LINCOLN SQUARE — Dorothy’s Sweet Shoppe has overhauled its Lincoln Square space with help from a Chicago-based nonprofit and pastry shop Vanille.
The bakery, 4925 N. Lincoln Ave., is run by nonprofit Gateway To Learning, which provides learning opportunities to adults with intellectual challenges and developmental disabilities from Chicago and neighboring suburbs.
Around the time Gateway received a grant from the Coleman Foundation to renovate the bakery, Sophie Evanoff was closing her Vanille locations in Lakeview and Hyde Park. Instead of putting the commercial-grade kitchen equipment in storage, Evanoff decided to “turn lemons into lemonade” and donate several appliances to Gateway.
“Nothing is closer to my heart than helping others, and this was just another way to brighten someone else’s day,” Evanoff said.
Interior designer Francois Geneve led the renovations to Gateway’s classroom kitchens and the new 416-square-foot storefront with custom cabinetry, a commercial refrigerator, cold display cases, cashier stand and other upgrades.
Gateway will host a ribbon-cutting ceremony and VIP event 5 p.m. Sept. 30 at the new storefront with guided tours, meet and greets with program specialists, and a champagne toast and sweet treats from Dorothy’s.
Gateway’s founders Dorothy and Roger Hough launched the nonprofit in 1974. In 1986, they relocated to a building in Lincoln Square built specifically for Gateway’s programs. This included the first iteration of the bakery program, originally named Dorothy’s Can-Do Café.
Initially these skills were focused on baking in classroom kitchens with the goal of offering Gateway’s clients career opportunities in culinary arts. In 2015, then-executive director Cheryl Hennelly added a storefront component where clients could learn customer service skills, and the bakery was renamed Dorothy Sweet Shoppe.
“With the bakery, they’re learning skills in a safe, controlled environment. And it helps their confidence in their own abilities,” said Kathryn Lavin, Gateway’s executive director. “The dreams of the people we serve drive what we do. When they come to us to say, ‘I want to have a job and I need job skills,’ coming through Dorothy’s allows them to have real hands-on experience.”
Gateway serves more than 85 adults with diverse abilities across Chicago. Two months ago, Vanille hired one of Gateway’s students to work at its 2108 N. Clark St. location part-time, Evanoff said.
“As a business owner, I’m in a position where I can make a decision to hire someone and help people and impact lives. It’s important to me to help the community and give back. That’s just in my DNA, really, and it brings so much joy,” Evanoff said. “It was just a perfect alignment of the right place and time for this to work out.”
Dorothy’s offers handmade sweets including traditional Polish family recipes for Klotchkes, chocolate-dipped pretzels, brownies, cookies and other confections made by its clients. Proceeds benefit the nonprofit.
As fall approaches, the bakery will also have Halloween-themed pretzel rod and chocolate lollipops, as well as apple scones.
The bakery is open 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more information or to place an order call 773-784-3200, or visit the bakery’s Facebook page.
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