It is one of those rare gorgeous days in the Chicago spring, and the north side neighborhood of Rogers Park has come alive. A crowd of smiling people pour out of St. Jerome Catholic Church, post-wedding. The vendors on Clark Street are drawing the eyes of young children who tug at their guardians’ hands for the prospect of a frozen treat. But Rigo Romero, owner of Jessica’s Western Wear does not get to enjoy the sights on the sunny street. He is busy in his little back room, his practiced hands moving deftly from the time-worn sewing machine to the fabric of the jeans he’s altering.

 

The shop consists of two long rooms, one lined with rows of cowboy boots and hats, jeans, and jackets the other filled with racks of brightly colored dresses, women’s shirts, and high-heels. The rectangular wooden checkout counter contains a glass case full of jewelry.

 

“We’ve got a little bit of everything,” Romero says cheerfully in his impeccable English with a hint of a Spanish lilt.

 

Romero came to Chicago from his hometown of Jalisco, Mexico, when he was 16 to follow in his father’s footsteps to a place of better opportunity. He started working factory jobs making car parts for $2.90 an hour. “It was a difficult time, but I hoped for a better future,” says Romero.

 

New prospects fell into place soon after he met his wife while out country-western line dancing. After their marriage, the two began a door-to-door business of selling jewelry. “We had customers all over the city. We had started going out to places like Waukegan and Joliet. One day we decided to establish our business instead of going to the customers,” says Romero. “They can come to us.”

 

Romero had always liked the fashion in Mexico that mirrored the traditional American cowboy and his wife liked the idea of opening a dress shop. So the two decided to blend their fashion interests into a business. Jessica’s Western Wear was born, named after the Romeros’ youngest of four children.

 

Family is very much a part of running the business for Romero whose now adult children help work the shop a few days a week. And Romero needs all of the help he can get to tend to the families who are constantly bustling in and out, asking for a shoe size or a different color of a certain dress between bursts of friendly chatter in Spanish or English.

 

Romero is realistic, but ever optimistic about his business. Though the store always seems full of customers, Romero admits that the economic crisis has taken its toll. “Business was really bad at the beginning of the year,” Romero says matter-of-factly, “but now it’s okay. I try not to complain.” After 18 years of business, Romero is confident in his clientele to keep the store alive.

 

“I love it here. My customers come from all over the world. They depend on me, and I try to deliver my best every day. That’s what it’s about,” he says, clipping off the thread on the cuff of the jeans he has been hemming. His wife is calling for him to hurry up over the din of customers in the main room. Romero flashes a toothy grin, grabs the jeans and hurries out to his wife’s aid. Duty calls.

 

It is one of those rare gorgeous days in the Chicago spring, and the north side neighborhood of Rogers Park has come alive. A crowd of smiling people pour out St. Jerome Catholic Church, post-wedding. The vendors on Clark Street are drawing the eyes of young children who tug at their guardians’ hands for the prospect of a frozen treat. But Rigo Romero, owner of Jessica’s Western Wear does not get to enjoy the sights on the sunny street. He is busy in his little back room, his practiced hands moving deftly from the time-worn sewing machine to the fabric of the jeans he’s altering.

The shop consists of two long rooms, one lined with rows of cowboy boots and hats, jeans, and jackets the other filled with racks of brightly colored dresses, women’s shirts, and high-heels. The rectangular wooden checkout counter contains a glass case full of jewelry. “We’ve got a little bit of everything,” Romero says cheerfully in his impeccable English with a hint of a Spanish lilt.

Romero came to Chicago from his hometown of Jalisco, Mexico when he was 16 to follow in his father’s footsteps to a place of better opportunity. He started working factory jobs making car parts for $2.90 an hour. “It was a difficult time, but I hoped for a better future,” says Romero.

New prospects fell into place soon after he met his wife while out country-western line dancing. After their marriage, the two began a door-to-door business of selling jewelry. “We had customers all over the city. We had started going out to places like Waukegan and Joliet. One day we decided to establish our business instead of going to the customers, they can come to us,” says Romero.

Romero had always liked the fashion in Mexico that mirrored the traditional American cowboy and his wife liked the idea of opening a dress shop. So the two decided to blend their fashion interests into a business. Jessica’s Western Wear was born, named after the Romeros’ youngest of four children.

Family is very much a part of running the business for Romero whose now adult children help work the shop a few days a week. And Romero needs all of the help he can get to tend to the families who are constantly bustling in and out asking for a shoe size or a different color of a certain dress between bouts of friendly chatter in Spanish or English.

Romero is realistic, but ever optimistic about his business. Though the store always seems full of customers, Romero admits that the economic crisis has taken its toll. “Business was really bad at the beginning of the year,” Romero says matter-of-factly, “but now it’s okay. I try not to complain.” After 18 years of business, Romero is confident in his clientele to keep the store alive.

“I love it here. My customers come from all over the world. They depend on me, and I try to deliver my best every day. That’s what it’s about,” he says, clipping off the thread on the cuff of the jeans he has been hemming. His wife is calling for him to hurry up over the din of customers in the main room. Romero flashes a toothy grin, grabs the jeans and hurries out to his wife’s aid. Duty calls.