AVONDALE — After months of dormancy, Café Fénix reopened this week with outdoor seating and a colorful new mural.
The cafe at 2959 N. Pulaski Road, a project of the larger organization Centro San Bonifacio, is serving coffee and snacks for the first time since March, when the coronavirus pandemic shut down businesses across the state.
The cafe’s building is now covered in a 40-foot mural inspired by Lotería, a Mexican game of chance similar to bingo. A mural celebration is set for 10-11 a.m. Saturday.
“We needed something to allow the community to know that we’re still here,” said Madeline Martinez, Centro San Bonifacio board president.
“It’s a combination of being able to work together, even through the difficult times, and just including a pop of color and culture for the neighborhood.”
Café Fénix is run by a group of women who also volunteer with Centro San Bonifacio, which operates in the same building.
The women partnered with the arts nonprofit Arts Alive Chicago on the mural, which shows a mix of animals and objects found on Lotería cards. The nonprofit enlisted local kids to paint the mural and complementary medallions, which hang on the fence next door.
“I can’t tell you how many people, while we were painting, would roll down their window and say, ‘Thank you, you’ve brought life to our community. We’re so happy there’s color now,'” said Jill Arena of Arts Alive Chicago. Arena designed the mural.
Centro San Bonifacio was founded by a group of Latino families who belonged to St. Boniface Parish in Noble Square. The group started the organization in 1991 after the church closed, with the goal of empowering Latino communities through workshops on health, finances and art.
Centro San Bonifacio leaders had for years talked about opening a cafe run by women volunteers and finally made it happen when they moved from Noble Square to Avondale in 2018, Martinez said.
The organization was forced to close the cafe when the pandemic gripped Chicago, but group leaders stayed busy connecting residents with resources. So far the organization has given out groceries to 200 families in need.
Café Fénix is seen as an important extension of the organization’s work. The project allowed a group of women volunteers to run a business. Most of the profits are split equally among the women.
The cafe was only starting to get into a groove when the pandemic hit. The women who run the cafe and Centro San Bonifacio leaders are hoping the sidewalk cafe and the new mural will jump-start business.
“The pandemic threw us a curve ball. But … they’re excited to get the show back on the road,” Martinez said.
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