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Jefferson Park, Portage Park, Norwood Park

‘Save Fannie’s’ Campaign In Final Weeks, Cafe Hosting Mini-Market To Help Reach Fundraising Goal

“The outpour of support has been awesome and we're really grateful and it's resolved us to work very hard to stay and hit our goal.”

Stephanie Rybandt, owner of Fannie's.
Alex Hernandez/ Block Club Chicago
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PORTAGE PARK — After a string of bad luck put Fannie’s, a popular Portage Park bakery and restaurant, in financial trouble, the cafe is now about halfway to its crowdfunding goal — but it still needs help from its fans to stay afloat.

Fannie’s expanded to its location at 5040 W. Montrose Ave. in 2015. Within the first 18 months of opening, the new location experienced five major power outages, three plumbing failures and the loss of a contract with Treasure Island foods after the grocery store chain closed its locations.

RELATED: Fannie’s, Beloved Portage Park Cafe, Turns To Community For Help After ‘One Loss After Another’

To help the business through this rough patch, Stephanie Rybandt, Fannie’s owner, launched a GoFundMe campaign in January asking for $65,000 to help pay back rent and taxes owed to the state.

As of Monday morning, the GoFundMe had raised $34,735 of its $65,000 goal. The campaign is set to end on April 11, Rybandt said.

“It’s really inspiring to have support from the community, have them really breath life into us,” Rybandt said. “The outpour of support has been awesome and we’re really grateful and it’s resolved us to work very hard to stay and hit our goal.”

To help with the fundraiser, Rybandt will host a mini-market at Fannie’s from 3-6 p.m. March 31 with work from local crafters, artists, live music and raffles.

“The Jefferson Park farmers market is partnering with us to do this event,” Rybandt said.

In 2012, Rybandt began selling her homemade cookies at the Portage Park farmers market to see if her baked treats would sell enough to build a business around.

Her success led to Rybandt baking out of a shared kitchen, filling orders for local coffee shops and eventually allowed her to move into a 600-square-foot cafe inside Eisenhower Library in suburban Harwood Heights.

Over the years, Rybandt has emphasized community building alongside her baking by helping to raise funds for the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation by baking “Cop Cakes,” where 50 percent of the proceeds from the cupcake sales are donated to the fund. Fannie’s also raised more than $700 at a special brunch for people displaced by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.

After the financial setbacks at the Montrose location, Rybandt said banks declined to give her a small business loan even though her business was profitable at the library, bakery and farmers markets.

So she ended up taking out high-interest loans to cover the cost of the outages and plumbing issues. The business also encountered rent increases, payroll increases and rising insurance costs.

On April 11, the final day of Fannie’s GoFundMe campaign, Rybandt will debut a new beer Fannie’s made in collaboration with Lake Effect Brewing — the Chocolate Cake Barrel Aged Stout — at Fischman Public House, 4058 N. Milwaukee Ave.

The brew has been aging in bourbon barrels for the past seven months, Rybandt said.

“[Lake Effect’s owner] Clint [Bautz] is excited it’s as chocolatey as it is,” she said.

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