AGE: 35
OCCUPATION: bar owner
HOMETOWN: Culver, Indiana
LIVES IN: West Town

Ty Fujimura moved to Ukrainian Village in 1997, the day after he graduated from DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana. An aspiring DJ and event promoter, he did boring office work by day and studied the bar-and-club scene by night. Lightning struck when he and his older brother, Troy, drove past a corner tavern in Logan Square with a “For Sale” sign in the window. They leaped at the opportunity—and the original Small Bar was born. “We maxed out all the credit cards,” Fujimura recalls. “We’d make a couple hundred bones a night slinging longnecks and Canadian whiskey, enough to keep us going.” Today, Fujimura, Troy, and their business partners are putting an indelible stamp on the city’s exploding nightlife and dining scene: They have opened two more Small Bars; they remade the Lava Lounge into a cocktail bar called The Exchange; and their newest offering, Arami, an intimate sushi spot on Chicago Avenue is garnering raves. Fujimura, whose Japanese father grew up in Hawaii, says he and his wife, Diana, harbor fantasies about moving out West someday. “That’s a dream for me,” he says. “But I’m a Chicagoan now.”



Photograph: Maria Ponce