When the Northwest EXTRA was started in June 1980, it was with much anticipation and trepidation. The Humboldt Park, Hermosa, Logan Square and Wicker Park communities had changed ethnicities, from Eastern European to Puerto Rican and Mexican during most of the 70s. The community newspaper (The Journal) had closed. It was published in English and the majority of residents were speaking and reading in Spanish. North Avenue had huge vacancies in their storefronts, and the old North-Pulaski Retail Association was defunct. The original picture of the retail association shows an organization of over 250 male members. It was taken in the 50s.
The idea was to start a bilingual newspaper in English and Spanish and be able to speak to multiple generations of readers in the language of their comfort—create a language bridge between generations, families and neighbors.
I had experience publishing another weekly newspaper and had also worked for the South town Economist in the 60s. I was willing to start a new publication, and especially in an area that was not being served by any existing newspaper. I was a single mom raising three daughters and was not Hispanic. However, she had lived in Mexico for a number of years and was able to speak and write in Spanish.
Starting a newspaper was not an easy project. But in life you meet angels along the way and one of them was Tom Foley. He owned a small tavern at 3920 W. North Ave. and he also owned the burned out store front next door at 3918 W. North Ave. He offered it up as the first home for EXTRA at no charge. All we had to do was clean it up, put in windows and drywall and we would be on our way. (At a later date we bought it for $17,000 from Tom). The Salvation Army provided desks, rugs and typewriters at no charge. Old retailers who no longer exist in the area like Crawford Department Store, Pioneer Bank, Sentry Food Store, Mesh department store, Izen Shoes and others gave advance advertising to EXTRA to get it started. My sincerest thanks to the longest and oldest advertiser at EXTRA—Buyers Flea Market. They have been an incredible neighborhood asset.
When we speak about the 80s, we have to remember that women were not being given loans to start businesses. The telephone company and the utility companies wanted large deposits to even put in service under a woman’s name but I had a burning desire to serve the community. I sold advance advertising to meet these demands and also get the first edition on the street. All I now needed was an editor.
I met Mary Montgomery while on jury duty. Mary was a teacher but had always had a passion to be a newspaper editor; so she took a leave of absence to be the first editor of EXTRA. Three years later, she was to become the junior partner in EXTRA.
During its 35-year history, EXTRA made many inroads into the community.
- Revitalized the North Pulaski Chamber of Commerce with the help of Mayor Jane Byrne
- The North Pulaski Chamber’s first Hispanic executive director helped fill those vacant store fronts with seminars and a newsletter
- Helped the United Cooks of Humboldt Park get clean sanitary food wagons and become licensed
- Worked with the Roberto Clemente High School assisting in their journalism department
- EXTRA was a charter member of the National Association of Hispanic Publications (NAHP)
We worked with Xavier Nogueras when he was a community activist; helped launch the political career of Joe (Jose) Berrios, supported community organizations like Youth Service Project, United Neighbors in Action (Katie Artzer), Chicago Neighborhood outdoor murals and the Mexican Civic Society, and worked with many other now defunct organizations. It was a revitalization of Humboldt Park with lots of energy and good intention.
In 1992, EXTRA was sold to HispanaMedia, a conglomerate out of New York City. They had acquired El Mensajero in San Francisco, El Diario in New York and now EXTRA in Chicago. Mary and I felt strongly that this would be a good move since there was a major mobilization of newspapers consolidating with other newspapers. Unfortunately, a couple of years later, HispanaMedia put EXTRA into Chapter 11 Bankruptcy. It was bought out of bankruptcy by Mary Montgomery, Nile Wendorf and myself. Mary Montgomery soon departed to work in the mayor’s office, and my husband, Nile Wendorf, and I started to rebuild EXTRA.
My daughter, Kate Tellez, came to work in sales and it soon was in a turnaround position. I hired some wonderful sales personnel like Fatima Olvera, who has been with the newspaper until this last edition. Other wonderful staff that worked at EXTRA that I would like to acknowledge are the following:
Jorge Montes & Associates Law Firm
Carlos Hernandez Gomez
Carlos went on to work at The Chicago Reporter and then WBEZ and CLTV. He passed away in 2010.
Jady Anfinsen Ryndak
Regional Manager Paladin Staffing
Associate Director of Community Relations UIC
Newspaper Delivery Boy
Assistant Professor, Chemical Oceanography, University of Alaska, Fairbanks
Sabrina Tellez Brennan
Seminar Leader Landmark Education
CEO Andrew Sharp Political Consultants
State Representative 21st District
CEO of Tequila Graphics
Brookfield Activist & Mother of two children
Senior Lead San Francisco Chronicle
We were honored to have contributed to the careers of these incredible people among many others.
Times Have Changed…
With the advent of the digital age, it has become apparent that the one area that has been affected to a great degree has been the newspaper industry. If you look at people waiting for a bus, go into a doctor’s waiting room, or visit a café – everyone is on their smart phone. No longer do you see morning commuters reading the newspaper. Another area that has been affected has been the small entrepreneur. With the increase in property taxes in the city of Chicago, storefronts are once again becoming empty and there is a large decrease in small business. Case in point is the Little Village area on 26th Street as well as the Humboldt Park area. Our own building at 3906 W North Ave. had their taxes increased by 100 percent in the last two years. This is not sustainable for a community newspaper or any other small business.
The edition you are holding is the last printed edition of EXTRA. We are privileged to have served the Hispanic and Anglo community, and thank all our advertisers and readers who contributed to the success of EXTRA.
We want to also thank our current staff for their loyalty and years of hard work:
Alex Hernandez (Managing Editor) 1+ years
Alfonso Gonzalez (distribution) 10+ years
Dolores Frydrych (accounting manager) 17+ years
Fatima Olvera ( Display Sales) 6+ years
Fiorella Reto (Classified Sales) 11+ years
Jose Estrada (Web Manager) 2+ years
Israel Reza (production) 3+ years
Katherine Ellis (office manager) 10+ years
Laura Vergara (production manager) 3+years
Mirtha Mena (distribution) 5+ years
Victor Flores (head translator) 14+ years
Nicole Weddington (English copy editor) 2+ years
Mayra Elisa Buitron (Spanish copy editor) 2+ years
I would also like to thank personally my husband Nile Wendorf, associate publisher for the last 10 years for his service. Without Nile, we would not have been able to buy the newspaper out of bankruptcy in 1985 and continue to serve the community.
With great appreciation,
Mila Tellez, Publisher
This post is also available in: Spanish