BRONZEVILLE — It was once home to Chicago’s thriving black middle class, a prestigious address shared by the likes of Joe Louis, Quincy Jones and Gwendolyn Brooks. In its heyday, living in the Rosenwald Courts Apartments was a sign that one had “made it.”
Now, with the opening of a new Sip & Savor Cafe at 4648 S. Michigan Ave., owner Trez Van Pugh III hopes to return to that era of class and prestige.
“This is a very important achievement in the Bronzeville community,” said Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd). “Today we’re seeing a rebirth of the Rosenwald Courts Apartments…Sip & Savor started in Bronzeville, expanded in Bronzeville, and we’re absolutely delighted and excited that they’re bringing commercial activity to 47th and Michigan.”
It was also opening day for Shawn Michelle’s Homemade Ice Cream, which occupies the opposite end of the building on 47th and Wabash. Owner Yahya Muhammad closed the shop’s previous location in Lakeview in 2017.
Both openings were due in part to the city’s Neighborhood Opportunity Fund (NOF), a grant that uses revenue from downtown developments to help commercial and cultural projects in underserved communities. (NOF) covers up to 65 percent of costs related to new construction or building rehabilitation projects; the remainder is provided by the owner.
Pugh tapped friend and interior designer Jittuan Priest to handle the aesthetics. Priest, who first worked with Pugh nine years ago on his Regents Cup cafe in Hyde Park, said that he “allowed her to do her thing” this time around.
The inspiration for the decor came from Pugh’s vision of a place that felt like home, Priest said.
“[Pugh] wanted it to be more than a regular cafe, he wanted a lounge kind of feel,” said Priest, who incorporated a combination of copper, chocolate, teal and latte colors into the shop’s motif. “So, I drew from that.”
And for Pugh, the historic location is a perfect fit for his shop.
“They [city officials] approached me,” said Pugh, who admitted that the journey to completion was tough. “It was a no-brainer for me. I mean, it’s a historic building, you’ve got all the people who came before like Quincy Jones, and Ella Fitzgerald and Ralph Metcalfe…I wanted to do something in this space to honor them.”
As with his other Bronzeville cafes, Pugh hopes this, too, becomes fully integrated into the fabric of the community, serving as a hub for the people who live and work in the neighborhood.
“Our tagline is ‘Where coffee and community meet’ and I want people to come in and get to know the people in their community,” he said.
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