When the Sip 22 coffee chain opened at 2909 W. Cermak Rd., the old Latino Youth High School, Little Village residents made it known that they were not welcome.
With the constant tension between the white-owned establishment encroaching on the patio space and residents striving to maintain community control of Marshall Boulevard, the coffeeshop only survived two years.
Sip 22 reportedly moved out in July after opening a new location in Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg. They also have a location in Skokie.
Meanwhile in Pilsen, Mexican artist and businesswoman, Maria “Cokys” Reyes, was losing her gallery at 1758 W. 19th St. due to zoning issues that she was struggling to resolve with the city. As she was moving out of the building, she saw an internet listing for a coffee shop in Little Village for $35,000 and she immediately inquired.
In 2011, Reyes and her mother were running a Mexican restaurant in East Chicago, where they settled after immigrating from Durango. When the restaurant became too much work for the sales they were making, they downsized to become Frida’s Cafe.
“Pero mi sueño era tener mi negocio en Chicago donde hay más comunidad mexicana,” she said; she wanted to move her business to Chicago. Reyes comes from a family of artists and her dream was to display Mexican artesanía, showcase local art, host cultural events, and offer a Mexican-American menu.
Although building owner, Paul Tsakiris, has yet to remove the prominent Sip 22 signage, Reyes already moved into the storefront and will use a variation of her old business name, La Frida. In July she put a sign on the door indicating new ownership.
“Changes will be made to the café. We are excited to show you these new changes!” the sign reads, listing their new hours from Monday through Friday 7am – 5pm, and weekends 8am – 5pm.
Reyes kept some of the original baristas, but is looking to hire locally.
“They want to do a few things differently and interact more with the community,” said café manager and Little Village resident, Jesse Gutierrez, 26. “The operation of the entire store is about to change–for the better!”
La Frida has a $1.99 menu: café de olla, iced coffee, iced Chocomilk, bagel with cream cheese, homemade horchata, and Jarritos. They will also have specialty items like frappes, Mazapan coffee, and imported coffees.
On Saturday the coffeeshop will have their first “Mercado Day” outdoors with Latinx vendors from 10am to 3pm.
Reyes says she respects the food vendors and residents who currently make use of the boulevard and aims to work together.