Fannie's Cafe, 4042 N. Milwaukee Ave. is closing permanently Oct. 24. Credit: Ariel Parrella-Aureli/Block Club Chicago

PORTAGE PARK — The Six Corners shopping strip will lose a popular cafe and bakery this weekend, as Fannie’s Cafe plans to permanently close after about seven years in the neighborhood.

The cafe at 4042 N. Milwaukee Ave., known for its homemade baked goods, pastries and charitable work, faced financial and building struggles before the pandemic while at its first location in the neighborhood. In 2019, owner Stephanie Rybandt launched a GoFundMe to keep her doors open. Although her desired goal of $65,000 was not met, the community helped the business keep going.

After about four years at its first storefront at 5040 W. Montrose Ave., Fannie’s moved to the Six Corners location in late 2019.

But now Rybandt has decided to permanently close her shop amid financial strains and after cutting the business’s food menu a few weeks ago. Rybandt declined to speak to Block Club but announced the news on Facebook earlier this month.

“It’s no secret that small businesses are struggling. We are surely no exception,” she wrote. “Here is my ask — come see us, order from us, and celebrate a small business that survived every imaginable (and unimaginable) hardship a business can face. PLEASE No platitudes or sad comments. We’ve heard it, we know it, it’s too hard. Celebrate what we did, eat delicious bakery items, give us a high five and good vibes for the future.”

Fannie’s is open 8-3 p.m. through Sunday, when it will close at 2 p.m. for good.

People can order baked good and coffee in person, as well as cakes and other pastries in person or online in the remaining days. Fannie’s will also be at the Independence Park farmers market in Irving Park and the Jefferson Park farmers market Sunday for the last time.

Rybandt started Fannie’s around 2012, when she 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.

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

Stephanie Rybandt, owner of Fannie’s, poses for a photo in 2019 at its old location, 5040 W. Montrose Ave. Credit: Alex Hernandez/ Block Club Chicago

“That’s when the mission of Fannie’s really started to take shape. I realize that our mission was crafting community,” she previously told Block Club. “We promote things that are made from scratch, by hand and with intention and we share it. I feel like that’s what humans have been doing since the beginning of time.”

Over the years, Rybandt 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 cupcake sales were donated. Fannie’s also raised more than $700 at a special brunch for people displaced by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico in 2019.

Amie Zander, president of the Six Corners Association that’s across the street from the cafe, said Fannie’s closing will leave a big void in the area.

“There won’t be a cozy shop anymore [and] no place to grab a coffee in Six Corners proper,” Zander said. “I think it will be a huge void to what is left of our business district here.”

Zander called Rybandt a true entrepreneur who was very involved in connecting the community through events. Rybandt used to be part of the Six Corners Association board and helped organize the group’s annual holiday trolley.

“She built up a brand on the Northwest Side that everyone loved,” Zander said. “She was the cheerleader for the Six Corners community.”

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