Meet 10 Of Chicago's Coolest Dads

UPDATE: Father's Day is long past, but the cool factor on these studly dads has only gone up, up, up. Check out their stories for a little Sunday pick-me-up. This story was originally published on June 14.
With Father's Day hot on the horizon, we wanted to take a minute and show a little love to a few rad dads around Chicago. The holiday isn't just about letting Pop sleep in or hunting down a cute tie he doesn't already own: We want to celebrate the hard work and joy that comes with being a parent. So, we asked 10 of Chicago's coolest dudes why they love their #1 job (Daddy), and, while we were at it, we made sure to get their advice for dads-to-be, too. Click through and check out some of Chicago's most adorable family photos, then call up your dad and tell him why you think he's tops.
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Adam Beltzman, owner of Haberdash

What do you love most about being a dad?
"I could go on and on about all the little things I love about my relationship with my kids. But on a macro level it boils down to this: I love that I have the opportunity to mold three very different little boys into men. This goes beyond the obvious things such as teaching them about the world, life lessons, right vs. wrong, the importance of hard work, strong moral character, etc. Being a father is a huge privilege and these tasks come with the territory. I love experiencing the world with them and introducing them to things I enjoy or discovering new things together. I’m excited about the experiences I will share with them, either individually or together, during their childhood that will form the basis for the men they will be when they grow up. My father was an excellent role model and I have fond memories of my childhood and the things I did with my dad and my brother. It is important that my kids feel the same way about me and their siblings."

What is one thing about your life that has changed the most since becoming a dad?
"I have been a dad for almost 10 years so it seems like my life before kids was eons ago. However, I would say the biggest change in life after becoming a father is the most obvious. Namely, you are not in it alone anymore. You have to put them first and every decision you make is impacted by the fact that you have children who are relying on you in all sorts of ways."

Any advice for dads-to-be?
"They really do grow up fast and each moment with them is precious. Being a good father is all about finding balance. Men often talk about the need to find balance between their jobs and their duties as a father. This is definitely important and something I try really hard to manage. It’s not easy when you work in retail but I think I do a good job to be there for them. But what’s equally important is finding the balance between being a father and finding time for oneself. I find that I am a better dad to my kids when I carve out time to pursue my own interests. I am able to come back refreshed so that when I am with them I can better focus on them and their needs."


Photo: Courtesy of Adam Beltzman/Rachel B. Photo Studio, LLC
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Eric Williams, Owner, The Silver Room 

What do you love most about being a dad?
  "Seeing the happiness and growth in my daughter. Seeing her from day one to three-and-a-half and knowing everything she has learned and gone through to make her the person she is today. It's also understanding how much of an impact I have on her. Everyday is something new and that has also challenged to me to be more creative and organized. I look at my childhood in a new way and how much my parents sacrificed for me."

What is one thing about your life that has changed the most since becoming a dad? 
"The biggest change for me is time management and organization. I have to make sure she is picked up and dropped off on time. She goes to bed and wakes up at a certain time. I used to be very spontaneous and spur of the moment and that is gone now. The socializing and going out has been drastically but down also. I'm much more focused on us. It's a good thing."

  Any advice for dads-to-be? 
"It's the best thing in the world. Don't be afraid that it is a death sentence. I have heard some dads talk about what they cant do, etc., but I feel like it has only added to my life. You have to still keep being who you are. Your child can be a part of the life you had before and that will help him or her understand who you are. I take her to art shows, basketball games, plays, and still try to keep as much of my prior life intact as possible. You can't lose yourself and not be happy. That won't be good for you or your child."


Photo: Courtesy of Eric Williams
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Caleb Gardner, Digital Strategist at Edelman

What do you love most about being a dad?
"It makes coming home every day exciting. When Miles runs to greet me, gives me a hug, and starts telling me about his day, it resets what is important in life. There's nothing greater."

What is one thing about your life that has changed the most since becoming a dad?
"The importance of time. Before you become a parent, you think you're doing all of these really important things, and you think you're so busy. Afterwards you wonder where all that time went, and how you could have wasted it on such trivial things."

Any advice for dads-to-be?
"Prepare to have your priorities readjusted in the most dramatic way possible. And don't be afraid. We're all making this up as we go along."


Photo: Courtesy of Caleb Gardner
4 of 10
Phil McFarland, Owner/Operator & Certified Cicerone at SmallBar Division

What do you love most about being a dad?
"The thing I love most about being a dad is the feeling that there is something bigger than me and what I might be doing, more purpose to life than a job or career. I think having kids helps keep you grounded and focused on the simple things that really matter most in life."  

What is one thing about your life that has changed the most since becoming a dad?
  "My priorities have changed, how I view new commitments and new ventures has changed. The internal math of "is this worth it" is more about the time I would have to spend away from my family working on something than it is about any possible financial reward or accolades or whatever may come if you really get something right in your professional life.  I also absolutely cannot stand to hear or see news about tragic things happening to children. Tears me up way more than it did before I had kids of my own. Much more personal."  

Any advice for dads-to-be?
  "Don't underestimate the force with which becoming a dad will change you and change your life. It's a BIG deal. And don't work too hard when your kids are young telling yourself you'll find time for family later. Make the time to enjoy those early years because they're really magic and you will never get them back to do again."


Photo: Courtesy of Phil McFarland
5 of 10
Jeff Canzona, Creative Director at Good Day Monsters

What do you love most about being a dad?
"Being a dad is kind of like being a superhero. It’s pretty much totally awesome and amazing. But at the same time, a ton of work.  You get to throw tiny little humans up into the air and catch them and spin them around into giggling submission. And you can turn anything into anything. A tree branch becomes a paint brush, your car, a rocketship. But then, you also have to change diapers. And you can’t go out with your buddies like normal people, for your new heroic responsibilities will require some rest. They don't know about sleeping in yet. Being a Superpappy is cool, they really look up to you. It requires a bit of a character change and some flexing of the muscles of responsibility. But just like any good comic book, the good always outweighs the bad."

What is one thing about your life that has changed the most since becoming a dad?
"Probably, mostly, definitely everything. But that’s what’s glorious about it. Finding the moments when you realize that these little amazing geniuses have forever altered the way you interact with the world. Like when you look down to find your feet are painted blue as you walk across a piece of paper on the floor alongside two to tiny little yellow smushy footprints. Or when you discover it’s totally okay to hold another mini-person’s vomit in your cupped hands. It’s instinctual, you just reach out and catch it. Or when you find yourself explaining, at length, what the bladder in that Body Book is, how it functions, and that it is definitely not a penis. Totally matter of fact, like your 7th grade teacher. Not a penis."

  Any advice for dads-to-be? 
"Listen to your parents. They got this parenting stuff figured out. I mean, look, they raised you to be pretty spectacular, didn’t they?"


Photo: Courtesy of Jeff Canzona
6 of 10
Brian Merritt, owner of Sir & Madame

What do you love most about being a dad?
"Best thing about being a Dad is watching them grow and learn new things. It's awesome when they start to develop their personalities."

What is one thing about your life that has changed the most since becoming a dad?
"The amount of time I sleep."

Any advice for dads-to-be?
"Don't get nervous when the baby starts crying and the mother isn't around. It's usually something small."


Photo: Courtesy of Brian Merritt
7 of 10
Mark Gertz, Founding member of Dark Wave Disco & 1/3 of the Dark Wave Disco DJs

What do you love most about being a dad?"The thing I love most about being a dad has to be watching this little being grow and develop and look up to me for approval and to be influenced and just in general having this awesome, beautiful little person whom I love so dearly wanting to be like I am, be it through music, style, etc.  It's so cool to be looking into almost a small mirror of yourself and the joy every new little thing they do and learn and say brings me.  Above all, I am honored to have been given the responsibility to let forth into this world something that will in the end leave a positive mark and in turn set a positive example for others."

What is one thing about your life that has changed the most since becoming a dad?
 "The thing that has changed the most in my life personally is the sense that now I have something to force me to always be a truly good person.  I really am a role model and have to set a positive example that will leave a lasting mark on this individual.  It also makes me strive harder to accomplish my goals, given the thought that there is something worthwhile in my life to be living for."

Any advice for dads-to-be?
"As for advice for "dad's-to-be", not to reiterate what I previously mentioned, but seriously, you ARE a role model!  Everything you do has an impact on this life you're bringing into the world and it's 100% your responsibility to give to the world someone who in the end is going to have a positive impact.  Don't forget also that you are still the same person.  Be who you are and be proud of yourself. You have someone who is about to be looking at you as their everything from the start.  Show them that they can be whatever they dream of and don't have to fall into any sort of mold or status quo.  Nothing is more important than an open mind and a free thinking spirit."


Photo: Courtesy of Mark Gertz
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Benjamin Finch, Owner, Managing Member, Finch's Beer Company

What do you love most about being a dad?
"The challenge. I am a new dad in two ways. I married my wonderful wife in December '11 who had a 6 year old daughter, so first learning how to be a stepdad, then my identical twin girls came in May. It's not every day you have to learn how to be a step parent to a 6 year old, before you learn how to be a parent to your own children. Both my step daughter and the twin girls challenge me every day and I like being challenged, and I love learning something new. I feel like I am pretty good at what I do in my professional life, and being a beginner on the parent front, has been the best thing that has happened to me!"

What is one thing about your life that has changed the most since becoming a dad?
  "My focus. As a guy who co-founded The Killswitch Collective, a digital agency here in Chicago, and then went on to found Finch's Beer Co., a microbrewery, for years I was focused on my business, building brands and maintaing lifestyle. Now my lifestyle is my girls, my wife, and family and friends. These are truly the things that I have grown to appreciate more since having little ones."

Any advice for dads-to-be? 
"My biggest advice, is probably the same advice I got from the same people that went through what I am going through now, don't expect to expect anything. There isn't a day that goes by where anything with the girls actually pans out to be what you think it might be, good or bad. They surprise me in awesome ways every day, and they steer me in a direction that ultimately helps me be the best dad I can be to them."


Photo: Courtesy of Benjamin Finch
9 of 10
Kevin McConkey, Principle at Grip Design

What do you love most about being a dad?
"The thing I love the most about being a dad can be summed up with a single moment. Consider that the first month or so of fatherhood is spent fretting about keeping a little screaming flesh blob alive while navigating various stages of sleep deprivation, and then it happens. She looks at you. You make a face. She erupts in laughter. But not just any laughter. A belly laugh so honest, so soul piercing that every sacrifice you have ever, or will ever, make is suddenly paid in full. While the birth of my daughter was an emotional moment, the first time I made her laugh was my most precious memory. One that as a dad, I am committed to repeating as often as possible."

What is one thing about your life that has changed the most since becoming a dad?
"The single element that surprised me the most about being a dad is not the loss of time, money, or stupidly impractical automobiles (all this will happen) but how much pressure you will put on yourself to be a better father. Improving your ability as a dad is difficult and it's the kind of stress that will softly hum in the back of your mind constantly, or until your kid wins a genius grant or goes to prison. I am not betting on the former for my own children. Realizing this, my day-to-day life was most changed by the constant challenge to keep my children respectful of others and behaving in public–without resorting to keeping a pocketful of fruit snacks like some kind of psycho dog trainer."

Any advice for dads-to-be?
"For dads-to-be, the one thing no one tells you is that the whole "birthing process" is painfully boring for hours on end and incredibly exciting for a few quick minutes. And then your life changes forever. Seriously, stock your hospital bag with a crap-load of DVD's and say goodbye to all but your closest friends for about a year."


Photo: Courtesy of Kevin McConkey
10 of 10
Derek Berry, 1/2 of DJ/Producer Duo Team Bayside High

What do you love most about being a dad?
"I personally think the best part of being a dad is being is finally learning your reason for living.  Knowing you live everydayfor someone else is a great thing, the motivation a lone is unspeakable!"

  What is one thing about your life that has changed the most since becoming a dad?
"The amount I leave the house.  While some of my friends or peers think i'm "trapped in my house", its actually the total opposite, I never want to leave, because all I want to do is hang out with her.  If I leave for a few hours I always feel like I'm missing some new awesome development.  This is coming from the dude who was out 7 days a week no matter what!"

Any advice for dads-to-be?
"My advice for any dad to be would be GET SOME SLEEP NOW, because its not just some saying, youre done!  Sleeping til 8 a.m. will somehow become 'sleeping in'."


Photo: Courtesy of Derek Berry
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