Green Line station restaurant in Englewood to serve up eggs, jobs for teens
The CTA board approved Praise Chicago moving into the space once occupied by the King Grill. (August 15, 2014)
Chef Darryl Fuery, of South Deering, was awarded a contract last week by the CTA board to open Praise Chicago Restaurant, an eatery that Fuery says will not only satisfy the hunger for healthy food offerings in Englewood but also will provide training for teens interested in careers in the food service industry.
While many of the CTA's 92 retail spaces are occupied by either newsstands or Dunkin’ Donuts franchises, Fuery is betting that riders want more than just quick fixes so he is including omelettes, pancakes and salmon burgers on his menu. He expects the eatery, slated to open this fall, will operate from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.
The options will be "just some different things in the neighborhood that they don't usually have," said Fuery, 47, who was born on the West Side and grew up in Englewood.
He said he wants to give back to the community by encouraging local youth to get their start at his restaurant, which will prepare them for entry-level jobs in bigger kitchens. Fuery admitted he had some difficulties as a young man, including two misdemeanor marijuana possession charges and theft of shoes that Fuery said he took the blame for to cover for a co-worker while they worked at a shoe store.
In his restaurant venture, location is key. The Halsted stop is near Kennedy-King College, which features the Washburne Culinary Institute and French Pastry School, and the future site of Whole Foods, set to open in 2016. The space was previously home to King Grill, which served tacos and cheeseburgers.
Fuery also is taking advantage of infrequent CTA Green Line service. The Halsted stop is on the Ashland branch, where trains run about every 20 minutes, the same as on the East 63rd branch. Fuery plans to have riders order their food in line and receive it in five to seven minutes.
The restaurant space is about 1,100 square feet and has room for seats, according to the CTA.
The CTA is charging Fuery an initial annual rent of about $13,700 or $1,100 per month. That’s $12 per square foot to start with, but the restaurant will see 3 percent annual increases. The lease is for 10 years with two five-year options to renew.
That price is less than the seven other retail leases the CTA board also approved last week. Dunkin’ Donuts is paying $72 per square foot to sell doughnuts at the Western Brown Line stop in Lincoln Square while Gateway Newsstands is paying $69.32 per square foot to operate a newsstand at the Kedzie Orange Line stop in Gage Park.
CTA spokeswoman Lambrini Lukidis said the rent is based on location and comparable area rents.
"Praise Chicago was not offered a lower square foot price because of its model to help train area youth; however, CTA will always consider submittals of unique small businesses to fill concessions," Lukidis said in an email.
The CTA said new leaseholders start paying rent when they move into their spaces. Fuery said he hopes to set up shop between Thanksgiving and the end of the year.
In the meantime, he is trying to raise money for his restaurant. Fuery opened an account on Kickstarter, the crowd-funding website, on Monday to raise $8,500 for a new doughnut-making machine and a training program for staff to learn different aspects of the food service industry, from dishwashing to food prep.
Fuery said he plans to hire 10 to 15 employees and is working with a community group to provide minimum wage jobs for the five to seven teens he plans to train for four to six months at a time.
"Our goal is to be able to train some of these young teens and young adults, who for whatever reason, can't afford culinary school and have an interest in working on a restaurant," Fuery said.
He believes his restaurant will be able to survive in the economically challenged Englewood because he will be "sensitive" in not pricing items too high so his customers will be able to afford them. Though Fuery personally filed for bankruptcy in 2005, his company Chicago L.O.O.P. Catering is in good standing with the state of Illinois.
Outside the Halsted stop Friday, Heidi Fritz-Mweru told Going Public she occasionally uses the station and liked the former grill there. She said she would be "up" for eating at Praise Chicago but wondered whether the rest of the neighborhood would be interested in healthy options.
Said Fritz-Mweru, a communications professor at Kennedy-King, "People are stuck in their ways."
A weekly dispatch from a CTA station of note
This week: Oakton-Skokie Yellow Line
Ah, to be a Yellow Line rider. All three Yellow Line stops are accessible for riders with disabilities, there are no slow zones on the Yellow Line and the stations were built or renovated in the past 50 years.
The service is not as frequent as, say, the Red Line, but it is zippy. The Yellow Line’s newest station is the Oakton-Skokie stop, which opened in 2012. Its ridership grew 63 percent last year to 283,000 riders, which puts it on par with many Purple Line stops.
The station, which is at street level, stands out among the nearby strip malls. It looks like a long tunnel since it provides complete weather protection. One rider said the structure seemed "big" for the stop and its ridership but perhaps more riders will be attracted to the station since the Yellow Line service is the among the best of the CTA system.
Next up: Harlem Blue Line on the O'Hare branch