HUMBOLDT PARK — A cafe serving locally made coffee and pastries has joined Humboldt Park’s North Avenue, taking over the former Be Cafe Kids space.
Etheria Cafe opened Monday at 2800 W. North Ave. Owners Melanie Hoekstra and Kenny Sirovatka hope the brightly decorated cafe, their first small business, is an oasis amid the pandemic.
“We want it to be a place where you can come and reconnect with people. Right now, everybody I know is having a really hard time, and we need each other. If anything, the pandemic has taught me that humans can’t live alone. We don’t do well,” Hoekstra said.
“This is just a wonderful opportunity to bring people back together and also rethink the concept of a cafe.”
Etheria Cafe serves Metropolis Coffee, along with pastries and snacks from local spots including La Estrella, La Boulangerie and Bot Bakery. Eventually, the cafe will offer a non-alcoholic drink menu crafted by Sirovatka, a bartender who has worked in Chicago’s bar and restaurant industry for more than 15 years at spots like The Publican and Trenchermen.
Alcoholic drinks aren’t allowed at Etheria, as the cafe has a dedicated kids play area with 30-foot slides and other equipment, and it operates under a children’s facility license.
Hoekstra, a former Chicago Public Schools substitute teacher, said they didn’t set out to open a kids-focused cafe. Originally, they planned to open a women’s sports bar for Chicago Sky and Red Stars fans, Hoekstra said.
But Hoekstra said they’ve embraced the Be Kids Cafe setup, opting to make Etheria a place kids and adults can enjoy.
“We found this place, and we were like, ‘This is a different direction, but it’s not wildly outside of either one of our capabilities,'” she said.
Be Kids Cafe closed at some point during the pandemic after a short run, even after the owners launched a GoFundMe in May 2020 to keep the business afloat.
Hoekstra and Sirovatka covered the walls with coral paint and botanical wallpaper and brought in cozy seating, with the goal of creating an environment people of all ages and backgrounds can hang out in for hours.
Hoekstra, who is queer, also wants Etheria Cafe to be a “safe space” for queer people to unwind.
“We really pride ourselves on making it a place for all,” she said. “We want everyone to feel welcome here. We want people to come in and get really good food, hang out with their friends and meet new people, and reconnect after this incredible atrocity.”
The two also hope to regularly rent out the cafe’s private room for “community meetings, weekly Dungeons & Dragons games — anything really,” Sirovatka said.
“We have so many ideas about all of the things we can do here and events we can host, and it’s really lovely to be able to put that into action,” Hoekstra said.
Etheria Cafe is open 7 a.m.-4 p.m. weekdays and 8 a.m.-2 p.m. weekends.
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