As a native Chicagoan, I take pride in the breathtaking architecture my beautiful city has to offer. I love watching guides tell tourists the stories behind the buildings and watching the impressions left on their awed faces, but I’ve never had the desire to take a tour myself… until now.
Chicago Detours specializes in architectural tours of the city with a unique twist: founder Amanda Scotese built the company with a desire to share stories and take people to places locals didn't even know, and now Chicago Detours offers both regularly scheduled tours to the public and private group tours for corporate team building, birthday parties, and family reunions.
I had the opportunity to talk to Scotese about her experience as a tour guide in Italy, her sticker design that could have changed her life (if she wanted it to) and her favorite buildings.
What is the story behind Chicago Detours?
I’ve worked in travel for a decade; I took Americans around Italy on comprehensive tours. I lived in Michigan but had family in Chicago so I grew up loving the city and feeling like it was my home.
I love Chicago and feel such an incredible pride for it that I wanted to give clients an untraditional experience that would make them love it too.
We’re in our third year operating, but we’re consciously staying small. I’m in this business because this is what I love; I have no intentions of rapid expansion. Our guides require specific training and our tours are comprehensive and meticulously planned out. The service I provide is a labor of love, and going bigger would take that precision and passion away.
What was your first entrepreneurial adventure?
I’ve definitely always had the spirit. In high school I worked for a literary magazine and when I went to college they didn’t have one, so I talked to the President and pitched the idea to him and the school gave me a few thousand dollars to set up the magazine. Now the magazine is still going today as an offered course.
I also made a few t-shirt designs later on in college and was told to track down Bam Margera, a famous skateboarder. He actually put the sticker I sent him on his skateboard and skated with it and he gave some shirts to his brother, who was in a band, and the whole band wore my shirts in a press photo. I could have turned that into a business in itself, but that was never the route I wanted to go, although lately I’ve been considering submitting the design to Threadless.
What are some of your favorite buildings in Chicago?
There are so many, and the list is constantly changing and evolving, but right now I love the Mansueto Library at the University of Chicago. I loveits contemporary form and the beauty of feeling like you are outside when you are inside this glass-domed building. It's so organic, like it could be part of the landscape.
Everyday architecture, like a giant old power plant I noticed the other day, also excites me. I love the spectacular and the vernacular (the everyday). Architecture is amazing in how it affects us and buildings can be very emotional.
What are some of your favorite landmarks outside of Chicago?
I’ve always had a disinterest in things that are hyped, but while recently in New York City I was really struck by the Empire State Building.
What’s next for Chicago Detours?
We’re planning more detours, working on a mobile app, and I’m working on a book about architectural history. I don’t know what’s in the works in years to come, but as far as Chicago Detours goes, I want to stay here forever.