on so many levels. I don't know why I'm so connected to the piece and this place. It's odd, too, because, in this particular area, there are plenty of works of art, a world-class museum (MSI Chicago), the lakefront, lakefront parks, Japanese Gardens, and so much more. Yet, I'm forever drawn to Taft's ‘Fountain of Time.’”


We Love Chicago!

As we wrap up our exploration of Chicago's hidden gems, we're reminded of the resilience and creativity that define this city's entrepreneurial spirit. From the funky neighborhood shops to the family-owned businesses that have been open for decades, each business we've featured has left an indelible mark on Chicago's landscape.


And as a digital marketing agency, we’re inspired by the stories these brands have to tell. Based on our experiences, we know each of these businesses is a testament to the transformative power of authenticity. Behind every storefront, every product, and every service, there's a story waiting to be told—and we're honored to amplify those stories and celebrate the incredible impact of Chicago's hidden gems.


So, whether you're a business owner looking to share your story or a consumer eager to discover your next favorite spot, remember the importance of supporting local and celebrating the diverse businesses that make Chicago truly special!

When we're not lovin' on Chicago, we're talking digital marketing! Subscribe to our monthly newsletter:

Kyle Geib - Director, Marketing & Digital Communications

Kyle Geib

As Director of Marketing and Digital Communications, Kyle brings an extra layer of enthusiasm to BFO’s incredible team of experts. Dedicated to continuing to cultivate BFO’s presence as a unique and knowledgeable voice in the industry, he leans in on his experience marketing in both the B2C and B2B spaces.