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Hyde Park, Woodlawn, South Shore

Renovated Kilwins To Reopen In Hyde Park This Week After Gunfire Damaged Store Last Year

The sweets shop has missed out on much of its key summer season, but owner Jackie Jackson is ready to "step out on faith" and bring Kilwins back to the neighborhood by Friday, she said.

Kilwins owner Jackie Jackson poses in a photo on Nov. 10, 2021 to show how close an employee would have been to being shot when gunfire erupted near Harper Avenue and 53rd Street in Hyde Park the day prior.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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HYDE PARK — Kilwins’ Hyde Park outpost has had a bumpy road after eight months on hiatus — but it’s set to reopen this week.

The ice cream and sweets shop, 5226 S. Harper Ave., closed indefinitely in November after gunshots destroyed its front window. Owner Jackie Jackson said she needed time to recover from the trauma of gun violence and set out to renovate the store.

Jackson said therapy and determination have helped her heal as a person, but “the reopening process has been a disaster” for the business, she said.

Jackson initially planned to bring Kilwins back to Hyde Park in April, but she has faced setbacks due to supply chain issues, construction delays and repeated attempts to install countertops, which came in damaged three times, she said.

“I’ve been responsible for everything — rent, utilities — as if I had revenue coming in,” Jackson said. “It’s frustrating because Kilwins is about seasonality. To think I would miss my entire summer … anybody in the ice cream business would know that it’s detrimental to not be open during this season.”

Months of delays have led to false rumors Kilwins is “gone forever,” and Jackson’s worried those rumblings will keep potential customers away, she said. She’s trying to remain optimistic and plans to “keep things moving” by securing large corporate orders during the winter, she said.

“I’m going to step out on faith and start making stuff — we’re putting the chocolate out, we’ve got the ice creams out, we’re ready,” Jackson said.

Kilwins is set to reopen Thursday or Friday, Jackson said.

The shop will likely change up its prior business hours and instead be open from 2-9 p.m. daily, “until we get a better feel on the clientele and what the needs are in the community,” Jackson said.

Customers will also notice changes: The kitchen is larger, the used equipment Jackson bought when she opened the store 10 years ago has been replaced, the interior is redesigned and the counter is lower so kids can better see the treats being made.

“The store really, really, really needed a total renovation,” she said. “I wasn’t going to half-step. I wanted to give the community what it deserves, because the community has always been supportive of Kilwins.”

Credit: Provided
The remodeled interior of Kilwins, 5226 S. Harper Ave. in Hyde Park.

The Kilwins franchise required Jackson to remodel the location at an estimated cost of $200,000-$300,000, she said last year. She is also planning to open a “chocolate garden” next year that would turn the outdoor area behind the shop into an event space.

Jackson will hold a grand re-opening event for Hyde Park neighbors in the coming weeks, “once things get running and I get stabilized” at the shop, she said.

Kilwins will return with 12-14 available jobs, Jackson said. About half will be filled by previous Hyde Park employees who were transferred to other locations when the shop closed, while she’s using the newly launched South Side Chicago Jobs website to fill the rest.

The re-opening is far from the only project Jackson has taken up this year. She’s preparing to open an Andersonville Kilwins this fall, signed a lease to open a Kilwins at the One Chicago development in River North in the spring and recently received a $1 million city grant to open a Fatburger in Chatham.

The expansions are all “a part of my exit plan,” as Jackson plans to step away from the day-to-day operations of her companies in the next two years, she said.

Jackson’s priming her proteges in her various businesses — including her daughter, Janel — to take over when she steps down, she said.

“I’m looking for leaders to partner with me, to share a piece of the pie with some of the people that I developed,” Jackson said. “I’m planting the seeds right now to make sure everything is covered.”

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