Discover Secret Chicago with a New Book by DMC's Jessica Mlinaric

Discover Secret Chicago with a New Book by DMC's Jessica Mlinaric

Our motto at DMC is "Smart People. Expert Solutions." so we demand a lot of our team. However, part of being one of the best places to work is employees having the ability to pursue other interests in their free time. DMC team members have a wide range of interests outside of work including playing in bands, climbing all the mountain peaks in the US, and conquering triathlons.

DMC's Marketing Manager, Jessica Mlinaric, has helped the company grow since joining in 2009. In addition to managing DMC's web content, she's also photographed and written about unique places and events in Chicago. She's built a work/life balance that allowed her to write a book delving into "90 unique and unusual places" that you shouldn't miss if you live in or visit Chicago! 

Jessica shared some favorite moments from writing Secret Chicago: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure as well as a few tips for balancing work and hobbies. 

About Secret Chicago

Embark on a scavenger hunt to the unknown and unusual corners of Chicago. This endlessly interesting city is home to tales as tall as our skyscrapers and secrets as deep as our pizzas. Explore a side of Chicago you've never seen, from a grave in a junkyard to a pool under the Loop. Discover where you can picnic on a nuclear pylon or snorkel a shipwreck. Visit the site of the Western Hemisphere's largest mass grave or run away to the circus in a church. Do you know where to find the birthplace of gospel music and a final resting place for Cubs fans? Surprises are hiding everywhere in Chicago, from a chapel atop a Loop skyscraper to an art gallery in a Beverly fieldhouse.

From an energy vortex in Fulton Market to a salt cave in Portage Park, follow Secret Chicago across the city's neighborhoods and into its little-known history. Find oddities and inspiration in Chicago's uncommon sites, including hidden attractions, haunted locales, and unique landmarks. This guide delivers answers to questions around town that you didn't even know you had and proves that when it comes to secrets, Chicago is second to none.

Questions and Answers

I sat down with Jessica to find out more about her book and the experience she had writing it.

Q. Who should read this book?

A. This book is for anyone who is interested in history and culture. Specifically, it's geared toward Chicagoans who want to explore a hidden side of their city, or visitors who want to uncover places off the beaten path. Even if you've never lived in Chicago, it's got a pretty unique and bizarre set of stories that will entertain you.

Q. How did you decide what to write about?

A. It was important to me to feature neighborhoods all over the city because there is so much personality in Chicago's neighborhoods. It can be intimidating to try and uncover these things on your own in such a big city, so I had a blast putting together this scavenger hunt of unusual places.

I reached out to people in those communities to get ideas - historical societies, community leaders, photographers, journalists, bartenders, and strangers. I asked anyone I met for a year, "Hey, do you know of any secret places?"

I defined secret places as either something that is hidden, or a place that people know about but they don't know the crazy story behind it.

Q. What was your favorite place to visit?

A. I took all the photos in the book, so I visited every place. My favorite place to visit was #6, The grave of Andreas von Zirngibl.

This was my favorite place to visit because it's one of the few places mentioned in the book that you need a private appointment to see. It's one man's grave that is located in a scrap yard. After he died and was buried on the land, the area became industrialized. He's still buried there today. The scrapyard is now closed, so when I visited, it was almost peaceful since the noise of the machines has stopped. It's a bizarre piece of Chicago history that very few people have visited.

The grave of Andreas von Zirngibl is featured in the book 'Secret Chicago'
The grave of Andreas von Zirngibl is located in a former scrap yard on Chicago's South Side

Q. What was your favorite place to write about?

A. My favorite place to write about was a convenience store that is also an art gallery. The owner, Thomas Kong, cuts packing materials into colorful collages while he is working and hangs them all over the store for customers to enjoy.

Stepping into the store, the environment is unexpected and joyful. There is something very sweet about the owner hanging his art everywhere for no other reason than he enjoys it and wants to make people happy.

The art of Thomas Kong is featured in Jessica Mlinaric's book 'Secret Chicago'
Thomas Kong's art hangs all over the store at Kim's Corner Foods

Q. What inspired this book?

A. Ever since I moved to Chicago, I've been excited to explore everything the city has to offer and dig into its history. Outside of my work at DMC, I've been writing about Chicago for years for publications like Chicagoist and Chicago magazine. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to collect Chicago's weirdest stories in one place.

Q. Do you have any tips for balancing work and other interests?

A. Focus on the task in front of you and give it your best. I love tools like Asana and OneNote for capturing tasks and ideas that come to mind. I find it's best to get them out of my head and set a reminder to follow up on them. Prioritization and time management are important no matter what project you're tackling. It's helpful for me to schedule out tasks on a calendar and allow myself to push them out if something else comes up. In addition to using Outlook and Google calendars, I swear by my old fashioned paper planner!

Where Can I Get My Copy?

Title: Secret Chicago: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure
Release Date: April 1, 2018
Link to order:

Want to Learn More?

Check out Jessica's interviews on WBEZ's Morning Shift radio show and WGN Morning News!

Learn more about DMC's company culture. 


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