Traveling down Division Street in Chicago’s trendy Ukranian Village, a couple of blocks East of Humboldt Park—the business corridor has taken on a life of its own. Restaurants, sports bars, trendy drinking pubs, and coffee cafes have turned over several times since the neighborhood’s gentrification boom nearly 20 years ago.

Pearl Sip, Paint and Hip Owner, Carl Nicolas. Photo credit: Parrish Lewis

A new business has added its stamp to its busy landscape. Pearl’s Paint, Sip and Hip opened their doors in early November. Located at 2105 W. Division St., the business is the brainchild of attorney and entrepreneur, Carl Nicolas.

A native of Waukegan, Illinois, Nicolas’ vision to create a comfortable and chic environment for patrons to both create and rent it for special occasions was a work-in-progress for 3 years.

Bronzeville Life talked with Nicolas on his vision for creating one of the few brick and mortar businesses set around the ‘sip and paint’ craze.

Tell us about your background.

I had a different path of doing things. Primarily, I’m an attorney. I’ve practiced law for eight years now. I’ve always had secondary businesses I’ve curated. For about seven years, I owned a hookah lounge in Waukegan. I know it’s an odd business choice, but I’ve always been drawn to things a little off kilter or left from the center. I never wanted to do traditional businesses. I try to find ventures that are profitable yet different.

That gave me a taste of entertainment life and business. Understanding the business of parties and entertainment. When I came back to Chicago, I wanted to do a hookah lounge, but the city makes it impossible, so I was never able to get that off the ground. About three years ago, I went to my first paint and sip. It didn’t strike me right away, the one I went to was ‘ok’, it could be better. It was the entertainment version of a funeral; it was somber—not lively. I thought if you could be a better spin off it, more people could enjoy—especially our people. It took me 21/2 years to find the proper location.

Photo credit: Parrish Lewis

Where did you grow up?

I’m from Lake County in North Chicago. I was born and raised out there. I went to high school in Wisconsin. My mom sent me to military school. At fourteen, what can you do? I graduated there and then I attended Florida State University. I came back home in 2009, wondering what’s next? I went to law school and worked a couple of years. I worked at DePaul University for about four months right before I went to law school at Michigan State University.

What and who inspired you in your professional field?

I know it’s cliche but my mother inspires me. She’s my example and a hard-working person. She worked two jobs for 25+ years and never complained. She did so much for me and my family—as much as she could. When I saw that, there was no excuse for me to work and achieve my dreams. She worked for someone for those 25 years. When I saw that, I thought to myself, I felt security was good but if you can work for yourself, then go for self. There will be good and bad times, but you will be better to yourself than someone else. I have some older cousins who have some independent jobs—one is a lawyer as well. I saw that, and that was my example. This is the path I wanted to follow.

Maybe, I’m overconfident. I was always taught if I put my mind to something, I should be able to do it.

What’s the meaning behind the name Pearl’s?

It’s really black pearl, that’s why the pearl is black on all of my media. The black pearl is rare. I thought to myself that pearls are precious, and something not many people have done or can do. I thought it was an excellent name to roll with.

Pearl Sip, Paint and Sip Showroom. Photo credit: Parrish Lewis

The location. Why choose in the Ukranian Village/Wicker Park neighborhood?
At first, I wanted to do it in Hyde Park, and they said ‘no.’ I applied for a lease, the school had an interest in me but then right before we signed the contract, another restaurant business came in, and they went with them. Later, they called me a month before I opened this place and wanted me back because the other business venture fell through.

If they would’ve listened to me, Pearl’s would’ve been in Hyde Park.

On Division Street, there’s more energy with restaurants, entertainment-oriented places, and business brings more business. It’s a great place to start or finishes their night.

What are some of the attributes for launching businesses? Your top 3 challenges and successes?

1. Getting the word out—marketing especially in Chicago. It seems more difficult. When I was in Lake County, I was the big fish in a small pond.

Getting customers was easy. In the city, there are a thousand different options.

2. Logistics—there’s a lot of different rules to follow with the city and being so close to resident neighbors above me.

3. Time because I have a day job. One day, this will overtake the day job but being now I’m able to juggle the two.

You have some great music and hip-hop paintings hanging on your walls.

I like hip-hop because it’s geared towards our culture. The essence of the name—I wanted it to be different than your average paint and sip. At the regular paint and sip, you’re not hearing Biggie. The music we play, the paintings that we paint—the feel and vibe of it. Most ‘paint and sip parties, you’re going to paint a flower box or wine bottle which isn’t bad, but I wanted something with an edge and appeal. We put the ‘hip’ in paint and sip. Biggie is my favorite artist. We had to get a Chicago artist, that’s why Common is hanging on the walls. I felt like it rounded off the artwork.

What’s the capacity and how can people sign up for classes or rent the space for private events?
Comfortably about 80 people in the space. You can get 30 on the side and 30 in the center. Average rental cost is $150 per hour. We’re hoping to book baby showers, bachelorette parties, and bridal showers.

To sign up for individual classes, book group sessions and rent the space, visit: www.