PORTAGE PARK — Josi’s Frozen Yogurt Cafe will be closing its doors for good next month as its owner pursues a new career in social work.
Named for owner Barbara Murphy’s two children, John and Sifeta, Josi’s first opened in 2013. On Tuesday, the business announced on Facebook it’s closing Sept. 1.
The frozen yogurt shop was known for its charity work in the community, making thousands of dollars in donations in cash, yogurt and time, as well as opening its doors for private “No Apologies” events for families with children with autism or other developmental challenges.
“We are very proud of the support we were able to give to over 60 organizations since we opened our doors,” the post said. “For this very small business, this is a lot! AND it could not have been done without this amazing community to make it happen!”
In 2005, Murphy’s son was born with congenital birth defects and later developed epilepsy and was diagnosed with autism. She left her job as a manager at a Fortune 500 company to care for her son, who spent nine years on a ventilator.
“When he was well enough to come off the ventilator and I wanted to go back to work, I didn’t want to go back to the corporate world,” Murphy said. “So I talked to my husband about opening up my own business. Speaking to people in the community, I kept hearing people talk about wanting a self-service yogurt place.”
Once she decided on a frozen yogurt business, Murphy spent the next two years researching what it would take to open one.
“I created a business plan, did research and I went to demos on how the machines work and essentially learned how to run the business,” she said.
When it came time to pick a location to open, she knew Six Corners was the place to be.
“I grew up going to Six Corners with my parents, I got my braces at the Sears that used to be there. We used to go to Mr. Steer Steak House for dinner, and we lived in Rogers Park at the time,” Murphy said. “My family would go there and make a day out of it, stop by the Woolworth or Walgreens, whatever was there at the time.”
She reached out to the then-Ald. John Arena (45th), and his office showed her available storefronts. Murphy ended up choosing 4032 N. Milwaukee Ave.
“Charity work has always been close to my heart. I’ve been blessed in my life. My son was in the hospital for a long time after he was born,” Murphy said. “A huge community came together and did a fundraiser for him. That’s what really kept us afloat while we were struggling financially, emotionally, and even spiritually at the time.”
That sense of service led to Murphy hosting “No Apologies” events at her business for families with children who had autism or other developmental challenges. A group of three to four families would be able to go and enjoy frozen yogurt on Sunday at Josi’s before the business opened for regular hours.
“It was a place for families to come enjoy themselves without being stared at or have to apologize to anyone,” Murphy said. “I started it because I was sitting in Josi’s working one night after a really rough day with John. I just wanted a place where I could go and not have to apologize to anyone for him. I was depressed but then realized, ‘I have this place!’”
Murphy thinks events like “No Apologies” and the community service aspect of Josi’s are why so many fans are sad to see it go. But while Josi’s will be closed after Sept. 1, Murphy plans to stay involved with the community via the Chicago chapter of Autism Eats — a group organizing autism-friendly, nonjudgmental environments for family dining and socializing.
“The Chicago chapter was started by a customer of mine who was inspired by the ‘No Apologies’ events that I had at Josi’s,” Murphy said. “I’m going to be running their events moving forward.”
Upcoming Autism Eats events Murphy has in the works include a Halloween event at Sicilia Bakery, 5939 W. Lawrence Ave., on Oct. 24. For more information on Autism Eats events visit the group’s Facebook page.
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