JEFFERSON PARK — A cafe and community hub is slated to open in Jefferson Park’s namesake park later this summer.
Henry’s Cafe will open inside the Esdohr House, 4820 N. Long Ave., on the east side of Jefferson Memorial Park. Neighbor Ashley Romero, who partnered with the Jefferson Park Advisory Council to activate the space and restore the building, is behind the cafe.
Romero signed a contract with the council last week and is awaiting city inspections, permitting and construction. But with little work to be done, the mother of four hopes the process will be smooth and she can open Henry’s Cafe in July.
“I want to embrace the community and [make this] a Jefferson Park corner of people making things: art, revenue, community. … I am all about it,” Romero said.
The cafe will offer breakfast goods — including pastries, croissants, breakfast sandwiches, smoothies, coffee and acai bowls — though Romero said menu details are still being finalized.
Romero, who has a background in culinary studies and has worked in the hospitality industry, also wants to bring snow cones, a lunch menu and pop-up events to the cafe to showcase talent from within the restaurant and beverage world.
Romero wants to use her culinary skills to connect the neighborhood, reawaken the park and meet her neighbors.
“I want to be part of the neighborhood [and] activate the park with events,” she said. “I want this to be a hangout spot, coffee destination, an art spot.”
Romero envisions Henry’s Cafe having an indoor wall for local artists to showcase work on rotation and as a hangout for kids and their parents because of its central location in Jefferson Park and its proximity to the newly improved playlot and the pool.
The Jefferson Park Advisory Council is working with the Park District to add outside seating, a patio and newer bathrooms to the building for the cafe, council President Lionel Rabb said.
The cafe will also give portions of its revenue to the council to help with programs and events, Rabb said.
Rabb and Romero said the cafe will use local ingredients and work with area farmers and business owners to support the local economy.
“We want to source things locally — we are really making it hyperlocal,” Rabb said.
Henry’s Cafe is part of the council’s mission to bring more awareness and activity to the park. The council was formed in 2012 to host community events, raise money to host innovative programs and preserve the Esdohr House.
The cafe’s name is a tribute to the man who helped establish the Jefferson Park area. The 140-year-old house, which was built in 1882 and was commonly referred to as the crafts shop, was once home to Henry Esdohr, who was the area’s postmaster and the treasurer of the first township school board in the state during the 19th century, according to the Northwest Chicago Historical Society.
The home originally was on Higgins Avenue where the field house now stands, according to the historical society. It was moved to its current location in 1921, and it has been preserved as part of the neighborhood’s history. In 2006, Jefferson Memorial Park and the Esdohr House were placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The cafe’s upcoming opening is timed well with the improvements of the park, which included a new turf playlot using $500,000 in tax-increment financing funds from the city. Expiring city money was also used to fix drainage in the field and some of the park’s sidewalks and nearby streets, Rabb said.
Rabb said the improvements are “not everything” the council wanted but were necessary and are better than nothing. The council members hope they will attract more people to the park and partake in events now that summer has begun.
A family day event with outdoor games is planned for Sunday, a songwriters workshop is planned for July and the council is working on movie nights, art events and more. The Jefferson Park Farmers Market is also back at the park this season.
“We are happy with the improvements and happy to see people coming back to the park,” Rabb said. “We want to encourage people to reach out and volunteer.”
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