CHATHAM — A South Side couple is fulfilling their dream of opening a wine and charcuterie bar, an effort they hope will spotlight Black entrepreneurs and spur more Black-owned businesses to open in the neighborhood.
Park Manor 75 will open in August at 600 E. 75th St. The bar will feature wine and craft cocktails; mellow, low-decibel music; and small bites. Charlette Stanton and Jacare Thomas, a business duo married for nearly two decades, are leading the restaurant.
Park Manor 75 will amplify Black brewers, distillers and creatives around the city, and it will signal to other business owners the power of investing on the South Side, Thomas said.
“We want to build a legacy for our children and build something beautiful for the community,” Thomas said. “We want to be a benefit to the community and have others see us and want to buy property next door. We’re excited about the possibility of what it might look like if we do this right.”
‘We Always Loved 75th Street’
When Stanton and Thomas think back to when they were dating, they said one location comes to mind: 75th Street.
They liked to shop at the mom-and-pop stores and eat at the restaurants along the strip, Stanton said. Caribbean restaurant Cafe Trinidad was one of their favorite spots.
“We wondered what was so different about the neighborhood versus all the other communities we hung out in,” Stanton said. “We came to the conclusion that it was because it was Black. All the restaurants, services and bars at the time were Black, and it was a good feeling. It was something we wanted to be a part of.”
The couple created Noir Urban Arts Collective in 2003, a group that showcased up-and-coming Black artists in the city. Soon after, the duo founded CeeBlaq Social Club, an organization that encourages networking, conversations and “bringing people together,” Stanton said.
“It was there that we crafted our love of being together as a couple and meeting people,” Stanton said. “We love helping people with their aspirations, dreams, and goals. It all rolled from there.”
But there was still a gnawing feeling to do more, Stanton said. They wanted a brick and mortar space where they could celebrate community, Stanton said.
“For most of our marriage, we’ve been talking about building the type of establishment where people can drop in and communicate and socialize with each other,” Thomas said. “One day, we woke up and started thinking about this project we’d had on hold for so long.”
They were looking for potential commercial spaces when Stanton stumbled upon an available building on 75th Street, and it felt like fate, Thomas said.
The couple sold their four-bedroom, four-bathroom condo in Woodlawn and moved with their three children into a “tiny” three-bedroom apartment above the commercial space a few blocks east from other 75th Street mainstays like Lem’s B.B.Q and Soul City Veg.
“We always loved 75th Street, but when we saw this property, we were like, ‘This is it,'” Thomas said. “It was perfect.”
‘It’s About Creating An Experience’
Stanton and Thomas immersed themselves in Park Manor, they said. They learned most community members were “lifers,” meaning generations of their families had grown up in the neighborhood. They learned more about the mom-and-pop businesses they loved so dearly years ago.
Then the pandemic hit and they had to put their business on pause, Stanton said. As the couple also struggled with her mother’s failing health, Stanton found an outlet: making charcuterie boards.
From meat and cheeses to vegetables and fruit to breakfast foods, Stanton began to make all types of charcuterie boards for family and friends, she said. The couple already had an idea to make their commercial space a wine bar — adding charcuterie to the mix felt right, Stanton said.
“We haven’t seen anything like a wine and charcuterie bar on 75th Street or the South Side,” Stanton said. “We decided that if we’re going to be opening up something in our community, we wanted it to be different.”
When neighbors visit Park Manor 75, it’ll feel like they’re being “transported to another place,” Stanton said. There won’t be a bar to order shots or a speaker blasting the top 40 hits, Stanton said. Park Manor 75 “won’t have Maker’s Mark or Bulleit,” Stanton said.
Instead, a mixologist will come to your seat and tell you about the wine program or create a crafted cocktail. Low drum and bass music will play to foster conversation. Art will be plastered across the walls.
And everything, down to the menu and specialty wines, will be created by Black business owners and creatives, the owners said.
“It’s been an undertaking, and every detail of our place feels artsy,” Stanton said. “You’ll feel like you’re not even in Chicago, that you’re somewhere completely different. We’ve taken a lot of time to craft this ambiance. This isn’t about serving drinks; it’s about creating an experience.”
Most importantly, Stanton and Thomas plan to make Park Manor 75 an asset, not a burden to community members, they siad. They hope to be “good neighbors,” Thomas said.
“We’re not coming to the community to take from it. We want to add to it,” Thomas said. “The mom-and-pop stores are the cornerstone of the community, and we want to figure out ways to build upon that and connect with other businesses.”
As they wait for their liquor license and other permits to be approved, Stanton said she and Thomas are “practicing patience” and “trusting that God is going to provide.”
Mainly, they’re focused on the excitement that lies ahead, Thomas said. Park Manor 75 is only the beginning of what 75th Street could be. Thomas said he hopes their faith in their business will convince others to take a chance on the South Side.
“I hope our business shines as a beacon of what can happen in our neighborhoods,” Thomas said. “The opportunity and the possibility of what we can contribute to the South Side are important, and we want to be a part of that narrative. Hopefully, other people will see it and say, ‘I want to cast down my bucket and build up this corridor, too.’”
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