The Shutdown Series

In March 2020 many businesses, schools, and community organizations were ordered closed by the Illinois state government, due to the global pandemic. The order was supposed to last until April 7th. For the moment, most aspects of our daily routines were suddenly put on hold.

As the warm spring weather began to stick around I was thinking about all the of places that typically would be bustling with people, but were instead sitting empty. And I wondered about how the people in charge of those spaces were dealing with the situation. In the middle of May 2020 I began work on this photography project, capturing images of a strange and unfamiliar moment in time.

The city council

Naperville Councilwoman Theresa Sullivan sitting in the vacant city Council Chambers.

We haven’t met as a Council in person since the March 3 City Council meeting, and then everything changed so quickly from there. These meetings are so important for us to take the temperature of our residents as we listen to their concerns and ideas in public forum and as different issues come up on the agenda. Many people come to every one of them and in some ways it felt like a big family meeting every two weeks. Now we meet virtually from our own homes, and the only faces we see at the meetings are digital representations of our own. People can still email or phone in their thoughts for our meetings, but I don’t think it feels the same for them or for us. Since I took office a year ago, I’ve held Facebook Live meetings on Thursdays after our meetings to summarize in my view what happened and to field any questions that people had in a more informal way. A few months ago it seemed like a unique, convenient and inclusive way to connect with constituents. Now, it’s the only way most people can “meet” with each other, so I think the novelty of virtual meetings is wearing off quickly for a lot of us.

The Coach

Coach Michael Stine standing in the empty weight room of NCHS.

I have been blessed to have the opportunity to teach Physical Education, Coach Football and Girls track at Naperville Central for the past 37 years. Last year I retired as a Physical Education teacher and Girls track coach. I remain the Head football coach at Naperville Central High school.

The Students, Teachers, Administration and support staff at Naperville Central make it a very special place. As I came in today to meet Jeff for the picture, I had a feeling of emptiness and sadness. Something was missing and has been missing since March 13th. The work out for that morning was still listed on the board more than 2 months later. I miss seeing and being around the student athletes each day.

We normally walk into the weight room at 5:45 am and soon are joined by 35-50, enthusiastic and motivated, student athletes. They know the time put in now will benefit them in their present or upcoming season.

Sure the athletes are there to get bigger, faster and stronger, but the most important thing that is built during these work outs are relationships and friendships.

Athletics provide such a great opportunity for young people to be part of something bigger than themselves and to work together for a common goal. The life lessons that are learned through athletics are so important in the growth and development of athletes, parents and the coaches involved.

Those daily in person interactions have been replaced with zoom meetings, text messages, emails and phone calls. The athletes have stayed just as enthusiastic,motivated, positive and hopeful through this unusually situation we are in due to COVID-19. Their energy motivates and encourages me.

The restaurant

Christopher Mason is the owner of Allegory, a farm-to-table modern American comfort restaurant

Allegory is many things. Great food. Great wine. Great music. A great team. Lovely and downright enthusiastically giddy customers, many who have become friends. Allegory is also the culmination of the collective eons of my professional life in foodservice. Shaped from a dream I’ve had since I was 9. The summer ahead of us was looking exciting and bright and was fully booked with the Allegory Food Truck. Great progress for only 16 months. Then, the incredible news that we must close instantly changed… everything.

So. Overnight, here we are, all of us, at the intersection of Utterly Bizarre and Truly Terrifying, attempting to navigate a situation none of us has ever seen or could have imagined. What now? Closing was never an option. The only choice was to create a completely new reality, and only by learning an entirely new business model- the world of delivery, curbside take-away and online ordering. Right now! Talk about a learning curve.

Things are incredibly hard and I worry every day about failure. Although I have no idea what tomorrow will lob our way, I remind myself (somedays more successfully than others) how lucky I am to be sitting here in my tiny and cave-like office, healthy and encouraged by loyal friends, my loving family and a supportive community.

I’m exhausted and scared to death but ever hopeful.

The Chamber

Kaylin Risvold is President and CEO of the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce.

Our office has been closed since Monday, March 16th. Usually, there are a dozen staff here and even more members coming in for meetings. This place is usually filled with loud conversations, a bunch of smiles and the joy is palpable. The NACC team has an amazing energy that fills our beautiful space – working together to make NACC better and each other’s lives better. The quiet now is eerie. Our staff is working from home and we have transitioned all of our events and committee meetings to virtual. We are busier than ever engaging with elected officials and other groups with the goal of working to get businesses open safely. We are spending our days fighting for your business and fighting for our business as well. As a Not-For-Profit and member-based organization, we have taken a big hit and we’ve had to furlough staff and cut staff hours. We miss being in this space, being able to engage in person with our Members and the community. We know that many businesses, lives, and livelihoods are on the line. We won’t go down without a fight – for your business and ours. Knowing the stakes are so high, this makes me, and our whole staff fight harder. The way we do business may be different, but the mission is the same. The NACC will always be Your Resource and Your Advocate for Our Community.

The Cafe

Yogita Maduri owns Yogiscafe, a coffee shop in south Naperville that also serves tasty baked goods.

Yogi’s Café opened in April 2019 to make a good cup of coffee and bring smiles to our customers. Never imagined that within a year, we would be hit by a pandemic and start all over again. It’s been a stressful three months since the lockdown has begun. Each day I open our doors in the morning, uncertain what the day will bring. I don’t know if customers are going to come in to pick up their coffee or not. But in these stressful times, one of the reasons why we have kept the doors open is because we are all in this together, and will make it through this together. One customer was heard saying “it was my only hope”. These are the things that made us keep the doors open.

Life has taught me that being in a community like Naperville that look out for their small, locally owned businesses is like a silver lining in these trying times. Loyal customers have been coming back to support Yogi’s Café, and spreading the word to their neighbors that we are still open for the community to come in for quality coffee and baked goods, as well as encouragement and camaraderie.

I have been taking one day at a time to keep the café open. I tell my customers the same, “be strong for your family because today is important and taking one day at a time will keep everyone safe”.

I look forward to the day when it is safe for the masks to come down, and my customers can once again see the smile they bring to me each and every day.

Stay strong, keep smiling and take it one day at a time.

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