Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to President Barack Obama who grew up in Chicago, visited two South Side stores Saturday afternoon as part of a nationwide effort to support small businesses during the holiday shopping season.
Jarrett stopped by Little Black Pearl, a cafe and art gallery on East 47th Street in North Kenwood, before heading to Powell's Bookstore on East 57th Street in Hyde Park, a store she said she's visited for decades.
Jarrett's shopping trip was meant to draw attention to Small Business Saturday, an annual event that encourages people to buy gifts at small shops, not just large chain retailers.
Jarrett called small businesses "the backbone of our community."
"That's where the growth is, and as our economy comes back, it's very important that our small businesses can thrive," she said. "In the course of a holiday season, visiting a small business in your own community could be the difference between the business surviving (or) closing their doors."
Jarrett chatted with employees and customers at Little Black Pearl before paying $70 for three glass roses made by students who attend an arts- and technology-based school at the site.
After Jarrett left, Alett Brown sat at a table in the cafe with two friends. None of the women had been to Little Black Pearl before, but they said they'd like to come back soon.
"I like this setting," Brown said. "It's like a comfort zone."